A new scientific review published Monday found that a COVID-19 infection at any time during a pregnancy increases the risk of maternal mortality, severe maternal morbidities and adverse newborn outcomes.
The research, which was led by George Washington University professor Emily Smith, synthesized data from 12 different studies on the subject from 12 different countries. Altogether, the meta-study included 13,136 pregnant women, including 1,942 who had confirmed or probable COVID-19 infection during their pregnancy.
Across the dozen studies, 3 percent of pregnant women with COVID-19 required intensive care. Across seven of the studies, 4 percent of pregnant women received critical care and were five times more likely to receive critical care than the women in the studies who were negative for COVID-19.
Compared to those who did not have COVID-19, pregnant women who were infected were seven times more likely to die and 15 times more likely to be ventilated. They were also about five times more likely to get thromboembolic disease, which refers to blood clots in the veins.
Previous studies on the topic suggested that COVID-19 infections led to an increased risk of stillbirth, but this study did not find the same result. The study did find that pregnant women with COVID-19 were more likely to go into preterm labor and that their babies were more likely to have a lower birth weight and more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit after birth.
One of the limitations the meta-study listed included not considering the impacts of the different coronavirus variants. It said for the majority of the research, most of the infections were the result of one dominant variant across the globe.
Overall, the study said that with its findings, a “global effort to improve access to safe preventives and therapeutics is an urgent priority” for pregnant women.
“These findings underscore the need for global efforts to prevent COVID-19 during pregnancy through targeted administration of vaccines and non-pharmaceutical interventions,” the conclusion of the study reads.
The study was published in the BMJ Global Health Journal.