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A recent Canadian study associates severe COVID-19 infection with higher risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm births, stillbirths, preeclampsia.

Researchers wrote in the study that clinicians should be wary of the cited adverse outcomes in terms of managing pregnancies affected by severe COVID-19 infections and adopt strategies that will effectively prevent or reduce risks for mothers and fetuses.

Adverse Pregnancy Complication and COVID-19 Infection

Montreal-based researchers, including Dr. Nathalie Auger from the University of Montreal's School of Public Health, conducted a meta-analysis of 42 studies, including roughly 438,548 pregnant patients around the world.

Auger says that the data provides clear definitive evidence that severe and symptomatic COVID-19 infection is linked with considerable risks of preterm births, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.

The study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal entitled "The impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis" highlight the increased risks of adverse pregnancy complications on mothers infected with severed COVID-19 infection like preeclampsia--a condition that causes high blood pressure during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Compared to asymptomatic mothers, symptomatic patients had doubled risks of preterm births and a 50% risk increase of cesarean delivery.

Additionally, patients with severe COVID-19 infections had a fourfold increased risk of experiencing high blood pressure and preterm births than those with mild cases.

The reason behind the increased risks was unclear, but researchers speculate that it could be because of the SARS-CoV-2 virus's ability to stimulate an inflammatory response, thereby affecting blood vessels.

The study notes that the lack of knowledge about the SARS-CoV-2 virus has raised urgent questions among neonatologists and obstetricians on the risks of maternal, fetal, and neonatal morbidity and mortality.

Childbirth
(Photo: Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels)

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COVID-19 Pregnancy Risks

Researchers believe that the study provides urgently needed evidence to better guide clinical decisions in handling COVID-19 maternal cases.

Dr. Deborah Money, a professor at the University of British Columbia and an obstetrician leading a national surveillance project on pregnancy during the global pandemic, says that the findings of the study on preeclampsia in the newly published study are surprising.

Money adds that researchers could provide suggestions related to information associated with COVID-19 possibly affecting the placenta; however, with one meta-analysis among the entire body of international literature, clinicians should take the study with a grain of salt.

She explains that thus far, researchers have analyzed 1,800 COVID-19 cases in pregnancies in Canada, with researchers scanning and on the lookout for any adverse complications that professionals were not expecting due to the unusual infection.

Findings from Canada have indicated that pregnant women with COVID-19 have higher risks of hospitalization and preterm births. Meanwhile, data has yet to show whether stillbirths are statistically higher.

Money expressed concern on aspects of the study due to some data being collated from countries with inadequate prenatal births that may be contributing to the adverse pregnancy complications.

Nonetheless, researchers caution pregnant mothers to take all precautionary measures to reduce interactions outside the family bubble and to consider getting vaccinated as early as possible to reduce risks of severe complications.

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