How Does COVID-19 Impact Pregnancy?

Until vaccination is more widespread, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a clear and present danger in the United States. While we’ve learned much during the past year, especially when it comes to at-risk demographics like the elderly, many women are wondering whether COVID-19 can affect pregnancy.

Our fertility team here at NOVA IVF, led by Richard Schmidt, MD, and Meera Shah, MD, has stayed abreast of the continually emerging research. Here’s what we’ve discovered so far when it comes to COVID-19 and pregnancy.

The data is new and not set in stone

Before we dive into some of the preliminary research, it’s worth underscoring that COVID-19 is relatively new. 

What this means is that we only have a year’s worth of data to study, which provides some clues, but we are far from fully understanding the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19. To complicate matters, the virus appears to be mutating, with new strains coming out of the United Kingdom and Brazil, so far.

As you read on, please bear this in mind, and rest assured that we are following the science vigilantly so we can pass on any important information to our patients.

What we know about COVID-19 risks for pregnant women

In November of last year, the CDC released findings from a study it conducted in 2020 between January 22 and October 3. That study found that there are some limited risks when it comes to the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women.

The CDC analyzed nearly 410,000 women ages 15-44 who had symptomatic COVID-19 and found that “intensive care unit admission, invasive ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and death were more likely in pregnant women than in nonpregnant women.”

While these findings may sound alarming, let’s look closer at the numbers to gain a little perspective. 

First, these statistics only consider those women who are symptomatic. Many people who get infected are asymptomatic. 

Second, the death rate among nonpregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 is 1.2 out of 1,000 and the same rate among pregnant women ticked up to 1.5. In other words, the risks for ICU admission, ventilation, and death are technically higher for pregnant women, but not by all that much.

COVID-19 and delivery

As we stated above, the effects of COVID-19 on certain populations is preliminary at best, which is especially true when it comes to deliveries. 

What the CDC has uncovered is that the prevalence of preterm delivery among live births during hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 is slightly higher: 12.6% versus 10% among the general population. And preterm deliveries were three times more likely among pregnant women who were symptomatic versus those who were asymptomatic.

Moving forward

While we wait for widespread vaccination, there’s still plenty you can do to keep yourself safe during pregnancy, such as avoiding large crowds, washing your hands, and wearing a mask. 

While these rules of thumb are for everyone, we feel that women who are pregnant should practice an abundance of caution during this time.

Our team here at NOVA IVF is with you every step of the way. We will certainly do our part to ensure the safety of you and your unborn child. If you have more questions, feel free to contact our office in Mountain View, California.

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