COVID-19: Older and overweight pregnant women more likely to get infected with coronavirus

Pregnant woman
Most pregnant women with COVID-19 were mildly infected
  • Study tracked the clinical course and outcomes of 16 pregnant women from 23 to 36 years of age, infected with COVID-19 in all three trimesters of pregnancy
  • Severe COVID-19 could occur in older pregnant women with high body mass index (BMI)
  • Incidence and severity of COVID-19 among pregnant women parallels general population trends, and that the majority of patients will recover from COVID-19

Older and overweight pregnant women are more likely to get infected with COVID-19 coronavirus, a study revealed. Also, babies born to infected mothers have antibodies against the coronavirus. The study was undertaken by a joint research network set up by Singapore’s three public hospitals offering maternity services, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the National University Hospital (NUH). Established in July, 2020, this collaborative research network is called Singapore Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research Network (SORN). Also Read: COVID-19: What do we know about coronavirus vaccines from US, UK, France, China and Russia

All five women and their babies who took part in the study had antibodies without having been infected by the virus, although the researchers said it is not yet clear what level of protection this may offer. As the joint senior author of the study, Professor Jerry Chan and co-authors reported that the COVID-19 does not show any vertical transmission between mother and baby, and that pregnant women with COVID-19 recover well. Also Read: COVID-19 vaccine: India to soon start human clinical trials of its indigenously developed mRNA vaccine candidate

Researchers revealed that number of antibodies in the babies varied and was higher among those whose mothers had been infected nearer to the time of delivery. The small study of 16 women also said that pregnant women with COVID-19 coronavirus disease do not get more sick than the wider population. Also Read: Coronavirus: Moderna starts testing COVID-19 vaccine candidate in participants as young as 12

The study also found that the number of antibodies in the babies fluctuated and was higher among those whose mothers had been infected nearer to the time of delivery. Further examination is needed to see whether the antibodies will drop as the babies get older, researchers added. Also Read: European Union secures sixth COVID-19 vaccine deal, set to purchase 160 million coronavirus doses from US firm Moderna

The World Health Organization says pregnant women can be severely affected by respiratory infections, and that it is not known whether mothers with COVID-19 infection can pass the coronavirus to their babies during pregnancy or delivery. Also Read: COVID-19 updated guidelines: Choose 3-layer non-medical coronavirus masks with a filter layer to stay safe

“The study results were reassuring,” the Singapore Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research Network said in a statement. Also Read: Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine not for poor countries as ‘subzero cold-chain storage’ requirement is a big challenge

Among 16 patients seen at all four public healthcare institutions – KKH, SGH, NUH, and National Centre for Infectious Diseases:

  • 37.5 per cent, 43.8 per cent and 18.7 per cent of the patients were infected in the first, second and third trimesters of pregnancy respectively.
  • To-date, five women had delivered at term and displayed both maternal and neonatal immunity to SARS-CoV-2 at birth, with no evidence of viral transmission from mother to baby.
  • Two pregnant women had severe pneumonia, and two experienced pregnancy loss.
  • One pregnant woman required transfer to an intensive care unit for supplemental oxygen support.


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