CDC report finds some hospitalized pregnant women with COVID-19 can suffer severe illness, poor birth outcomes

A new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that some hospitalized pregnant women with COVID-19 suffered severe illness, including the need for admission into the ICU and mechanical ventilation.

In some cases, poor birth outcomes were reported — including preterm birth.

Among nearly 600 pregnant women admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 between March 1 and Aug. 22, 55% were asymptomatic, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published Sept. 16.

Out of the 272 pregnant women with COVID-19 and showing symptoms, about 16% were admitted to the ICU, 8% required a ventilator, and two women died.

The authors noted that there were no ICU admissions, mechanical ventilation, or deaths among asymptomatic women in the study.

A file image taken June 5, 2020 shows a pregnant patient during an ultrasound amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images)

The authors noted that there were no ICU admissions, mechanical ventilation, or deaths among asymptomatic women in the study.

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The reason for hospital admission was only reported for 324 of the women, with 75% being hospitalized for obstetric reasons, such as labor and delivery. Nearly 19% of the women were hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness, the report states.

The most common reason for hospitalization during the first or second trimester was COVID-19–related illness (56.8%). Obstetric indications, like labor and delivery, was the most common reason during the third trimester of pregnancy (81.9%).

Among hospitalized pregnant women with COVID-19, nearly 21% had at least one underlying medical condition, such as asthma (8%) and high blood pressure (4%), the authors noted.  

Among the women with COVID-19 who had completed pregnancies at the time of their hospital discharge, 448 (97.8%) had a live birth. Ten (2.2%) resulted in a pregnancy loss, the report states. 

Pregnancy losses occurred among both symptomatic and asymptomatic hospitalized women with COVID-19, the researchers added.

Among 445 pregnancies resulting in live births with a known gestational age at delivery, 87.4% were term births — meaning at or past 37 weeks’ gestation. Nearly 13% were preterm, or before 37 weeks, the study noted. 

Preterm birth affects 1 of every 10 infants born in the U.S., according to CDC data from 2018.

Among pregnancies resulting in live births, preterm delivery was reported for 23% of symptomatic women and 8% of asymptomatic women.

“Testing policies based on the presence of symptoms might miss COVID-19 infections during pregnancy,” researchers wrote in the report. “Surveillance of pregnant women with COVID-19, including those with asymptomatic infections, is important to understand the short- and long-term consequences of COVID-19 for mothers and newborns.”

Current testing guidelines from the CDC state that individuals who have been in close contact of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, “do not necessarily need a test” unless they are vulnerable or one is recommended by their doctor or local public health officials.

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While the authors note that the threshold may be lower for admitting pregnant women to the hospital, compared to other individuals, pregnant women nevertheless “account for a substantial proportion of COVID-19–associated hospitalizations among women of reproductive age.”

Nearly 21,000 pregnant women have contracted COVID-19 in the U.S. and 44 have died, according to Sept. 10 data compiled by the CDC.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.