Pregnant Women Face a Higher Risk of Death from Covid

Illustration for article titled Pregnant Women Face a Higher Risk of Death from Covid
Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP (Getty Images)

Pregnant women are more likely to suffer severe complications from coronavirus, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Researchers arrived at this conclusion by examining the health outcomes of 23,434 pregnant women who participated in a study of 409,462 symptomatic women ages 15 to 44. Throughout the course of the study, they found that the pregnant women were more likely to require intensive care, ventilation machines, and the use of a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, which oxygenates patients’ blood.

Pregnant women in the study were also 1.7 times more likely to die than their non-pregnant counterparts.

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The New York Times reports that the findings—which contradicted the results of an earlier, smaller study—have prompted the CDC to update its official guidances, adding pregnancy to its list of conditions that can lead to worse outcomes for people who contract coronavirus.

It’s important to note that the risk for women in this age group is still low overall, with researchers reporting a death rate of 1.5 per 1,000 cases among pregnant women. But when the data is broken down by race and ethnicity, the study reveals that the risks are higher for some pregnant women than they are for others.

Black women only accounted for 14 percent of the participants in the CDC study, but they made up 37 percent of the deaths; pregnant Hispanic women also had a higher risk of dying from the virus than white women, and Asian women saw a higher risk of severe illness. And we’ve long known that people who belong to these groups—pregnant or not—have a higher chance of contracting covid to begin with.

Doctors are urging pregnant women to exercise an abundance of caution, even as the long, dark winter months tempt all of us to ease our quarantine and social-distancing habits.

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“Some people think that because if you’re young and healthy, you’ll be okay, and pandemic fatigue is setting in,” David Jaspan, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Philadelphia-based Einstein Healthcare Network, told the Washington Post. “But the fact is at my practice, we’ve seen women who are pregnant on ventilators. It affects the mother, the delivery and the baby.”

“We have no predictive ability how this will impact you, so the best advice we can offer is prevention,” he continued. “Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay away from people who may be infected.”

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at Vice, The Nation, Gothamist, The Awl, and more.

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