COVID-19 significantly increases the risk of stillbirth: US study

The risk of stillbirth is about twice as high for women with COVID-19 compared to those without, and grew to about fourfold during the period when the delta variant became dominant, a major U.S. government study said Friday.

The analysis, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was based on more than 1.2 million deliveries between March 2020 and September 2021 from a large U.S. hospital database.

Overall, stillbirths were very rare, accounting for 0.65 percent or 8,154 births.

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However, after using statistical methods to account for the effect of other variables that could affect the outcome, stillbirths were 1.47 times more common among COVID-positive mothers pre-delta, 4.04 times higher after and 1.90 times higher in general.

The authors wrote that previous research had suggested that a potential biological cause for the increased risk could be the result of inflammation or decreased blood flow to the placenta.

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Among births with COVID-19, conditions such as chronic high blood pressure, having more than one baby, heart damage, separation of the placenta from the uterus, sepsis, poor blood flow resulting in shock, life-threatening lung damage and having to go on a ventilator or hospitalization in the intensive care unit was associated with higher numbers of stillbirths.

“Further studies are warranted to examine the role that maternal complications from COVID-19 play in the risk of stillbirth,” they said.

The study is among the strongest to date linking COVID-19 and stillbirth, the authors said.

Some previous studies on the subject could not adjust for “confounders” such as pre-existing conditions, and a previous analysis using the same data set did not demonstrate a significantly increased risk.

“The current analysis includes an extra year of data, which adds to the growing evidence that COVID-19 is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth,” the authors wrote, explaining why the link was clearer now.

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