Stillbirth is rare. But new data link COVID-19 in pregnancy to 4x higher risk.
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Chronic conditions like high blood pressure further increase likelihood of stillbirth.
New Jersey, national health officials and respected medical organizations are all urging pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with new evidence showing a link between COVID-19 infection during pregnancy and stillbirths. Stillbirth refers to the loss of a baby at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Experts consider the available COVID-19 vaccinations to be safe and effective during pregnancy and for women planning to become pregnant.
The data, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), examined 1.2 million deliveries in 736 U.S. hospitals from March 2020 through September 2021. It revealed that roughly 1 in 80 deliveries resulted in stillbirths among the COVID-19-infected compared to 1 in 155 for uninfected mothers. Those with chronic conditions like high blood pressure and complications, including being in intensive care or on a ventilator, had a higher risk of stillbirths.
According to the CDC-published data, the rise in the rate of stillbirths began in March 2020. Once the Delta strain became dominant in July 2021, infected women were four times more likely to deliver a stillbirth compared with uninfected mothers.
Pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19
Symptomatic, pregnant women with COVID-19 are twice as likely to be admitted into intensive care and have a 70 percent increased chance of dying. Pregnant women are also more likely to deliver preterm babies and have newborns admitted into intensive care with COVID-19 infections.
COVID-19 vaccines can help protect against severe illness. Yet only 31 percent of pregnant women nationwide are vaccinated as of September 2021, according to the CDC. The CDC goes on to state that vaccination rates among pregnant people “vary markedly by race and ethnicity,” ranging from 45.7 percent among Asian people, 25 percent among Hispanic/Latino people and 15.6 percent among Black people. Pregnancy aside, people of color are likely to have increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to factors including inequities in care, economic stability, transportation access and more.
Evidence about the safety of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy continues to grow
- Early data from three safety monitoring systems did not find any safety issues for women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer–BioNTech) late in pregnancy. Additionally, there were no safety concerns for their babies.
- Despite persistent myths, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccination affects fertility. The vaccines do not contain live virus. Instead, they work by helping your body build antibodies to protect against the virus. Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology—Maternal–Fetal Medicine revealed that mothers who received either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines during pregnancy passed on their antibodies to their babies.
- Scientists have not found an increased risk for miscarriage (loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy) among people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine just before and during early pregnancy (before 20 weeks).
- There were no adverse pregnancy or newborn-related issues in previous clinical trials that used the same type of vaccine (called a viral vector) as the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more about viral vector vaccines.
- COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as those planning to become pregnant. Vaccinations are free of charge for Horizon members.