Risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms persists throughout pregnancy, UTSW study finds : Newsroom

UT Southwestern researchers found no increased risk of adverse effects in babies or mothers when mothers were infected with COVID-19.
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DALLAS – November 22, 2022 – A UT Southwestern study of more than 1,300 pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19 found that only 1 in 10 developed moderate, severe or critical illness and that symptoms and severity of COVID-19 were similar over all quarters.

The findings, which encompass one of the largest single establishment studies of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, appear in the November issue of American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology MFM.

Rachel Schell, MD

“In the rapidly changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, this study provides insight into the natural course of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy,” said Rachel Schell, MD, assistant instructor in obstetrics. and gynecology at UT Southwestern and first author of the paper. “This can be helpful for clinicians to effectively counsel patients and guide care.”

Throughout the pandemic, approximately 182,000 pregnant women have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States. Studies have shown that pregnant patients are at an increased risk of serious and critical illness compared to non-pregnant women of similar ages. However, little was known about how the timing of infection during pregnancy might affect these risks.

In the UTSW study, Dr. Schell and colleagues collected data on 1,326 patients who gave birth at Parkland Health between March 2020 and September 2021 and tested positive for COVID-19 on polymerase chain reaction tests. (PCR) at any time during their pregnancy. Of these patients, 103 (8%) tested positive during the first trimester, 355 (27%) tested positive during the second trimester, and 868 (65%) during the third trimester.

When researchers studied how often women were admitted to hospital with COVID-19, the severity of their symptoms, and the progression of their symptoms, they found no statistically significant differences between pregnant patients who were infected at each trimester. Overall, about 10% of pregnant COVID-19 patients who were asymptomatic developed symptoms, and about 10% of infected patients had symptoms that could be classified as moderate, severe, or critical.

“Given that patients in all trimesters of pregnancy are susceptible to infections and severe respiratory illness from COVID-19, these findings add urgency to the need to vaccinate all pregnant women,” said Dr. Schell.

The researchers also found no increased risk of adverse effects – in babies or mothers – when mothers were infected with COVID-19. Rates of poor outcomes, including stillbirths, were similar to those in the general population and did not vary by trimester of infection.

Previous studies of hospitalized pregnant COVID-19 patients suggest poor outcomes may correlate with more severe cases. In the UTSW study, researchers were unable to analyze potential correlations between the results and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

Other UTSW researchers who contributed to this study include Devin A. Macias, W. Holt Garner, Alesha M. White, Donald D. McIntire, Jessica Pruszynski, and Emily H. Adhikari.

The research was funded in part by a pilot project grant through the Seldin Fellows of UT’s Southwestern Department of Internal Medicine. Additional funding was provided by the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTSW.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes and includes 24 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Full-time faculty of more than 2,900 are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and committed to rapidly translating scientific research into new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 inpatients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits annually.

About Parkland Health

Parkland Health is one of the nation’s largest public hospital systems. State-of-the-art Parkland Memorial Hospital’s premium services include the Rees-Jones Level I Trauma Center, North Texas’ only burn center verified by the American Burn Association for patients adults and pediatrics, and a level III neonatal intensive care center. Unity. The system also includes two outpatient clinics on campus – the Ron J. Anderson, MD Clinic and the Moody Outpatient Center, as well as more than 30 community clinics and numerous outreach and education programs. By cultivating its diversity, inclusion and health equity efforts, Parkland enriches the health and well-being of the communities it serves. For more information, visit www.parklandhealth.org.

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