No, Pregnancy Won’t Increase Your Risk of Severe COVID-19 Illness

Katherine Speller

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As pregnant women can at times be more vulnerable to severe illness from viruses (think: influenza!), the odds of the coronavirus disproportionately affecting pregnant people has been a concern as we learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects different bodies. However, a new study out of the UK found that pregnant women are not more likely than other women to experience severe illness from coronavirus.

Researchers at Oxford University and Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists examined the cases of 427 pregnant women admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 between March and mid-April, as Reuters notes, and found that less than 0.5 percent of the pregnant women were admitted with the disease – and one in 10 of those people admitted were in conditions that needed intensive care.

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However, Marian Knight, an Oxford professor and co-leader of the study notes that the numbers do show that “…most pregnant women who were admitted to hospital were more than six months pregnant, which emphasizes the importance of continued social distancing measures in the later stages of pregnancy.”

Knight also noted that the disproportionate amount of black and marginalized pregnant people admitted with COVID-19 in pregnancy is something that warrants “urgent” investigation to ensure better outcomes for mothers and babies. The study also notes that people with preexisting conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, were more likely to be need hospitalization.

“A very small number of pregnant women do become severely ill with COVID-19 and sadly some women have died,” Knight said in a statement about the study.

Andrew Shennan, a professor of obstetrics at King’s College London who was not directly involved in either study told Bloomberg that the study was the “most systematic look” at what pregnant people with COVID-19 might expect.

“Pregnant women can be reassured by this,” Shennan said. “The outcomes are excellent for the baby, with 97 percent live births, very similar to a control group (and) the chance of serious problems to the mother are very similar to non-pregnant populations.”

While the study offers significantly more insights for pregnant people and folks considering conceiving about what risks might exist for having a baby during the pandemic, experts advise that pregnant individuals and new mothers follow guidelines for social distancing and reducing risks of exposing themselves to the virus.

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