Covid-19 is associated with a four times higher risk of stillbirth during the Delta era, the CDC finds

Empty newborn beds in the maternity ward of a hospital.

Empty newborn beds in the maternity ward of a hospital.
Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

New research confirms the increased risk for pregnant women and their families face from covid-19. Data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that pregnant people infected with covid-19 are more likely to have a stillbirth; this link seems to have gotten stronger after the emergence of the Delta variant.

Studies have for some time suggested that covid-19 is more dangerous for pregnant women. They are more likely experience serious illness, death, and delivery complications. This new research, published by the CDC last week, provides a closer look at the risk of stillbirth caused by coronavirus, in particular The Delta variant.

The study looked at over one million hospital births performed between March 2020 and September 2021. Stillbirths – loss of a baby before or during birth – were generally low over time. However, individuals infected with covid-19 at the time of birth were still significantly more likely to have a stillbirth. Overall, about 1.26% of infected pregnant women had a stillbirth-related birth, compared with 0.64% of those who were not infected.

The delta variant of coronavirus is much more transmissible than the original strains of coronavirus that first spread globe last year. But there is mixed evidence of Delta’s capabilities to cause more serious illness. According to the CDC, there is data showing that people in general may be more likely to be hospitalized as a result of Delta, but that hospitalized individuals then have similar outcomes as they had with pre-Delta strains. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case pregnant people.

During July 2021 to September 2021, when the Delta variant had been firmly established as the predominant form of the virus, the number of stillbirths increased significantly among covid-infected people, from 0.98% of pre-Delta deliveries to 2.70%. Compared to non-infected, this meant an approximately four-fold increased risk of stillbirth.

The results seem to confirm anecdotal reports of multiple stillbirths and other complications during the recent Delta-led climax of the pandemic, and they do not bode well for the near future, either. Covid-19 cases are undeniably on the rise again, although they remain concentrated among the unvaccinated.

Compared to the general public, however, pregnant women are still less likely to be vaccinated for covid-19, in part due to misconceptions about the safety of vaccines. In fact, studies have not shown any increased risk of adverse health outcomes from vaccination of pregnant women, and experts, including the authors of the current study, continue to call for them to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Implementing evidence-based covid-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy, is crucial to reducing the impact of covid-19 on stillbirths,” the authors wrote.


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