CDC: Coronavirus increases risk of severe illness in pregnant women, premature birth

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — With a 1-year-old, and one on the way, Alexandria Stein of Brooksville thought she knew what to expect while expecting.

Then the pandemic hit.

“There’s a lot of uncertainties, which I think is the hardest part,” Stein told 8 On Your Side. “It’s not like getting chickenpox while pregnant. We know what that is, we know how it affects you.”

But researchers are slowly becoming more certain about how the coronavirus affects pregnant women. The CDC published a pair of studies late last week that found pregnant women who contract the virus are more likely to experience severe symptoms and give birth prematurely.

Only four out of every 1,000 women infected by the coronavirus will need intensive care. But researchers found that figure nearly triples for pregnant women, possibly due to the fact they’re already experiencing increased heart rate and decreased lung capacity.

The virus also increases the risk of premature birth by roughly 3 percent, according to one of the studies.

“We have been expecting to see something like this,” explained Dr. Sarah Obican, an OB-GYN with Tampa General Hospital and USF Health. “We know that these types of viruses can affect a pregnancy.”

Obican says the studies reinforce what she’s been advising her patients all along: mask up, avoid large crowds, and keep your social circle small.

“The numbers aren’t, by percentage points, very high,” she said. “But when you look at thousands of women, it’s a big impact.”

Babies are also being born with COVID-19, according to both Obican and the studies. Most experience just mild symptoms, or are even asymptomatic. But researchers say it’s too soon to know how it may affect those infants in the long run.

Meanwhile, eight months pregnant and with enough to worry about as it is, Alexandria Stein says her due date can’t come soon enough.

“Needless to say, you’re anxious to have this baby and get through this pandemic?” News Channel 8’s Victoria Price asked.

“Absolutely,” she replied. “Yup.”

The majority of the women in both studies published by the CDC were in their third trimester, meaning there’s much research yet to be done about the impacts of coronavirus from early on in pregnancy.


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