Scientists from the UK conducted a study on the effects of coronavirus on pregnant women, which is different from many previous ones. It involved not only infected women but also those who do not have COVID. The results of this work are alarming.
The attempt to compare the indicators of pregnant women with and without COVID-19 is not the first for science. Previously, four similar studies were conducted. However, the authors of the new scientific work believe that the conclusions of the predecessors are not very informative since few participants were involved in those experiments. Currently, the study involved more than two thousand pregnant women from 18 countries.
The experiment involved 706 expectant mothers with a diagnosis of COVID-19 (the diagnosis was confirmed in the laboratory in 656 of them (92.9%); in 50 women (7.1%), there was no laboratory confirmation, but two or more COVID symptoms were observed). The researchers also observed 1,424 women without a COVID-19 diagnosis.
The doctors were interested in how the experiment participants felt during pregnancy, whether they and the newborns had any deviations from the norm. As a result, it turned out that pregnant women with a diagnosis of COVID-19 had higher rates of arterial hypertension, were more likely to have preeclampsia (eclampsia), and showed infections that require treatment with antibiotics. Moreover, scientists have established a relationship between COVID and the risk of admission to the intensive care unit. At the same time, women diagnosed with COVID-19 remained in the clinic for 3.73 days longer than women without it did.
Regarding preeclampsia, doctors clarified: this terrible complication occurred 4 times more often in pregnant women in combination with other factors that occurred before pregnancy: overweight, diabetes, hypertension, heart, and respiratory diseases. At the same time, scientists cannot yet understand what is primary: whether COVID causes preeclampsia or, conversely, preeclampsia increases the risk of infection.
There were also tragic outcomes in the study. Doctors failed to save 11 women (1.6%) with a diagnosis of COVID-19; this figure is 22 times higher than the same data for pregnant women without COVID.
– The deaths were concentrated in institutions from less developed regions, – the scientists explain. — This means that when comprehensive, intensive care services are not fully available; COVID-19 during pregnancy can be fatal.
Doctors also found that women with COVID were less likely to have spontaneous births, but they more often needed a cesarean section. “This reflects a higher rate of pregnancy complications in the group,” the researchers concluded. Doctors noticed another feature: patients with coronavirus often gave birth prematurely, and the weight of the babies did not reach the norm.
Much debate has previously been raised about whether COVID is transmitted to the fetus from an infected mother. The researchers tested 416 newborns (57%). At different times, the tests were carried out: 220 (51.5%) children were tested on the first day after birth and 369 (84.8%) — within the first 48 hours. A positive result was found in 54 (12.9%) infants. It is important that breastfeeding did not affect the frequency of infections: coronavirus was detected in milk.
The presence of COVID in the infant and the mother directly affected whether the birth would be natural or whether a cesarean section would be needed. Thus, among test-positive women and newborns, the frequency of operations was 72.2%; among test-positive women and children without COVID – 47.9%. In women without infection, this figure is much lower — 39.4%.
Doctors also found that if pregnant women with COVID had symptoms, then the adverse effects were more frequent. It is encouraging that asymptomatic cases were associated with fewer complications, and usually with one of them — preeclampsia.
The study showed that in the conditions of COVID, it is important for pregnant women to monitor their weight. Women who were overweight at the first prenatal visit and were subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 had the highest risk of maternal morbidity and mortality rates. The authors of the experiment noted. “The results should alert pregnant women and clinicians to follow all recommended preventive measures of COVID-19 strictly,” the authors of the scientific article warn, admitting that their results may also have errors.