COVID-19: What Are The Risks for Pregnant Women?
28th March 2023
More than one year after the first COVID-19 case, research findings have shown that pregnant women are more likely to develop severe symptoms, particularly respiratory complications, than non-pregnant women.
COVID-19 impact on pregnancy
Dr. Deborah Money, a Canadian professor in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of British Columbia, attests that the hospitalization rate for pregnant women who get COVID-19 is three-to four-fold higher than non-pregnant women, even for young and healthy women. Unfortunately, the rate is also higher for pregnant women who are subject to chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
In view of these latest findings, healthcare professionals from some governments have called for inclusion of — women who are expecting to be pregnant – in vaccination priority groups.
Beyond the physical aspects, COVID-19 also has an impact on the mental health of pregnant women. Under the influence of the pandemic, 10 to 12% of pregnant women are reported to develop symptoms associated with depression and anxiety during their pregnancy, a surge as compared to the normal 5 to 6%. Moreover, a study conducted by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in 64 countries shows that in 6,894 pregnant women, 31% suffered from anxiety and depression, 53% felt lonely and 43% reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) despite only 2% having contracted COVID-19.
Unfortunately, women who suffered from anxiety or depression during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression (PPD).
COVID-19 impact on childbirth and postpartum
At Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, research findings show that 12% of pregnant women who have contracted COVID-19 gave birth prematurely compared to the 8% of those who are not infected. Moreover, healthcare professionals also notice a slight increase in the incidence of low birth weight in newborn babies.
However, against all odds, countries which imposed a lockdown have observed a drop in premature births. The change could be attributed to the stringent hygiene measures taken during the pandemic as well as the longer homestay period before childbirth. At the moment, it remains unknown to us whether transmission of COVID-19 in utero or during the postnatal period is possible. No specific findings to date point to a potential spread of the virus to babies through breastfeeding.
COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women
Under the latest policies in Hong Kong, everyone older than 16 years old is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early research findings show that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine does not present serious risks for pregnant women or their babies. More studies are underway to follow up on the maternal, pregnancy, and infant safety outcomes.
We have talked to Dr. Zara Chan, Specialist in Gynecology & Obstetrics, to understand the use of vaccines on pregnant women. Here's Dr. Chan to explain why it is important for expecting mothers to get vaccinated:
If you are pregnant and have questions about vaccination, a conversation with your doctor can be helpful. Also, if you are trying to have a baby or want to get pregnant in the future, it is advisable to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself from severe COVID-19 symptoms in case of infection.
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.