Pregnant women who had Covid-19 when they gave birth to their babies were almost twice as likely to have a stillbirth as healthy women who did not have Covid, according to a new Centers for Disease Control study released Friday that examined more than 1.2 million births in the United States between March 2020 and September 2021.
While stillbirths were generally rare and represented less than 1 percent of all births, 1.26 percent of the 21,653 women with Covid experienced a stillbirth, compared with 0.64 percent of women without Covid. Even after adjustments were made to control differences between the groups, women with Covid were 1.9 times as likely as healthy women to have a stillbirth.
The risk of stillbirth has been even higher for women with Covid since the Delta variant has been dominant: while the risk of stillbirth for women with Covid was 1.5 times as high as for healthy women before July, when Delta became dominant, it was 4 times as high between July and September. As many as 2.7 percent of births to women with Covid were stillbirths during the study period, while Delta was dominant.
“There had been reports that indicated an increased risk, but stillbirths are difficult to study because, fortunately, they are uncommon,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, Head of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory Healthcare. “This is some of the strongest evidence for the increased risk, and probably the strongest data, pointing to the risks specifically associated with Delta.”
“The announcement of taking home is the importance of vaccination for pregnant women, especially at this point in the pandemic with Delta in circulation,” she said.
The CDC strongly urges pregnant and lactating women and women planning or attempting to conceive to be vaccinated against Covid, but resistance has been strong, even though pregnancy is on the CDC’s list of health conditions that increase the risk of serious illness.
Studies have shown that pregnant patients who are symptomatic are more than twice as likely as other symptomatic patients to require intensive care or interventions such as mechanical ventilation, and they may be more likely to die. They are also more likely to experience a premature birth.
Another CDC study released Wednesday described cases of 15 pregnant women in Mississippi who died of Covid during or shortly after their pregnancy, including six who died before the Delta variant became dominant and nine who died between July and October, while Delta was dominant.
Of the women who died, nine were black women, three were white women and three were Hispanic women. The median age was 30. Fourteen of the women had underlying medical conditions and none were vaccinated. Five of the deaths occurred before vaccinations were available.
The study concluded that the risk of death for a pregnant woman with Covid is nine deaths per 1,000 infections, while the risk of death from Covid for other women of childbearing age is only 2.5 deaths per. 1,000 infections.
A third study by CDC researchers showed that pregnant women with Covid were at a more than 60 percent higher risk of being admitted to intensive care, needing a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, and even to die in the period when Delta was dominant, compared to pregnant women in the period before the variant was dominant.