What Are The Effects Of COVID-19 On Pregnant Women?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: November 12, 2020

Being pregnant during a pandemic creates a new set of concerns for expectant parents. Mothers may worry about how a possible COVID-19 infection could impact them and their baby. The current public health crisis underscores the importance of pregnant women regularly consulting with their health care providers during pregnancy, either virtually or in person.

While many studies are underway, the latest research suggests that pregnant women may be at an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. A new report released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed 400,000 women with symptomatic COVID-19. Although the overall risk remains low, the results show that infected pregnant women may be at a higher risk for more severe symptoms from the virus. The national UCSF Study looked at the cases of 594 women who tested positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy but were not hospitalized. The study found that COVID-19 produces prolonged symptoms, including cough, sore throat, and body aches, yet fewer fevers in pregnant women. Half of the 600 participants in the study had symptoms after three weeks, and 25% reported prolonged symptoms lasting more than eight weeks.

According to results recently published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), another team studied pregnancies of 4,442 women diagnosed with COVID-19. The study found that preterm birth among women infected with coronavirus is slightly higher than the non-infected pregnant women. Pre-term birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and the study found the rate is 12.9% among women infected with COVID-19 versus 10.2% among non-infected women. Close monitoring throughout pregnancy is essential to help prevent preterm birth when COVID-19 becomes a factor.

The MMWR authors explained that the increased risk is a result of the physical changes that occur during pregnancy. Those include increased heart rate and oxygen consumption, reduced lung capacity, elevated risk of blood clots, and changes to the immune system. The authors also acknowledge that most of the women studied were infected in their third trimester, so more research is needed on infections in early pregnancy and the long-term effects of exposed newborns.

Many pregnant women worry if they become infected with COVID-19, they may transmit the virus to their fetus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists acknowledges that researchers have confirmed a few cases of COVID-19 transmission to the fetus during pregnancy but states that this seems to be rare.

Pregnant women also worry about how the pandemic may affect birth and post-partum care. Medical clinics and hospitals take as many precautions as needed to keep newborns and mothers safe during the pandemic. Many have switched to virtual classes and appointments. Most no longer allow visitors for newborns following birth. Some hospitals may recommend separating the newborn from a mother with confirmed COVID-19 infection, but this choice is made on a case-by-case basis.

Until more is known, pregnant women should exercise caution and avoid close contact with anyone exhibiting symptoms or with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. Pregnant women should follow the same guidelines as the general population – practice social distancing, wear a mask, and wash hands frequently. Also, pregnant women need to maintain prenatal care; virtual clinical services can be a great option during the pandemic.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.