Pregnancy and COVID

Research

Roundup: COVID Raises Serious Health Risks During Pregnancy; Concerning Decline in Measles Vaccinations Among Kindergartners; and More

Review of Studies from 12 Countries: COVID Significantly Raises Health Risks During Pregnancy

Pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 may face a seven times higher risk of dying and a significantly elevated risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit – compared to pregnant women who are not infected, according to research published this week in BMJ Global Health.

The study also indicates that COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk that the baby will need to be admitted to intensive care.

“This study provides the most comprehensive evidence to date suggesting that COVID-19 is a threat during pregnancy,” said Emily R. Smith, an assistant professor of global health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, and lead author of the study, in a statement. “Our findings underscore the importance of COVID-19 vaccination for all women of childbearing age.”

Despite the widely reported risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy, many women of childbearing age in the U.S. and other countries remain unvaccinated, researcher say.

Researchers pooled patient data from more than 13,000 pregnant individuals included in 12 studies from 12 countries, including the United States. Along with the higher death, infected pregnant women had a greater risk of needing a ventilator or developing pneumonia after being hospitalized.

 

In some cases, women hesitate or refuse to get the vaccine or booster shot because they don’t think COVID-19 poses risks to young women or they feel unsure about the safety of the vaccine during pregnancy, the researchers state.

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for “people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or those who might become pregnant in the future,” states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition to being seven times more likely to die from COVID, the researchers found that -- compared to uninfected pregnant women -- pregnant women with COVID-19 were:

  • More than three times greater risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit.
  • About 15 times higher risk of needing ventilator treatment.
  • About 23 times higher risk of developing pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening complication of COVID-19.
  • More than 5 times higher risk of thromboembolic disease, or blood clots, that can cause pain, swelling, or other life-threatening complications.

 

CDC Report Cites Concerning Decline in Measles Vaccinations Among U.S. Kindergartners

Only about 93 percent of U.S.  kindergartners were vaccinated against measles, a potentially fatal disease that is considered the most contagious pathogen known to exist, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The decline means that 250,000 children who entered kindergarten in the fall of 2021 may be at risk for measles. It also marks the second year in a row that measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination coverage fell below the 95 percent level needed to prevent the virus from spreading in communities, the CDC said.

 

The last time U.S. kindergartners reached 95 percent protection was during the 2019-2020 school year, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC report also cites a continued decline in immunization rates for three other childhood vaccines that prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP), polio and chickenpox among kindergartners in 2021.

States the CDC: “Despite widespread return to in-person learning, COVID-19–related disruptions continued to affect vaccination coverage and assessment for the 2021–22 school year, preventing a return to pre-pandemic coverage.”

Public health officials and infectious disease experts emphasize that even the decline in immunization rates can cause measles to spread more quickly, fueling outbreaks among unvaccinated children.

“Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” states the CDC.

Learn more: A Pediatrician’s Plea to Parents: Don’t Delay Your Child’s Routine Vaccinations

 

Following U.S. Dietary Guidelines Can Lower Risk of Early Death by 20%, Says Findings of Study Covering 36 Years

Following healthy eating patterns every day – specifically the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) – can reduce your risk of early death from any cause by 20 percent, states a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that followed participants for 36 years.  

Individuals who closely followed the DGA’s healthy eating patterns — all of which share the recommendation of eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes — were less likely to die from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory and neurodegenerative disease, researchers found.

“These findings support the recommendations of Dietary Guidelines for Americans that multiple healthy eating patterns can be adapted to individual food traditions and preferences,” concludes the study, which was led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.

The study monitored the eating habits of 75,000 women taking part in the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 44,000 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study over 36 years. None of the men and women had cardiovascular disease at the start of the study, and few were smokers. All filled out questionnaires about their daily meals and snacks every four years.

Since 1980, the Dietary Guidelines has been jointly updated and issued every five years by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

Few studies have evaluated whether greater adherence to the DGAs-recommended dietary patterns is associated with long-term risk of total and cause-specific mortality.

“It is important to evaluate adherence to DGAs-recommended eating patterns and health outcomes, including mortality, so that timely updates can be made,” said study co-author Frank Hu, Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Our findings will be valuable for the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is being formed to evaluate current evidence surrounding different eating patterns and health outcomes.”

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