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COVID-19 During Pregnancy Linked With Preterm Birth

Birth rates didn’t vary by whether the births were spontaneous or medically-indicated.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the University of California San Francisco has discovered that individuals who become infected with COVID-19 while they are pregnant have a higher risk of having a preterm birth.

Findings from the study were published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health – Americas.

“Our results point to the importance of preventative measures to reduce COVID-19 infection among pregnant people to prevent preterm birth, including vaccination,” Deborah Karasek, a corresponding author on the study said. “Pregnant people may have concerns about vaccines and the health of their baby, so being able to have an open dialogue that values those concerns, describes evidence about safety, and conveys the risks posed by COVID-19 infection during pregnancy is critically important.”

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed all live births between July 2020 and January 2021 through the database called California Vital Statistics. The study included 240,157 recorded births, of which 3.7% had a COVID-19 diagnosis during their pregnancy.

The sample included 47.2% Latinx individuals, 26.8% white individuals, 13.2% Asian individuals and 4.9% black individuals, among a few others.

Findings from the study showed that the risk of preterm birth occurring at less than 32 weeks of gestation was 60% higher in those who were infected with COVID-19. The risk of giving birth at less than 37 weeks was 40% higher in those with an infection.

Additionally, those who had hypertension, diabetes and/or obesity as well as an infection with COVID-19 had a 160% higher risk of having a preterm birth.

“Given that the burden of COVID-19 is greater in these populations, as is the burden of pre-term birth, it really points to the need for an equity approach,” Karasek said. “With the surge in infections and increase in the Delta variant, we must think about pregnant people, especially Black and Brown populations, as the groups that need to be prioritized, with supportive policies to reduce exposure and stress, and increase access to care.”