COVID-19 increases the risk of stillbirth for pregnant women — 65% of whom still aren't vaccinated
COVID-19increases the risk of stillbirthamong pregnant women, a new CDC report found.
- Around 1.3% of babies born to women with COVID-19 were stillborn from March 2020 to September 2021.
The data has been clear for some time: Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19. They're also nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as women the same age who aren't pregnant.
But until now, researchers were unable to confirm whether COVID-19 increased stillbirth risk — meaning the loss of a baby on or before the 20th week of
CDC researchers examined the relative risk of stillbirth from March 2020 to September 2021 in the US, and found that around 1.3% of babies born to women with COVID-19 were stillborn, compared with 0.6% of babies born to women who weren't infected with COVID-19.
Stillbirths were more strongly associated with COVID-19 from July to September of this year, after the Delta variant became dominant. During that time, 2.7% of babies born to women with COVID-19 were stillborn, whereas the rate of stillborn deliveries among women without COVID-19 remained relatively unchanged.
Overall COVID-19 death rates were higher among pregnant women once Delta became dominant. A second CDC report released Friday identified 25 deaths for every 1,000
The CDC suggests a possible explanation for those preterm and stillborn deliveries: COVID-19 may reduce blood flow to and increase inflammation in the placenta — conditions that make it difficult for a fetus to survive.
CDC researchers called for additional study into whether vaccines could help prevent stillbirths linked to COVID-19 infections.
Vaccines are a critical tool for reducing COVID-19-linked stillbirths
While the researchers weren't able to determine the vaccination rates among pregnant women who gave birth to stillborn babies, they suggested that most women with COVID-19 at delivery likely weren't vaccinated. That's because vaccines lower the risk of COVID-19, and vaccination rates are considerably low among pregnant women in the US.
As of November 13, around 65% of pregnant women weren't fully immunized prior to or during their pregnancy, according to CDC data.
Getting vaccinated before or during pregnancy "is critical to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on stillbirths," the CDC researchers wrote.
Previous studies have shown that pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk for delivering preterm babies, born earlier than 37 weeks. A July study in The Lancet Regional Health, for example, found that a COVID-19 diagnosis increased the risk of preterm birth during pregnancy by 40%, and very preterm birth (before 32 weeks) by 60%.
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