The WHO says new research shows that pregnant women infected by the novel coronavirus are more likely to give birth to premature babies compared to women without COVID-19. The former is also more likely to have fewer symptoms but require hospitalisation if severely ill.
Pregnant women with COVID-19 may not experience symptoms of the disease such as fever or muscle pain but might go on to develop severe illness that requires ICU admission. Their babies are at an increased risk of being admitted to the neonatal ICU, according to the research.
The authors of the study carried out research known as living systematic review, which means the study is ongoing globally and will be updated. They used data from Medline, Embase, the Cochrane database, the WHO COVID-19 database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and Wanfang databases from December 1, 2019 to June 26, 2020.
Around 7,677 scientific papers were analysed. The study also says risk factors in pregnancy such as increased maternal age, high body mass index and pre-existing conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure) might be associated with severe manifestation of COVID-19.
“The evidence shows us that having pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, puts you at greater risk, whether or not you are pregnant,” explained Mercedes Bonet, one of the study’s authors.
An earlier study from China confirmed that people with abnormally high blood sugar levels are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
Around 10% of 11,432 women in 28 studies of pregnant women admitted to a hospital for any reason were diagnosed with COVID-19. A total of 73 pregnant women, 0.1% of 11,580 women in 26 studies, with lab-confirmed coronavirus infection died from any cause.
One in four babies born to women with COVID-19 were admitted to the ICU, said the World Health Organisation. Pregnant women with COVID-19 and their babies should receive specialist care, adds the organisation.
Doctors should treat pregnant women as a high-risk group and test any admitted pregnant women for coronavirus.