A new study suggests that Covid-19 may increase the risk of stillbirth and prematurity.
The study, which was conducted in the UK, revealed that infection around the time of birth slightly increased the risk of giving birth prematurely and stillbirth. Researchers stressed that the risk to pregnant women remains very low.
The research was led by the National Maternity and Perinatal Audit and involved data from over 340,000 women who gave birth in 2020 and 2021. Data was collected from women who had babies in England between the end of May 2020 and January 2021.
The study showed that of the participants, 3,527 tested positive for Covid-19. Thirty of these women had a stillbirth and 12% gave birth prematurely. Analysis suggests that the rate of stillbirth in women who tested positive was 8.5 per 1,000 births compared to 3.4 per 1,000 women among those who tested negative. Over 12% of women who tested positive gave birth before 37 weeks compared to 5.8% of women who tested negative.
The research team explained that the risk of giving birth prematurely, stillbirth and having a Caesarean section increased in women who tested positive even after other factors, including age, ethnicity, socio-economic background and health status were taken into account.
Professor Asma Khalil, co-author of the study, said that it was important for healthcare professionals and pregnant women to be aware of the potential risks associated with Covid-19. Although this study indicates that risks remain low for pregnant women, there are differences in rates between women who tested positive and negative. The findings underline the benefits of having the Covid-19 vaccine, which protects not only the mother, but also the baby.
Vaccines have been approved for pregnant women and anyone who is pregnant has been advised to come forward for their vaccine when they are called by the NHS. The rollout is currently expanding through priority age groups, with 30-year-olds expected to receive the first vaccine soon and all adults set to be invited for the jab before the end of July. Women who have concerns about the safety of the vaccine are encouraged to contact their GP.