What are the risks for pregnant women?

This is part 69 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Caution needed, especially in later stages of pregnancy

The Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists conducted a nationwide study in last June into pregnant women infected with the coronavirus. It found that the chances of getting seriously ill increase during the later months of pregnancy. The association reports that the overall risk for pregnant women is not markedly different from the rest of the population, but those in the later stages should be careful.

The report’s authors examined 58 pregnant women who developed coronavirus symptoms such as a fever. CT scans found that 4 out of 39 (almost 10%) of the subjects in early or mid-term pregnancy were diagnosed with pneumonia. For women 29 weeks pregnant or more, 10 out of 19 (53%) developed pneumonia.

Furthermore, 3 out of the 39 (8%) in early or mid-term pregnancy needed oxygen therapy, which was also required by 7 out of the 19 (37%) women in advanced pregnancy. The findings suggest that women in their later months of pregnancy tend to develop more severe symptoms.

Most infected pregnant women recovered without displaying after-effects. But one pregnant visitor to the country died after showing symptoms shortly after arriving in Japan. There were no reports of newborns becoming infected.

Showa University School of Medicine Professor Sekizawa Akihiko, who headed the study, says the number of pregnant women who have contracted the virus is limited, showing that daily preventive measures are largely successful. He says while the risk to pregnant women is not significantly high, they need to be careful, as the results show that women closer to giving birth tend to develop more serious symptoms.

Website offers advice and information

The Japan Society for Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology has written about how to prevent coronavirus on its website. The information is targeted at women who are either already pregnant or who are planning to have a baby.

According to the website, in Japan, the progress of the illness after infection does not differ between women who are pregnant and those who are not. However, it notes that when pregnant women develop pneumonia, their symptoms can become severe.

Hayakawa Satoshi, a professor at Nihon University School of Medicine who compiled the information, says the lungs of women in later pregnancy can become compressed as the fetus grows. He warns that if women develop pneumonia their condition could become serious. Hayakawa says the results of the study back up what experts had anticipated, adding there was no need for women to worry unduly, as there have been only a few domestic cases of pregnant women becoming seriously ill. Hayakawa urges pregnant women, like the rest of the population, to pay attention to coronavirus prevention methods.

The information is accurate as of February 7, 2021.