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Research Links COVID-19 in Pregnancy with Stillbirths

Pregnant women with COVID-19 face increased chances for stillbirths compared with uninfected women, and that risk spiked to four times higher after the delta variant emerged, new government data show.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Friday that examined 1.2 million deliveries in 736 hospitals nationwide from March 2020 through September 2021. Stillbirths were rare overall, totaling 8,154 among all deliveries. But the researchers found that for women with COVID-19, about 1 in 80 deliveries resulted in stillbirth. Among the uninfected, it was 1 in 155.

Pregnant people with are more likely than others to develop severe, even fatal, illness and they face increased risks for preterm birth and other complications. Previous studies on stillbirths and COVID-19 had mixed findings, but the report bolsters concerns among obstetricians and anecdotal data.

Dr. Joseph Biggio, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at Ochsner Health in New Orleans, said the study doesn’t prove that COVID-19 caused stillbirths. He said it’s possible some women were so critically ill that physicians trying to keep them alive couldn’t intervene on behalf of a fetus that they knew was in trouble.’The researchers relied on medical records, and they noted that they were unable to determine if the COVID-19 diagnoses listed at the time of delivery represented current or past infections. Generally, stillbirths are more common among Black people, those who become pregnant over age 35 or those who smoke tobacco during pregnancy.

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