When it comes to trustworthy information, it’s a little scary scouring the internet if you’re not sure where to look and how to analyse what makes a study reasonable and trustworthy, because believe me, there are studies with lots of bias or limited data.
Luckily for you, BirthTools™ is here to break down the most relevant studies and relied upon information as it ever changes.
Should I be worried if I get covid while pregnant?
From the information that has been analysed on a repeated basis by Evidence Based Birth (you can sign up to their newsletter updates here), it seems that if you’re unvaccinated, you may get the raw end of the stick. A large, population-based study from Scotland began in December 2020 and ended before booster’s were readily available. It was published last year and researchers looked at 87,964 pregnant people of which 4,950 women had covid.
This are the results they found:
77.4% of those that tested positive were unvaccinated
5.1% of vaccinated women were admitted to the hospital
19.5% of unvaccinated pregnant women were admitted to the hospital
Out of those women, those that needed critical care was 0.2% (vaccinated) and 2.7% (unvaccinated).
When did pregnant women need to go to hospital?
The study found that 3699 women were admitted to hospital but only 986 had symptoms that were documented. The treatment and symptoms ranged from mild to more serious.
99 women needed respiratory assistance
7 required a higher flow of oxygen
12 needed more invasive and intensive respiratory support
That’s a lot of numbers and I hope I made it simple for you. The links to all of the research is below, if you would like to dive a little bit deeper. The next question on your lips is, "what effect your covid-19 diagnosis may have on your pregnancy and baby?"
What are the effects of covid on an unborn baby?
Is Covid linked to Premature Birth?
This means, that even if women with SARS-CoV-2 infection are at risk for their baby joining them earthside a little early, it’s not as early as you may think *phew*
During this three month study, out of all the women who had details of their birth (2963) & contracted covid during pregnancy, pre term birth was still more likely to occur in the mid third trimester. Hopefully this fills you with a bit of relief!
22 weeks to
increase from 0.7% for 2019
28 weeks to
increase from 0.6% for 2019
34 weeks to
increase from 6.1% for 2019
from 91.8% for 2019
As you can see there is a higher risk of preterm birth for your baby if you had covid in your pregnancy but the numbers aren’t astronomical when comparing the unavoidable fact that some babies do come early with or without the virus for many unknown reasons. It is also important to note that women that were both asymptomatic and symptomatic are included in these results.
What about Covid and Pre-eclampsia?
Is there an increase in Stillbirth with Covid?
In order to get the numbers I am referring back to the large study conducted in Scotland over the period from Dec 2020 until just before boosters became available and recommended. They found that there were 19 deaths out of 2,364 births and it was all in the unvaccinated group. There were zero perinatal deaths among the vaccinated and infected group.
To put this into context for you, even though they are two different countries they have similar maternity outcomes, Australia’s perinatal death rate in 2020 was 9.1/1000 for all pregnant women.
Based on these numbers, there is minimal to no change in perinatal outcome as the statistic for unvaccinated women lies at 8/1000 babies.
The only interesting piece of information was that 14 of the 19 deaths occurred within 28 days of active infection, but there is no information on whether these women had birth complications outside of covid-19 as the data wasn’t available.
So what's the takeaway?
You are not more likely to get covid just because you're pregnant
If you do test positive, you're symptoms won't always be worse than non pregnant women, but you have a higher chance of (although small) of feeling pretty sick.
Most women admitted into hospital, are given an oxygen mask session to saturate their blood better and only a very small percentage are in intensive care.
You're risk of preterm birth does increase mildly, but only by a small percentage based on yearly rates of premature birth before covid was present.
If you're baby does decide to join you early, most are being born in the mid third trimester which naturally limits the risk to your baby.
Your risk of preeclampsia increases just under 2%
Any perinatal death was only found in unvaccinated women and could not categorically be blamed on covid infection as the rate of stillbirth for the population didn't fluctuate in the main study. This means that perinatal death hasn't gone up or down during covid.
The evidence does seem to point that if you are vaccinated you're risk of these worries does seem to reduce.
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SJ, Carruthers J, Calvert C, et al. SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19
vaccination rates in pregnant women in Scotland [published correction appears
in Nat Med. 2022 Feb 4;:]. Nat Med. 2022;28(3):504-512.
Vousden Nicola, Ramakrishnan Rema, Bunch Kathryn, et al. (2021). Impact of SARS-COV-2 variant on the severity of maternal infection and perinatal outcomes: Data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System national cohort. medRxiv.
Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence. New South Wales Mothers and Babies 2020. Sydney: NSW Ministry of Health, 2021.