Pregnant women who develop severe COVID-19 infections that require hospitalization for pneumonia and other complications may not be more likely to die from these infections than non-pregnant women. In fact, they may have significantly lower death rates than their non-pregnant counterparts. That is the finding of a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).
The study examined medical records from nearly 1,100 pregnant women and more than 9,800 non-pregnant patients aged 15 to 45 who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia. Slightly less than 1 percent of the pregnant patients died from COVID-19 compared to 3.5 percent of non-pregnant patients, according to the study findings.
There are, however, some important caveats to the study data in terms of differences between the two populations. Pregnant patients were more likely to be younger and have fewer health conditions, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and chronic lung disease, compared to the non-pregnant patients. Given the small number of deaths seen in the study, the researchers were unable to control for these differences to determine whether they significantly affected mortality risk.
“I think this is reassuring news for women who are pregnant and worried about getting infected with COVID-19 as new variants emerge,” said study-corresponding author Anthony Harris, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and public health at UMSOM. “While the study does not tell us for certain that pregnancy does not pose added risks for women, the data certainly points in that direction.”
Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston also participated in this study. UMSOM faculty who were co-authors of this study include Katherine Goodman, JD, PhD, Lisa Pineles, MA, Lyndsay O’Hara, PhD, Gita Nadimpalli, MD, MPH, Laurence Magder, PhD, and Jonathan Baghdadi, MD, PhD.
“I am so pleased we can provide some reassuring news to pregnant women who have faced an added burden during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean, UMSOM. "This is an important study that adds to our knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic at a critical time.”