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Risk of COVID in pregnancy

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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As we learn to live alongside COVID-19, it can be hard to tease apart the threat it poses to us, and it depends on so many factors – age, sex, ethnicity, and health conditions. Will it be a simple cold or will I end up in the hospital? Add the fact that you’re pregnant into the equation, and confusion reigns.

In the simplest terms, the overall risk to those who are pregnant is low. However, when compared to people of your age and gender, the risk is raised. This is for both becoming unwell enough to need hospital treatment, and of needing intensive care support.

This risk is much reduced if you are in good health, and significantly reduced if you are fully vaccinated.

The doctors here at Healthwords follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US government in advising you that getting fully vaccinated offers the best protection for you and your baby. Real-world data suggests that pregnant women that are unvaccinated are significantly more likely to end up seriously unwell or needing hospital care than those who are vaccinated. Your baby may also risk being born prematurely if you contract COVID-19.

Am I at high risk?

Being pregnant, even with no underlying health conditions or pregnancy-related complications, puts you in the high-risk category for complications if you contract COVID-19. We should emphasise that complications are rare, but increased when compared with others of your age and gender.

Those who are pregnant with other considerations are at even higher risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19. These include if you have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or problems with your immune system. You are also at increased risk if you are overweight or obese, over 35 years old, from a Black and Asian Minority Ethnic background.

If you belong to one or more of any of these groups, catching COVID-19 puts you at high risk of severe illness. Being fully vaccinated reduces this risk to a large extent, especially in your third trimester.

When am I at the most risk?

Moms-to-be are most likely to become unwell with COVID-19 later in pregnancy, which means the third trimester holds the highest risk. Although there is no data to agree, for personal reasons some pregnant women prefer to have their vaccination after 12 weeks, however it is recommended to complete your vaccination schedule before the third trimester if possible.

What are the risks?

  • Severe illness includes being admitted to hospital, or even needing intensive care support and may even require breathing assistance such as a ventilator.
  • In the worst cases, COVID-related deaths have occurred in pregnancy.
  • There has been no evidence that COVID increases the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy but contracting COVID in later pregnancy makes your baby twice as likely of coming early.
  • Prematurity has been linked to long-term consequences on learning and development.
  • There is also a higher risk of your baby being born by Cesarean section and your child being admitted to the neonatal unit.

Is my baby at risk?

Thankfully, studies have shown that of mothers who were infected with COVID-19, just a small proportion of babies (2%) tested positive for COVID-19, showing the transmission rate is reassuringly low.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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