Pregnant people who contracted Covid-19 were more than twice as likely to experience significant complications as those who did not have the virus during the first year of the pandemic, according to a new study.
The research, published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at medical records of almost 44,o00 pregnant people during the first year of the pandemic at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, finding 1,332 individuals who had a documented Covid-19 infection. The study found that the chance of experiencing poor outcomes was more than doubled in those who had Covid-19 during pregnancy compared to those who did not.
“These findings add to the growing evidence that having Covid-19 during pregnancy raises risks of serious complications,” explained Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, lead author of the work, senior research scientist and associate director of the women’s and children health section in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.
The complications documented included preterm birth, blood clots and severe maternal complications including blood infections and respiratory distress. Overall, 5.7% of people with Covid-19 during pregnancy were hospitalized.
“Coupled with the evidence that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe during pregnancy, these findings should aid patients in understanding the risks of perinatal complications and the need for vaccination,” said Ferrara.
Because of the number of patients involved in the study, the researchers were also able to identify the demographics of people who tested positive for Covid-19 while pregnant. Those who tested positive during pregnancy were more likely to be Hispanic, younger, have obesity or live in a neighborhood with high levels of economic deprivation.
The researchers collected cases of Covid-19 in pregnant people between March 2020 and March 2021, mostly during the time where Covid-19 vaccines were not yet approved in the U.S. But the researchers are keen to stress that vaccination is important for pregnant people or those looking to get pregnant.
“Our study was large, diverse, and supports the need for vaccination by pregnant individuals and those who plan to get pregnant,” said Mara Greenberg, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with The Permanente Medical Group and co-author of the work. “The most important thing people can do to protect themselves and their baby is to get vaccinated,” she added.
The researchers are planning more work to follow children and mothers to look at the potential short- and long-term effects of a Covid-19 infection during pregnancy.