A new study shows that pregnant women are less likely to display symptoms of having coronavirus (particularly a fever) and may be more likely to end up in intensive care should they test positive. But there's no need to panic; the research also suggested that a pregnant woman's risk of falling seriously ill is still slim overall.
The research, published by the British Medical Journal, analysed 77 existing studies, examining the cases of 11,432 pregnant women who had been admitted to hospital with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in total. It showed that those bearing a child could face an increased risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) when compared to non-pregnant women of similar age. However, this is also the case with other respiratory viruses, like the flu.
It's theorised that this could be because an expectant mother’s immune system can become compromised in order to protect her baby, and that the lungs are already working overtime due to pregnancy putting a strain on the body.
As for being less likely to present with symptoms, Shakila Thangaratinam, professor of maternal and perinatal health at the University of Birmingham, said around close to two-thirds of non-pregnant COVID sufferers who are admitted to hospital display the known signs such as a dry cough, trouble breathing and a fever. Comparatively, a large proportion of pregnant women do not, and around 4 in every 100 pregnant women with COVID are admitted to an ICU.
She added that the coronavirus mortality rate in pregnant women, when compared to the SARS outbreak, isn't "anywhere near" as high. The risk increases in line with other factors that affect the general population too, such as age, weight and any other underlying health issues (like diabetes).
More research is still needed as to how falling ill with COVID-19 while pregnant can affect the unborn child, added Thangaratinam, "I think they [expectant mothers] need to be reassured that the risk of a really bad outcome in terms of death either to themselves or the babies (is) extremely, extremely low.
"We haven’t seen any major adverse outcome to the baby, we know that a quarter of the babies get admitted to the… neo-natal unit… but it could be just a policy in many hospitals where they separate the baby from the mother."
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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