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CDC Update: Pregnant People at Higher Risk of Getting ‘Severely Ill’ from COVID-19

One of the more challenging parts of the pandemic, both for researchers and everyday civilians trying to function during it is that information about the novel coronavirus is ever-evolving. The updates on what the virus can do and the risks for different individuals are numerous, but important to stay on top of for safely approaching the pandemic — particularly as more and more cities are opening up. For people who are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding, the latest updates from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) note that pregnant people are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

While early on there weren’t numbers showing that pregnant people were potentially more susceptible to the virus, a new study mentioned in the agency’s report on Thursday found that “pregnant women with COVID-19 were five times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and four times more like to receive mechanical ventilation than were non-pregnant women.”

“An MMWR study suggests that pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized and are at increased risk for  intensive care unit (ICU) admission and receipt of mechanical ventilation than non-pregnant women,” the agency writes. “Risk of death is similar for both groups. But much remains unknown. CDC is collaborating with state, local, and territorial health departments and external partners to better understand COVID-19 during pregnancy…Among reproductive-age women with SARS-CoV-2 infection, pregnancy was associated with hospitalization and increased risk for intensive care unit admission, and receipt of mechanical ventilation, but not with death.”

The CDC also notes that pregnant people who are hispanic and non-hispanic Black are disproportionately affected by the infection during pregnancy. 

As SheKnows previously reported, medical professionals like  Jessica Madden, MD, Board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist had reason to believe pregnant people might be vulnerable: “The physiologic and immune changes that [people] undergo during pregnancy lead to an increased risk of infections. For example, we know that pregnant women who get influenza are at an increased risk of getting viral pneumonia.”

This latest update also follows a study out of Northwestern University that examined the possibility of the coronavirus damaging placentas in pregnant patients and looking toward the potential affects the virus could have on mom and baby.  The CDC also noted that there “may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant people with COVID-19.”

Ultimately, these concerns for pregnant people make it even more important that they follow guidelines for safety and reducing the risk of getting sick — from proper hand-washing to avoiding contact with individuals who aren’t wearing a mask or who might be sick: “To reduce severe COVID-19–associated illness, pregnant women should be aware of their potential risk for severe COVID-19 illness,” per the CDC. “Prevention of COVID-19 should be emphasized for pregnant women and potential barriers to adherence to these measures need to be addressed.”

Looking to have your health and first-aid essentials on hand in case anyone you love gets sick? Here’s our recs: 

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