Women with COVID-19 symptoms face difficult deliveries

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Pregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 were more likely to have emergency deliveries and birthing complications than expectant mothers with asymptomatic COVID-19, according to a new U.S. study.

The findings, which were presented at the Anesthesiology 2021 annual meeting on Saturday, also found pregnant mothers with symptomatic COVID-19 were also more likely to birth children who needed oxygen support and admission into neonatal intensive care units.

“COVID-19 has severe systemic effects on the body, especially symptomatic patients. It is possible that these effects are amplified in pregnant mothers, who have increased fetal and maternal oxygen demands,” Kristine Lane, a medical student and the lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Their team found that approximately six out of 10 symptomatic mothers delivered in emergency circumstances, as compared to 46.5 per cent of asymptomatic mothers.

Those with symptomatic COVID-19 were also more likely to have emergency complications, such as having too little amniotic fluid, the slowing or stopping of the labor progress, or decreased fetal movement.

For the study, the researchers looked at 101 pregnant women between the ages of 16 and 45, who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were admitted for delivery from March to September 2020. About a third of the women had symptomatic COVID-19.

Out of the 31 expectant mothers with symptomatic COVID-19, around four out of 10 of them had a fever or a cough; 26 per cent had shortness of breath; with 16 per cent of the women reporting muscle pains or chills.


The babies born to symptomatic mothers were slightly more likely to need respiratory support and be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (43.8 per cent compared to 36.2 per cent).

The team also found that caesarean delivery in both symptomatic women (64.5 per cent) and asymptomatic-but-COVID-19-positive women (62 per cent) were significantly higher than the normal population in the U.S. (31.7 per cent).

“The decreased oxygenation [in mothers] could contribute to the increase in cesarean deliveries, as well as the possibility that physicians caring for symptomatic patients are cautious of the virus’ unpredictable nature, so they proactively recommend a cesarean delivery for medium- to high-risk deliveries,” the authors said.

“We wanted to provide insight into a single institution’s experience on how labor and delivery may be affected by the virus as well as the baby’s condition after birth,” they added.

“Given the evolving nature of COVID-19, it is critical for hospitals to share their experiences of how patients with COVID-19 are treated and how it affects patient outcomes.”

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