Pregnant women not at greater risk of severe coronavirus, major study finds

‘It is concerning that more pregnant women from black and minority ethnic groups are admitted with Covid-19 in pregnancy and this needs urgent investigation,’ says report author

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Monday 11 May 2020 20:44 BST
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Pregnant nurse shares important information for expectant women amid coronavirus outbreak

Pregnant women are not at greater risk of having a severe form of coronavirus than other women, a major study has found.

The report, which examines the experiences of 427 pregnant women admitted to UK hospitals between 1 March and 14 April with confirmed coronavirus, found pregnant women from black and other minority ethnic groups were more likely to enter hospital with the virus.

Researchers at Oxford University discovered that although pregnant women are no more vulnerable to having severe complications from Covid-19 than the general population, the majority of women who did become severely ill were in their third trimester of pregnancy.

The study draws attention to the need for women in this category of pregnancy, which starts in week 28 and lasts until you go into labour, to practice social distancing to protect themselves.

Researchers, who teamed up with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, found 4.9 pregnant women per 1000 went to hospital with coronavirus in the UK. Roughly one in 10 of them wound up needing intensive care and five women have died.

Professor Marian Knight, the report’s lead investigator, said: “A very small number of pregnant women do become severely ill with Covid-19 and sadly some women have died. Our thoughts must remain with their families. It is concerning that more pregnant women from black and minority ethnic groups are admitted with Covid-19 in pregnancy and this needs urgent investigation.

“Most pregnant women who were admitted to hospital were more than six months pregnant, which emphasises the importance of continued social distancing measures in the later stages of pregnancy. Following the current guidance about careful social distancing will help prevent infection.”

The chief medical officer has previously said all pregnant women are in a vulnerable group and the NHS states women who are expecting babies could be at higher risk from coronavirus and should only be leaving home for very limited reasons.

Researchers, who also worked with Universities of Leeds and Birmingham, Kings and Imperial Colleges London for the new study, found health outcomes for babies born to mothers who had contracted coronavirus were predominantly positive.

While one in 20 babies born tested positive with coronavirus, only half of them did so straight after being born. This indicates the transmission of infection from mother to baby is low, researchers said.

The report found older mothers-to-be, overweight pregnant women and expectant mothers who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and other underlying health conditions were more likely to be hospitalised with coronavirus.

Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It’s absolutely vital that women continue to attend antenatal appointments to ensure that they and their babies are well.”

The report comes after The Independent reported doulas are being blocked from accompanying pregnant women in the delivery room due to the Covid-19 emergency – leaving some facing the prospect of giving birth alone.

Charities warned expectant mothers could be needlessly traumatised because doulas – experts who help pregnant women in labour – are being routinely barred from home births and maternity units due to women only being allowed to have birthing partners from their same household.

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