Study suggests Covid-19 is more harmful in late pregnancy

Scottish researchers suggest in a study published this Thursday that women who contract Covid-19 near the end of term are more prone to complications such as prematurity or perinatal deaths.

The data analyzed by the University of Edinburgh team, published in the journal Nature Medicine, refers to more than 87,000 women who were pregnant between December 2020 and October 2021 in Scotland, 4,950 of whom contracted Covid-19.

According to the findings, “premature births, stillbirths and infant death are more common among women who have been infected with the virus. [SARS-CoV-2] up to 28 days before the date of delivery”.

Pregnant women who contract Covid-19 closer to the date of delivery “are more likely to have complications than those who have the disease earlier in pregnancy or who have never had Covid-19”.

Of the 4,950 pregnant women who were infected, 77 percent had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The researchers included data on perinatal deaths, the death of a baby in utero in a pregnancy longer than 24 weeks or in the first 28 days after delivery, in their analysis.

They concluded that the rate of perinatal deaths for pregnant women who had Covid-19 in the 28 days before delivery was 23 in a thousand, while before the existence of Covid-19 this rate was six in a thousand.

Among the 4,950 pregnant women who had Covid-19 in the 28 days before giving birth, 17% gave birth prematurely, more than the pre-pandemic rate, which in Scotland was 8%.

The researchers stress in their conclusions that it cannot be concluded that Covid-19 directly contributed to the deaths of babies or premature births because they did not have access to the women’s detailed hospital records.

They also compared the occurrence of obstetric complications in vaccinated Scottish pregnant women who contracted Covid-19 and found that they were similar to pre-pandemic rates: four in a thousand perinatal deaths and 8% of premature births.

Researcher and obstetrician Sarah Stock, from the University of Edinburgh, who is a co-author of the study, said the data suggest that “vaccination during pregnancy does not increase the risk of complications, but Covid-19 does”.

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