A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Data sheds new light on COVID-19 risks for pregnant women

pregnant woman holds belly

Research suggests COVID-19 can increase risk of stillbirth for pregnant women.

We’ve long known that people who are pregnant or recently pregnant are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. But new research takes things a bit farther, suggesting higher risks for stillbirth and mortality.

One study shows that from March 2020 to September 2021, the risk for stillbirth was 90% higher among women who had a COVID-19 diagnosis at delivery versus those who did not. A second study found that the mortality risk for mothers increased by five times if they had COVID-19 when admitted to the hospital.

Researchers were not able to investigate vaccination status in their analysis, but based on timing, it is likely that the majority of women were unvaccinated. Still, Marshfield Clinic Health System experts say what we know about the vaccine’s impact on severe COVID-19 cases plays a role in what we learn from this new data.

“The biggest takeaway is that the COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to not only decrease infection among pregnant women, but has also been shown to reduce risks associated with the virus, such as stillbirth, hospitalization, ICU admission and the need for respiratory support,” said Dr. Jason Patzwald, Marshfield Clinic Health System OB/GYN physician.

Dr. Patzwald admits there are hurdles in vaccinating the pregnant population, including misinformation on social media. He assures patients that vaccines do not cause miscarriages, birth defects or death, contrary to what you might read on the internet. Dr. Patzwald, and other doctors agree, say data collected during this pandemic – including this most recent research — points to one thing.

“The risks of COVID-19 infection on a pregnant woman and her unborn child is greater than the risks of vaccination,” Dr. Patzwald said. “If you have questions or concerns, please have a conversation with your doctor.”

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