COVID-19 During Pregnancy Linked To Increase Risk Of Stillbirth

by Madison Vanderberg

Pregnant individuals with COVID-19 are at higher risk of suffering a stillbirth than a pregnant person who didn’t contract the virus

Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a separate pandemic unfolding and it’s the pandemic of pregnant individuals not getting vaccinated against COVID-19. When the vaccines first rolled out earlier this year, many expecting parents stated that there weren’t enough pregnant and breastfeeding individuals in the initial COVID-19 vaccine trials, which made them wary about getting vaccinated. Now there is more than enough data, studies, trials, and real-world info about pregnancy and the vaccine that point to its safety and efficacy. Additionally, new CDC data shows that pregnant individuals who contract COVID-19 during their pregnancy have a significantly higher risk of having a stillbirth than an expecting parent who didn’t contract COVID-19 during their pregnancy.

According to a CDC study published on November 19, 2021, pregnant people with COVID-19 face increased chances for stillbirths compared with uninfected folks, and that risk of stillbirth is four times higher since the delta variant emerged.

The CDC studied data on births from March 2020 to September 2021 and found that:

  • 0.64% of deliveries involving patients without COVID-19 resulted in stillbirths.
  • 0.98% of deliveries involving pregnant people with COVID-19 resulted in stillbirths.
  • And once the Delta variant was prevalent in the U.S., the stillborn rate among pregnant folk with COVID-19 jumped to 2.7%.

The CDC report states that more research is needed to “identify the biologic mechanism for the observed increased risk for stillbirth,” and the CDC also points out that the individuals in the study all had COVID during the pregnancy, but its unclear at what point during their gestation they were infected.

One way to prevent a COVID-19 infection while pregnant is to get the COVID-19 vaccine and as of September 18, 2021, only 31% of pregnant individuals have been vaccinated.

“What’s really sad is we have 10 months of a vaccine that’s been highly effective and we just can’t convince people to take advantage of this,’’ Dr. Mark Turrentine, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told Kron4.

In addition to this news about increased risk of stillbirth, pregnant women are at increased risk for many types of severe disease if they contract COVID-19.

It’s not just that pregnant people are getting sick with COVID-19 and are having a fever for a few days, but pregnant people with COVID-19 “are at increased risk for severe illness when compared with non-pregnant people.”

The list of potential complications that may happen in pregnant people who are unvaccinated is staggering. According to the CDC, those complications include:

“Symptomatic pregnant people have more than a two-fold increased risk of requiring ICU admission, invasive ventilation, [oxygen], and a 70% increased risk of death.” Also, pregnant folk who have COVID-19 “are also at increased risk for preterm birth and some data suggest an increased risk for other adverse pregnancy complications and outcomes, such as preeclampsia” compared with pregnant people who don’t have COVID-19. Plus, babies “born to people with COVID-19 are also at increased risk for admission to the neonatal ICU” and 4% of babies born to people with COVID-19 are also testing positive for the virus.

The final word? “Implementing evidence-based COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy, is critical to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on stillbirths,” the CDC concluded.