Women contracting the Sars-CoV-2 virus towards the end of their pregnancy are more likely to develop birth and delivery-related complications as opposed to women who get infected earlier during their pregnancy or not at all.
A national study, published in Nature Medicine, reveals that unvaccinated women are more susceptible to Covid-19-related complications, including hospitalization, and critical care needs. It also highlights pregnant women who contract the virus 28 days before the delivery are subject to preterm birth, stillbirth or newborn deaths.
The reports found that all of these complications were more potent in unvaccinated women as opposed to the general female population.
The nationwide study further analyzed data of 87,000 women who were pregnant between December, 2020 to October, 2021. The vaccination uptake in these pregnant women was comparatively lower than the general female population of 18-44 years. It was the lowest in the younger population of pregnant women and the ones living in the depths of rural towns and villages in Scotland.
The reports found that 32.3% of women by October 2021 received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccination, compared to the 77.4% of the general female population. The extended perinatal mortality rate in the women who contracted the Covid-19 virus during pregnancy was 22.6 per 1000 births in 2021.
However, despite the severity of the infection and the implications of the vaccine in the first line of defense, clinical trials studying Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant women are lacking.
Around 12% of partially vaccinated women and 11% of the fully vaccinated pregnant women contracted the virus.
The collected data from the research was then compared to the background rates of the extended perinatal deaths and the preterm births in general consensus. This is standard for all the babies born in Scotland, despite the mothers contracting Covid or not.
The experts emphasized that it is difficult to say if Covid-19 directly contributed to the deaths or the preterm births due to a lack of comprehensive clinical records. However, they found that around 98% of unvaccinated pregnant women were hospitalized under critical care.
The virus contraction rates in pregnant women were reported the most in the rural and more deprived areas in Scotland.
Following the 4,950 confirmed cases from December 2020, several pregnant women experienced or contracted the virus in different stages of their pregnancy.
Around 31.2% (1,543 women) contracted it during the first trimester, 37.4% (1,850 women) during the second trimester and 31.5% (1,557 women) during the third trimester.
All of these findings were part of the COPS study, which provides population-based information in Scotland. The study was further conducted to correlate between Covid-19 infection and the impacts of Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy.
“COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy is crucial to protect women and babies from preventable, life-threatening complications of COVID-19,” says COPS co-lead Dr. Sarah Stock.
The study was led by a team of researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Strathclyde, and St Andrew’s; Public Health Scotland; and Victoria University of Wellington.
1- Stock, S.J., Carruthers, J., Calvert, C. et al. SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 vaccination rates in pregnant women in Scotland. Nat Med (2022).
This content has been reviewed by Srujana Mohanty who is working in scientific & medical writing and editing since 2018. She is also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing.