Pregnant women may be at higher risk for getting seriously ill from COVID-19, new government data shows. The good news is that the overall risk of needing intensive care or requiring a ventilator is still low for pregnant women, and there are measures you can take to stay healthy during the pandemic, according to a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
First of all, it’s important to know the steps you can take to minimize your risk of getting COVID-19 during your pregnancy. Here’s what the CDC researchers suggest:
- Don’t skip your prenatal appointments: Regular appointments help you ensure your pregnancy is progressing well and allow your provider to identify and treat any problems promptly.
- Practice social distancing: Limit your interactions as much as possible, preferably to close family members inside your social bubble.
- Stock up on medicines: It’s a good idea to have at least a 30-day supply in case you get sick with COVID-19.
- Ask your healthcare provider for advice: She can give you individualized tips on how to stay healthy during the pandemic.
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week found that pregnant women appear to be more likely than non-pregnant, reproductive-age women to require hospitalization and ventilator support if they get COVID-19. That same report found that pregnant women are at no greater risk of dying from COVID-19.
Since January, almost 10,000 pregnant women in the United States have contracted COVID-19. That’s estimated to be about 9 percent of all pregnant women during that time period. Data shows that 26 pregnant women have died from the virus. As is the case with the general population, the virus disproportionately affects Latina and Black women (which is directly linked to living conditions, work circumstances, and health inequities).
After adjusting for age, underlying conditions, and race/ethnicity, pregnant women with COVID-19 were five times more likely to be hospitalized than non-pregnant women, 50 percent more likely to need intensive care, and 70 percent more likely to be put on a ventilator, the research shows.
Still, only 1.5 percent of pregnant women overall with COVID-19 needed to go into intensive care, and only 0.5 percent needed a ventilator. Also, the hospital admission data – which stood at 31 percent for pregnant women with COVID-19 – didn’t specify whether these women were admitted because of coronavirus complications or because of their pregnancy (such as to deliver their baby).
It’s not clear why pregnant women might face higher risk from COVID-19, but it’s likely because the immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, leaving women more vulnerable to severe respiratory infections in general.