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Blizard Institute - Barts and The London

Pregnant women with COVID-19 less likely to have symptoms, may be more likely to need intensive care and give birth early

Pregnant women seen in hospital with COVID-19 are less likely to show symptoms, and seem to be at increased risk of needing admission to an intensive care unit than non-pregnant women of similar age, according to a study involving researchers from the Blizard Institute and Institute of Population Health Sciences at Queen Mary University of London.

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The study, recently published in the BMJ, also shows that being older, overweight, and having other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, seem to increase their risk of having more severe COVID-19. They are also more likely to experience preterm birth and their newborns are more likely to be admitted to a neonatal unit.

The living systematic review and meta-analysis compares clinical features, risk factors, and outcomes of COVID-19 in pregnant and recently pregnant women with non-pregnant women of similar age. The findings of the review are based on 77 studies reporting rates, clinical features (symptoms, laboratory and x-ray findings), risk factors, and outcomes for 11,432 pregnant and recently pregnant women admitted to hospital and diagnosed as having suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Queen Mary experts in respiratory medicine, infectious diseases and clinicians working front-line with pregnant COVID-19 patients provided advice on the context and purpose of the review, the different variables collected, data extraction and results. Dr Kunst, Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine, and Dr Tiberi, Infectious Diseases Consultant, state that the findings are important to guide clinicians working on the front line.

Healthcare professionals should be aware that pregnant women with COVID-19 might need access to intensive care and specialist baby care facilities. Also, mothers with pre-existing conditions should be considered as a high-risk group for COVID-19, along with those who are obese and of older age.

Since COVID-19 is a fast-moving area of research, the team will update the review regularly as new information becomes available. They say that their living systematic review will produce a strong evidence base for living guidelines on COVID-19 and pregnancy and will enable rapid updates as new data emerge.

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