COVID-19 pandemic increased pregnant women’s risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure – but was NOT linked to a higher rate of stillbirths, study finds

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  • A new study compared 172,095 pre-pandemic pregnancies and 152,903 pregnancies during the COVID era.
  • The rate of gestational diabetes rose 12% from 88 cases per 1,000 deliveries in 2019 to 98.9 per 1,000 in 2020.
  • Gestational hypertension also increases by 6% from 82.2 per 1,000 deliveries to 88 per 1,000
  • Stillbirth rose from barely 8.9 per 1,000 deliveries in 2019 to 9.3 per 1,000 in 2020

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A new study finds that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk of some adverse outcomes in pregnant women, but not in others.

a joint team from Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts; Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island; and OptumLabs in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; looked at the indirect effects of the pandemic on expectant mothers.

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They found that rates of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia increased from 2019 to 2020.

However, the increase in stillbirth was negligible as there was an increase in cases of placental abruption, which suggests that most pregnant women did not suffer dire consequences due to the pandemic.

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A new study compared 172,095 pregnancies before the pandemic and 152,903 pregnancies during the Covid era (file image)

Rates of gestational diabetes (black line) and gestational hypertension (yellow line) increased from 2019 to 2020, but did not affect epidemic stillbirths (dark blue line).

Rates of gestational diabetes (black line) and gestational hypertension (yellow line) increased from 2019 to 2020, but did not affect epidemic stillbirths (dark blue line).

for the study published on Friday jama network openIn this article, the team looked at pregnancy-related medical claims from OptumLabs DataWarehouse, which archives commercial and Medicare administrative claims across the US.

The data was split into two periods: the pre-pandemic period from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019, and the COVID pandemic from March 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020.

Claims made by the same person but separated by at least 182 days were considered separate pregnancies.

The researchers looked at 172,095 pregnancies before the pandemic and 152,903 pregnancies during the Covid era.

They found that the rate of certain conditions in expectant mothers during the pandemic.

For example, in 2019, the rate of gestational diabetes was 98.9 per 1,000 compared to 88 cases per 1,000 deliveries, an increase of 12 per cent.

Gestational hypertension cases increased by six percent from 82.2 per 1,000 deliveries to 88 per 1,000.

Additionally, the rate of pre-eclampsia — a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure — increased 4 percent from 64.7 per 1,000 to 67.3 per 1,000.

But stillbirths saw a negligible increase from 8.9 per 1,000 deliveries in 2019 to 9.3 per 1,000 in 2020.

“To our knowledge, this is the largest and most comprehensive study to date of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adverse pregnancy outcomes,” the authors wrote.

‘Our finding that the duration of the epidemic was not associated with an altered risk of stillbirth and provided that there is only modest evidence of a reduced risk of preterm birth is consistent with the existing literature.

‘Our study provides novel evidence of an epidemic association with the risk of complications that have been rarely documented, including gestational hypertension, poor fetal growth and preeclampsia.’

As of 9 October, only 33.8% of pregnant women (dark blue) have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

As of 9 October, only 33.8% of pregnant women (dark blue) have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Although the study only looked at the indirect effects of the pandemic on pregnant women, several studies have found that expectant mothers have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to the general population.

And, once they do fall ill with the virus, they are more likely to develop severe cases or die from it.

A study from the University of Washington in Seattle found that pregnant women infected with Covid were 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with complications and nearly 14 times more likely to die than younger Americans.

Pregnant mothers who have COVID-19 are more likely to experience complications in their pregnancies.

Another study from the University of Oxford in the UK found that expecting mothers had a 76 per cent higher risk of developing preeclampsia – a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure – and 59 per cent more likely to give birth prematurely.

Despite this, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 9, the latest day for which data are available, only 33.8 percent of pregnant women have received at least one vaccine dose.

Last month, the CDC encouraged pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19, after previously saying that pregnant women were just ‘eligible’

.

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