Pregnant women are being encouraged to have their vaccination against coronavirus. A UK study suggests having coronavirus in the late stages of pregnancy may increase the chance of stillbirth and premature birth – although the overall risks remain low.
Scientists are therefore now encouraging expectant mums to have their vaccine jabs as soon as it is available to their age group.
More than 340,000 women who gave birth in England between the end of May 2020 and January 2021 took part in the study and were tested for Covid-19 when they were admitted for delivery. The study was led by the National Maternity and Perinatal Audit.
The study found:
3,527 had positive tests
Of those, 30 had stillbirths (deaths occurring after 24 weeks of pregnancy)
Scientists calculate 8.5 per 1,000 women who had a positive test went on to experience a stillbirth
This compares to 3.4 per 1,000 women who had a negative test
12% of women who had a positive coronavirus test gave birth prematurely (before 37 weeks)
This compares to 5.8% of women who had negative tests.
More women who were younger and from a black, Asian or other minority ethnic background tested positive.
They study also shows a correlation between positive test results and a higher risk of stillbirth and prematurity, as well as a greater chance of having a Caesarean section.
Professor Asma Khalil, co-author of the paper, said:
“This study is the largest yet in England to describe the pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women who had tested positive for Covid-19 around the time of birth.
“While it is reassuring that the overall increases in the rate of stillbirth and pre-term birth remain low, this study does show that the risk of stillbirth or premature birth may be increased in women who have the infection around the time of birth.
“This highlights the importance of Covid-19 vaccination for pregnant women; it reduces the risk not just to themselves, but also to their babies.”
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, from the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“While the increased risk of a stillbirth or pre-term birth remains low when women have Covid-19 in pregnancy, the important message here is that pregnant women, like all of us, should continue to take precautions to reduce their chances of exposure to the virus.
“This includes continuing social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing,” she said.
Heidi Eldridge, MAMA Academy’s Chief Exec, said:
“This is a large study that is very important in developing our understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on expectant parents and on pregnancy outcomes. The data appears to show a significant increase in stillbirth and pre-term birth rates for parents who tested positive at the time of admission. Professor Asma Khalil is a leading expert in her field – she is quite right to point out that the risks of poor outcomes are still reassuringly low, but she also makes the important point that the evidence shows the Covid-19 vaccine reduces risk for both the pregnant parent and their baby.
Following the findings of the JCVI last month that the evidence shows that Covid-19 vaccines are safe in pregnancy, this study further emphasises that not only is it safe to get the vaccine whilst pregnant, it also has significant health advantages for you and your baby.
The decision to get a vaccine is a personal one for individuals to take for themselves, and if you have any concerns then it is absolutely right for you to discuss them with your healthcare professionals. Nonetheless, MAMA Academy welcomes the release of these findings that will help empower parents to make better informed decisions about their health and their pregnancy. MAMA Academy remains committed to supporting and working with the NHS to end preventable stillbirth, improving pregnancy outcomes, and empowering parents to have a positive experience in pregnancy. Our thoughts are with the 30 families mentioned in today’s reports that experienced the tragedy of stillbirth, and as always are with all families experiencing pregnancy loss at any gestation.”
To book your vaccine, please visit the NHS website.
You can also use this decision aid to help you make an informed decision.
Read the full study from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
For more information on the Coronavirus during pregnancy, please visit our webpage.