A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that pregnant women with COVID-19 may be at a higher risk for hospitalization than nonpregnant women.
The study looked at data provided by all 50 states from Jan. 22-June 7. It included information on 8,207 pregnant women between the ages of 15-44 and 83,205 nonpregnant women in the same age bracket.
The analysis revealed that among women with COVID-19, approximately 31.5% of pregnant women were hospitalized, compared to just 5.8% of nonpregnant women. Pregnant women are not at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
However, the study did note that there wasn’t data available to show whether pregnant women were hospitalized for COVID-19 or pregnancy-related conditions. Dr. Richard Beigi, president of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Magee-Women’s Hospital, told USA Today that data might have accounted for women going into labor and entering the hospital to deliver.
“In the United States, pregnancy is the No. 1 reason for hospital admission,” Beigi said. “What that means to me is they’re probably picking up people for whom it’s just time to deliver.”
Data was also missing for many of the women who tested positive for COVID-19. For example, pregnancy status was missing for three-quarters of women of reproductive age with COVID-19.
“This circumstance could lead to overestimation or underestimation of some characteristics, if those with missing data were systematically different from those with available data,” the study said.
Although the study couldn’t pinpoint the cause for hospitalization, the CDC did note that women with coronavirus pregnancies are hospitalized at a marginally higher risk for ICU admission (1.5% for pregnant women vs. 0.9%) and needing mechanical ventilation (0.5% vs. 0.3%).
The study explained that women experience “immunologic and physiologic changes” during pregnancy that increase their risk for more severe illness from respiratory infections. Pregnant women reported chronic lung disease, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease more than nonpregnant women.
Dr. Denise Jamieson, a member of the COVID-19 task force at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the New York Times that the data showed those who have coronavirus pregnancies should at least be monitored carefully by their doctors.
“All this information points to the importance of being vigilant when it comes to monitoring pregnant women,” Jamieson said. “They’re not at as great a risk as, for example, older people or people with other underlying medical conditions. But they do seem to be at some increased risk.”
The study published on June 26 also found that Hispanic and Black pregnant women are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 during pregnancy.
“To reduce severe COVID-19–associated illness, pregnant women should be aware of their potential risk for severe COVID-19 illness,” the study said. “Prevention of COVID-19 should be emphasized for pregnant women and potential barriers to adherence to these measures need to be addressed.”
To prevent exposure to COVID-19, the CDC recommends that pregnant women:
- Not skip prenatal care appointments
- Limit interactions with other people as much as possible
- Take precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 when interacting with others
- Have at least a 30-day supply of medicines
- Talk to their health care provider about how to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic