Study: Pregnant Women With COVID At Higher Risk For Complications

by Kristine Cannon

The multinational study tracked more than 2,000 pregnant people in 18 countries

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, researchers have been studying the effects of the novel coronavirus on pregnant women. Not only have studies revealed that pregnant people are at 70 percent higher risk for COVID infection, but researchers have also found that COVID-19 antibodies can be passed to babies in utero. And with regards to COVID-19 vaccines, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have shown a strong immune response to the COVID-19. Now, a new study has found that COVID-19-infected pregnant women — and their babies — are at higher risk for complications.

Published Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics, the “INTERCOVID Multinational Cohort Study” tracked 2,130 pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 countries, between April and August 2020. The findings revealed that those diagnosed with COVID-19 were at increased risk for adverse outcomes, including preeclampsia, infections, admission to hospital intensive care units, and death. The risk for severe disease was greatest for those with obesity, hypertension or diabetes.

Further, the risk of death for pregnant women with COVID-19 was 1.6 percent, or 22-times higher than non-infected pregnant women.


The study — led by UW Medicine and University of Oxford doctors — also states that the pregnant women’s babies were at greater risk of neonatal complications, mainly due to preterm birth. Of the babies born to infected mothers, 11 percent tested positive for COVID-19. Plus, babies born to infected mothers were also at somewhat higher risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.

“The No. 1 takeaway from the research is that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19, but if they get it, they are more likely to become very ill and more likely to require ICU care, ventilation, or experience preterm birth and preeclampsia,” Dr. Michael Gravett, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and one of study’s lead authors, tells Seattle Times.


“The results reported are sobering,” pediatrician Dr. Catherine Mary Healy wrote in an accompanying editorial, CNN reports. Healy added that the study, she believes, is one of the largest to date and captured reports from different countries “in real time as the pandemic evolved from the earliest cases detected.”

Of the 2,130 women in the study, 706 were diagnosed with Covid-19, and nearly 60 percent of the infected women were asymptomatic. However, those women “were at higher risk of poor outcomes, such as preeclampsia or eclampsia, severe infections, admission to an intensive care unit … and maternal death,” Healy wrote.

The study concludes that COVID-19 infection during pregnancy was associated with “substantial risk of morbidity and mortality in postpartum parents and their infants worldwide, compared with their not-infected pregnant counterparts, especially if the these individuals were symptomatic or have comorbidities.”

The authors added that there’s an “urgent need” to follow up with the women and their infants “because of possible long-term health effects, including long-term COVID-19.”