COVID-19 warning for expectant mothers — especially Black and Hispanic women

The CDC updated its website to include expectant mothers, particularly Black and Hispanic pregnant women, among those who may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Video Transcript


UCHE BLACKSTOCK: The CDC updated their guidelines to include pregnant women as being at risk for developing severe illness due to COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women. Pregnant women were more likely to be placed in the intensive care unit. They were more likely to be intubated.

Essentially, pregnant women have a relatively depressed immune system, meaning that their immune system doesn't work as strongly as non-pregnant people. And one of the reasons why is because if their immune systems did work very strongly, they would reject the growing baby inside of them.

So that's a reason, for example, why we want to make sure that pregnant women are up to date on their vaccinations. And I'm assuming once COVID-19 has a vaccine, we'll want to make sure they get that vaccination as well.

Another finding was that we're seeing black and Hispanic pregnant women are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. And we found that there were significantly more Hispanic women and more Black women who are pregnant who ended up being hospitalized. And I think it probably is related to the factors that we're seeing in terms of the more general racial and ethnic disparities.

Black and Hispanic communities are more likely to carry a higher chronic disease burden. Black and Hispanic people are more likely to work on the front lines and not necessarily have personal protective equipment, as well as having to use public transportation, and more likely to live in overcrowded housing. And so all of those are factors that are more likely to put someone at risk for being infected with COVID-19.

I do think that these disproportionate numbers that we're seeing is a representation of a larger issue of racism. Even before the pandemic, the Black maternal mortality crisis in this country [INAUDIBLE] gradually receiving a lot more press. And we know that black women are three to four times more likely to have complications around pregnancy compared to white women.

And this is across socioeconomic background. So this is not necessarily about even just having access to health care. Right? This is about having access to health care environments where black women are seen and heard.

I think that there are definitely short-term strategies that we can employ-- making sure that we're testing these patients frequently, making sure that we're doing contact tracing in and around these communities, since we know it's Black and Hispanic women that are being most disproportionately affected, and then making sure that if they are working that they are safe on the job, that they have whatever personal protective equipment that they need to work safely.

Wearing a mask, good hand-washing, and physical distancing-- and making sure to emphasize to pregnant people that this is actually very important, because we're seeing that if they do catch coronavirus, that they're more likely to have more serious complications.