Pregnant women in SA hospitalised with Covid-19 at high risk of severe illness, death - new study

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  • A study found that Covid-19 increases maternal mortality.
  • The research is based on data from 36 South African hospitals.
  • The results of the study highlight the need for pregnant women to get vaccinated.

A new study has found that pregnant women admitted to hospital for the management of Covid-19 were significantly more likely to need critical care and die than women infected with the virus who were admitted primarily for other medical conditions or for giving birth.

The study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics investigated the risk factors and outcomes in South Africa of hospitalised pregnant women infected with SARS-CoV-2. 

The researchers studied reports from 36 South African hospitals across six provinces. The majority of hospital data came from public hospitals. The researchers analysed data of 673 pregnant women hospitalised between 14 April 14 2020, and 24 November 2020.

The study used data of the pregnant women, which included background information, sociodemographic information, nutritional status, behavioural factors, and medical and obstetric history.

The researchers also looked at information on the pregnancy, SARS-CoV-2 infection symptoms, testing, treatment administered, and maternal, neonatal, and pregnancy outcomes.

Increased risk of maternal death

The study results show that pregnant women who were admitted for the management of Covid-19 were more likely to need critical care and die than women infected with the virus but admitted primarily for other medical conditions or for delivery.

Although severe, acute respiratory failure was the leading primary cause of death in both groups, it occurred at a higher frequency among women admitted primarily for Covid-19 infection. The fatality rate for the cohort was 6.3%.

There were 39 maternal deaths, of which 31 were postpartum and eight during pregnancy. About 14.7% of deaths occurred in women admitted for Covid-19 compared to seven women who were admitted and died as a result of other medical conditions.

There were 179 preterm births, 25 stillbirths, 12 neonatal deaths, and 162 neonatal hospital admissions.

The study authors believe that the study results should motivate pregnant women to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination.

“Symptomatic pregnant women should be advised to seek medical attention early, and pregnant women in South Africa must be considered a vulnerable group to be prioritised in vaccination programmes for Covid-19,” the authors wrote.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | Covid-19: Three SA experts weigh in on breakthrough infections, immunity, and vaccine hesitancy

READ | Living with long Covid: Brain fog, hair loss, breathing issues – ‘You feel you’re going crazy’

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