Published: 12 May 2020
New NIHR-funded research suggests that pregnant women are no more likely to become ill with severe COVID-19 than non-pregnant women. However, the majority of women who did become severely ill were in their third trimester of pregnancy, emphasising the importance of social distancing for this group.
The study, led by Professor Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer/ Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.
The research looked at 427 pregnant women admitted to hospitals in the UK between 1 March and 14 April 2020 - 4.9 women out of every 1000 pregnant women, suggesting that pregnant women are not at higher risk of experiencing severe illness. Information for the study was collected from all 194 hospitals in the UK with a consultant-led maternity unit.
Pregnant women from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to be admitted to hospital for COVID-19. This inequality persisted even when women from London, the West Midlands and the North West were excluded from the analysis, meaning the difference cannot be explained by higher rates of COVID-19 infection in those areas.
The analysis also showed that older pregnant women, those who were overweight or obese, and pregnant women with pre-existing medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes, were more likely to be admitted to hospital with the infection.
Professor Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford and lead investigator for the study, said: ‘A very small number of pregnant women do become severely ill with COVID-19 and sadly some women have died. Our thoughts must remain with their families. It is concerning that more pregnant women from black and minority ethnic groups are admitted with COVID-19 in pregnancy and this needs urgent investigation.
‘Most pregnant women who were admitted to hospital were more than six months pregnant, which emphasises the importance of continued social distancing measures in the later stages of pregnancy. Following the current guidance about careful social distancing will help prevent infection.’