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Pregnant Women More Likely to Face Higher Risks From COVID-19, Study Says

“The absolute risk of these severe outcomes is low among women 15 to 44, regardless of pregnancy status, but what we do see is an increased risk associated with pregnancy.”
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
November 3, 2020
pregnant woman in serious indoor setting sitting on bed and looking out the window
Image: Massimiliano Finzi / Getty Images

A new study from the CDC, released Monday, November 2, found that pregnant women are at a higher risk of experiencing severe illness due to COVID-19.

Most pregnant women who have tested positive have not had severe symptoms, however the new findings serve as a caution and reminder to remain vigilant about precautions. The study, which is the largest thus far from the CDC, looked at the results and data of 409,462 women positive for COVID-19, ranging from 15 to 44 years old. Of these women, 23,434 were pregnant.

Researchers found that the pregnant women had 70 percent increased risk of death, as compared to women who were symptomatic, but not pregnant. They also found that the pregnant women were more likely to need intensive care, such as mechanical ventilation—while non-pregnant women of the same age did not—and connection to a heart-lung bypass machine.

“We are now saying pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness. Previously we said they ‘might be’ at increased risk for severe illness,” Sascha Ellington, MD, health scientist with the C.D.C. and an author of the study, told The New York Times, stressing that the overall risk was still low. “The absolute risk of these severe outcomes is low among women 15 to 44, regardless of pregnancy status, but what we do see is an increased risk associated with pregnancy.”

According to the outlet, a previous study found that pregnant women may be 1.7 times more likely to suffer fatal consequences due to the virus than nonpregnant women and almost three times more likely to need intensive care and mechanical ventilation. Of the pregnant women positive for COVID-19, almost one-third were Hispanic and 34 of the deaths were Black women, even though they only made up 14 percent of the pregnant women in the analysis.

The C.D.C. also released a smaller study on November 2 that found pregnant women positive for COVID-19 may also be at higher risk for premature births.

Ellington advises pregnant women to take the precautions they can, including limiting their interactions with anyone who may have been exposed. The authors also recommend counseling for pregnant women so they can quickly identify and report any symptoms to their healthcare provider.

While much remains unknown when it comes to COVID-19, the overall risk is still low. As experts continue to research and learn more about the novel virus, they advise everyone continue to take precautions and to take care of themselves both physically and mentally.

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