Updated February 17, 2021.
We’ve known since the start of quarantine that the coronavirus poses extreme risks to those who catch it. But when it comes to those with respiratory diseases and other severe and chronic conditions, the virus caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 can be even more unforgiving. Now, new studies are revealing that pregnant women infected with the disease are also more likely to become severely ill and die from Covid-19 than researchers might have suspected.
Still, while the results from two major COVID-19 vaccine trials have inspired some hope, researchers are still unsure as to how the new studies will affect pregnant people.
Some experts weighing in on the current vaccines say that pregnant women or nursing moms who want the COVID-19 vaccine should get one.
“Pregnant women who opt not to receive the vaccine should be supported in that decision as well, a practice advisory from ACOG recommends,” WebMD shared in an article. “In addition, women do not need to avoid getting pregnant after receiving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccine on Dec. 11.”
After Pfizer and Moderna, revealed that they might have developed two promising high-profile vaccine candidates there’s still quite a bit of some uncertainty.
On December 11, the FDA said that they will allow pregnant and lactating women to access the vaccine. This is despite the fact that the vaccinehas hasn’t been tested on pregnant woman and remains unavailable for anyone under 16.
In an interview with Vogue, experts weighed in on why the clinical trials for major COVID-19 vaccines haven’t included pregnant people. According to the interview, “Historically, pregnant and lactating women have been excluded from clinical and vaccine trials because of safety concerns for the mother and child. But that exclusion can pose its own risks, a point that’s been repeatedly raised by the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and various medical professionals. “
According to USA Today, “Both companies have indicated they will seek a federal emergency-use authorization, in which the government makes the drug available before having approved it, based on the strength of early results. That means vaccines could be available to the general public by next spring… But since the vaccine trials have thus far excluded people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s unclear when the immunizations would be safely available for them.”
Reports released earlier over the summer, by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underlined that pregnant women with COVID-19 are at risk for premature delivery.
According to Hub, “A late September Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among nearly 600 pregnant women in 13 states hospitalized with COVID-19 from March 1 through August 22, 16% were admitted to an intensive care unit, 8% were put on mechanical ventilation, and 1% died.”
In a recent report bioethicist Ruth Faden, who is reportedly the founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics says that the issue of the distribution of vaccines to women is sensitive.
“As more and more vaccine candidates progress to later-stage trials, we want to make sure that pregnant women have fair opportunities to participate in studies that may benefit them and their babies and also that pregnant women, as a group, have a fair opportunity to benefit from vaccines when they are authorized for use outside of trials,” says Faden, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. “We want to make sure that their interests are taken into account from the outset so that we can generate the best possible evidence about safe and appropriate use of vaccines in pregnancy.”
The CDC’s latest findings reveal that that pregnant women infected by coronavirus are more likely to need intensive care.
While overall risk of severe illness or death is still considered low, the CDC says that pregnant women with coronavirus are at an increase risk for needing intensive care including ventilation, heart and lung support than women are not pregnant and infected by the virus. In a separate report published by the CDC researchers discovered an increase in the rate of premature birth just before the 37 weeks of pregnancy. The results found that 12.9% of women with coronavirus gave birth early compared to 10.2% who tested negative for the virus.
According to CNN, researchers behind the recent CDC studies reviewed data collected from 461,825 women (ages of 15 and 44) who tested positive for Covid-19 in the time between January 22 and October 3. The studies also only focused on those who experienced coronavirus symptoms.
Reports underline that these new developments highlight an increase in the number of reports related to the risk the virus poses to pregnant women. Speaking to CNN, Dr. Denise Jamieson, the chair of the gynecology and obstetrics department at Emory University School of Medicine, explained that the new research “demonstrates that their infants are at risk, even if their infants are not infected, they may be affected,” Jamieson noted on a call with reporters Monday.
“The team adjusted for outside factors and found that pregnant women were more likely to need intensive care, with 10.5 per 1,000 pregnant women admitted to the ICU, compared to 3.9 per 1,000 women who aren’t pregnant,” CNN explained about the report. “Pregnant women were 3 times more likely to need help breathing with invasive ventilation than women who aren’t pregnant. Similarly, they were at greater risk of requiring lung and heart support with oxygenation. They were also more likely to die, with 1.5 deaths per 1,000 pregnant women, compared to 1.2 per 1,000 women who aren’t pregnant.”
While the risks pregnant women face are low, researchers say that they must still take precautions.
This is particularly important as the winter months rise and coronavirus cases increase. “Less than 1% of pregnant women with Covid are admitted to an intensive care unit,” Jamieson told CNN. “However, they are at increased risk when you compare them to their non-pregnant counterparts.”
According to CNN, pregnant women should avoid gatherings, wear masks, and practice social distancing. “We’re learning more about how people are infected, and there is some new information that household contacts — so, people who are in your house — may be a source of infection,” Jamieson explained. “It’s not unreasonable, if a person has a lot of exposure at work, for instance, for that person to stay separated from the rest of their family or to protect the rest of their family by wearing a mask or even separating physically in the house.”
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