COVID-19 in pregnancy linked to newborn deaths: study
TORONTO — A new study has found that pregnant women were more likely to suffer serious consequences from COVID-19 and more likely to lose their babies if they weren’t vaccinated.
Scottish researchers published their findings in the journal Nature on Thursday. They looked at a database of 145,424 pregnancies in the country between December 2020 and October 2021.
Researchers found that 77.4% of Scots who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy were unvaccinated. Unvaccinated pregnant women also accounted for 90.9% of COVID-19-related hospital admissions and 98% of intensive care unit admissions.
Contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy was also associated with an increased risk of stillbirth and newborn death. The study counted 11 stillbirths and eight newborn deaths, all of which involved mothers who were unvaccinated at the time of COVID-19 diagnosis.
The researchers looked at the perinatal mortality rate, which refers to the rate of stillbirths and infant deaths within a week of birth. During the study period, the perinatal mortality rate was 5.6 deaths per 1,000 births for the entire population. Among those who had COVID-19 at any time during their pregnancy, the death rate was 8.0 per 1,000.
For those who had COVID-19 within 28 days of delivery, the perinatal mortality rate was a staggering 22.6 per 1,000 births.
“Our data adds to the evidence that vaccination during pregnancy does not increase the risk of complications in pregnancy, but COVID-19 does,” first author Dr. Sarah Stock said in a press release. . “Vaccination against COVID-19 during pregnancy is crucial to protect women and babies from preventable and life-threatening complications of COVID-19.”
COVID-19 was also associated with higher rates of preterm birth. The preterm birth rate for people without COVID-19 was 7.9%. For those who had COVID-19 at some point in their pregnancy, the rate was 10.2% and for those who had COVID-19 within 28 days of delivery, the rate was 16.6%. .
The researchers say the findings underscore the importance of vaccination for pregnant women, given that they are at higher risk of serious consequences from COVID-19.
“As the cases of Omicron continue to rise, I strongly encourage all pregnant women to accept the offer of a vaccine or booster as this will help protect them and their unborn child” , study leader Aziz Sheikh said in a news release.
The researchers point out that uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine among pregnant women in Scotland has been lower than among the general population, despite assurances from public health officials that the vaccine is safe. In October 2021, the vaccination rate for Scottish women was 77.4% while only 32.3% of pregnant Scottish women were vaccinated.
Vaccination among pregnant Canadians also lags behind the general population, but not as much as in Scotland. In early December, Ontario reported that 85% of residents age 12 and older had been fully immunized. But among pregnant Ontarians, the vaccination rate was 71%.
Both the National Advisory Committee on Immunization of Canada and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada have recommended COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for pregnant women. Health Canada also says vaccines can be safely received during pregnancy, citing US data on 35,000 pregnant women who found no safety concerns.