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.

Perinatal Center of Tatarstan's Republican Clinical Hospital in Kazan

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.