The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed more than 1.2 million data from the largest hospitals in the country. They came from the period from March 2020 to September 2021. Doctors noticed an unprecedented increase in the number of pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 and were critically ill.
“We see a plethora of pregnancy complications from COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Ellie Ragsdale, director of Fetal Intervention at UH Cleveland Medical Center, cited by NBC News. These complications include, but are not limited to, premature birth, abnormally high blood pressure in pregnant women, and pregnancy loss.
As noted in the CDC report, stillbirths were rare in the United States before the pandemic (0.59%). This rate remained similar among women who had never been diagnosed with COVID-19, even after the pandemic (0.64%) started. However, according to the CDC report, the number of stillbirths increased significantly in the group of women infected with the coronavirus, to 0.98%. “And when the Delta variant became established in July this year, rates grew exponentially: 2.7% of coronavirus positive pregnancies ended in stillbirth,” we read.
Although stillbirths were generally rare, the study authors write, the documented diagnosis of COVID-19 was associated with a significant increase in the risk of stillbirth, “with a stronger association during delta dominance.”
The study does not prove that the Delta variant is responsible for higher fetal mortality, but increasingly, obstetricians are documenting significant differences in how much oxygen the fetus can absorb, depending on whether their mothers have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Dr. Ellie Ragsdale, mentioned above, says she and her colleagues have noticed that pregnant women with coronavirus have difficulty delivering oxygen-rich blood to growing fetuses. “We’re looking at areas of the placenta deprived of oxygen,” he says.
Experts say unvaccinated pregnant women may be at particular risk. In the USA, only about 30 percent. pregnant women received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have evidence that the vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage or poor pregnancy outcomes,” notes Dr. Zsakeba Henderson, associate director of medical and health at March of Dimes, a US nonprofit that works to improve maternal health and children. “All the evidence points to vaccines being safe,” he said.
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