COVID-19 during pregnancy linked with higher preterm birth risk: Study
(Sourced from PTI)
People who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 while pregnant face a higher risk of having a very preterm birth, as well as any preterm birth, according to a large US study published in The Lancet Regional Health, America's journal. The researchers found that the risk of very preterm birth was 60 percent higher for people infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy.
The researchers at the University of California (UC) San Francisco said, "The risk of any preterm birth or giving birth at less than 37 weeks was 40 percent higher in those with the SARS-CoV-2 infection." For those who also had hypertension, diabetes, and/or obesity as well as COVID-19, the risk of preterm birth rose 160 percent, according to the study.
"Preterm birth is associated with many challenging outcomes for pregnant people and babies, and very preterm births carry the highest risk of infant complications," said study lead and corresponding author Deborah Karasek, an assistant professor at UC San Francisco.
"Our results point to the importance of preventative measures to reduce COVID-19 infection among pregnant people to prevent preterm birth, including vaccination," she said. Pregnant people are considered a high-risk population for COVID-19 infection, the researchers said. The study identifies the risks of COVID-19 by specific subtype of preterm birth, as well as by race, ethnicity, and insurance status.
The researchers also found that Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander people, as well as people with public insurance, had disproportionately higher COVID-19 rates during pregnancy. For instance, while 47 percent of pregnant people in the study overall were Latinx, they represented 72 percent of the people with COVID-19 diagnoses.
"The situation really points to the need for an equity approach," said Karasek. "With the surge in infections and increase in the Delta variant, we must think about pregnant people, especially Black and Brown populations, as the groups that need to be prioritized, with supportive policies to reduce exposure and stress, and increase access to care," she said.
The researchers acknowledged some limitations of the study, which included that it couldn't determine when during pregnancy the individuals contracted COVID-19, or how serious the infections were. "These are important details for understanding the mechanisms by which COVID-19 affects preterm birth risk," Karasek said.