Since the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest and most important questions researchers aimed to find out was whether pregnant women are at an increased risk of complications from the virus. And while it’s become clear that the overall COVID-19 risk among pregnant women is low, some recent research suggests that pregnant women may be at higher risk for severe illness than women who are not pregnant.
But what does higher risk for severe illness even mean? It means pregnant women with COVID-19 could be more likely to develop respiratory complications that require intensive care and may be more likely to require a ventilator. Pregnant women are also more likely to require admission to an intensive care unit and are at an increased risk of death. The risk appears to be greatest among women who are between the ages of 35 and 44.
The research also suggests that pregnant women who have COVID-19 may be at higher risk for complications like giving birth early, also known as preterm birth. Additionally, the research shows that babies born to mothers with COVID-19 are more likely to be admitted to a neonatal care unit.
Further research and analysis is still needed, but researchers believe the reason pregnant women may be at increased risk for these more severe outcomes is due to some of the physiological changes that take place during pregnancy. This includes factors like an increased heart rate, lower lung capacity, and more.
Though these risks exist, this doesn’t mean you need to panic if you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant soon. A Nov. 19, 2020 study published in JAMA Open Network from UT Southwestern shows that approximately 5 percent of all COVID-19 positive mothers developed severe illness.
You can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 by following public health recommendations such as staying six feet away from people who don’t live with you (social distancing), washing your hands with soap and water regularly, wearing a face mask, and being mindful not to touch your eyes, mouth, nose, and other parts of your face.
If you start to feel sick at any point or believe you may have been exposed to the virus, contact your physician right away for their guidance on testing and treatment. And remember that when you’re feeling sick, it’s important to stay home and avoid situations where you could possibly infect other people.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.