A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found pregnant women with COVID-19 have an increased risk of death and severe illness. While women's overall risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 outcomes is low, a CDC report published Monday revealed pregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 have a greater risk of requiring ventilation, intensive care, and lung support than non-pregnant women who contract the virus.
"An MMWR study suggests that pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19," the CDC said in a recent press release. "The study found that pregnant women are more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), receive invasive ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and are at increased risk of death compared to non-pregnant women."
In the CDC's study, researchers analyzed the health data for more than than 409,000 women aged 15 to 44 who were confirmed to have symptomatic cases of COVID-19. Of those women, some 23,434 were reported to have been pregnant while ill. What researchers found was that pregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 were nearly four times as likely to need invasive ventilation compared to non-pregnant women of the same age. Pregnant women were also found to be twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women.
But the study also found racial disparities. For example, pregnant Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women had a disproportionately greater risk for needing to be admitted to the ICU as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, pregnant Hispanic women were found to have a disproportionate risk for contracting COVID-19 and non-Hispanic Black women, pregnant or not, had a higher COVID-19-related death rate.
As a result of the study, the CDC will now caution that pregnant women are at an increased risk for experiencing severe illness as a result of COVID-19, one of the study's authors told The New York Times. According to the paper, the CDC had previously said pregnant women "might be" at increased risk.
COVID-19 may also increase a pregnant person's risk of preterm birth, according to a separate CDC study also published Monday. In analyzing the health data of more than 3,900 infants born to women with COVID-19, 12.9% were reported to have been born preterm, before the 37th week of pregnancy. The estimated national preterm birth average is 10.2%, according to the CDC.
While more research is needed, the findings from both CDC reports suggest pregnant people should be strict about following all recommended health and safety measures to ensure they are as protected as possible against COVID-19, including frequent hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering when they have to go out.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.