Infection with the coronavirus increases by factor of 7 expectant mothers’ chance of death; also threatens their unborn children

If you’re pregnant and get infected with the coronavirus, your risk of dying is seven times greater than those of expectant mothers who are not infected, according to a study published Monday in the journal BMJ Global Health.

The study “pooled patient data from more than 13,000 pregnant individuals included in 12 studies from 12 countries, including the United States,” Sabrina Malhi reports for The Washington Post. “Along with a higher death rate, infected pregnant people had a greater risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit, needing a ventilator or developing pneumonia if they have a coronavirus infection. Infants born to those with a coronavirus infection during pregnancy also had a greater risk of developing severe outcomes. They were twice as likely to need treatment in the intensive care unit after birth and had an increased risk of being born preterm.”

Vaccination rates for pregnant people are low, probably because “the assumption is that if a person is pregnant, they are probably young and, for the most part, healthy,” said Emily R. Smith, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of global health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Malhi notes, “Being pregnant, even if a person has no underlying medical conditions, puts them at increased risk of developing severe illness if they are infected with the coronavirus.”

Many pregnant women are misinformed about Covid-19 vaccines. “As of May 2022, about 29 percent of women who were pregnant or planned on becoming pregnant believed some form of misinformation surrounding the coronavirus vaccine, according to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation,” Malhi notes. “Some of the unsubstantiated claims about the vaccine’s impact included effects on fertility and breastfeeding.”

The poll vaccine hesitancy “can emerge when someone is having a child or trying to become pregnant,” Malhi reports. “Kathryn Gray, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said misinformation surrounding vaccines can be partly attributed to anti-vaccine rhetoric on social media.”

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