Babies four times more likely to die if mother has recently had Covid, study finds

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Academics at the University of Edinburgh have urged pregnant women to get vaccinated against Covid-19 for the sake of their babies
Academics at the University of Edinburgh have urged pregnant women to get vaccinated against Covid-19 for the sake of their babies

Babies born to mothers who have recently contracted Covid are four times more likely to die than those who haven’t been infected, a study has found.

However, the study by the University of Edinburgh showed that having the vaccine eliminates the risk of death.

Academics studied more than 130,000 pregnant women in Scotland between 1 March 2020 to 31 October 2021.

They looked at data on extended perinatal deaths, which is defined as the death of a baby in the womb after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or in the first 28 days after birth.

For women who gave birth within four weeks of testing positive, there was an extended perinatal mortality rate of 22.6 per 1,000 births, four times higher than the background rate of 5.6 per 100,000.

“For women who had the Covid-19 vaccination, extended perinatal mortality rates were similar to background rates and among women with no confirmed SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published in Nature Medicine.

The research also found that 98 per cent of all pregnant women with Covid-19 who were admitted to critical care were unvaccinated.

Preterm births, stillbirths and newborn deaths were also more common among women who had the virus 28 days or less before their delivery date, compared to background rates.

All the women whose babies died had not been vaccinated against Covid-19 at the time of infection.

Experts stressed that it is not possible to say if Covid-19 contributed directly to the deaths or preterm births as they did not have access to detailed clinical records for individual women.

Just under a third (32 per cent) of all pregnant women who gave birth in October 2021 were double-jabbed, compared with 77 per cent of the general female population.

Experts said the findings, which are part of the Covid-19 in Pregnancy in Scotland (Cops) study, highlight the importance of getting the vaccine.

Cops co-lead Dr Sarah Stock, of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute , who is also a consultant obstetrician, said: “Our data add to the evidence that vaccination in pregnancy does not increase the risk of complications in pregnancy, but Covid-19 does.

“Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy is crucial to protect women and babies from preventable, life-threatening complications of Covid-19.”

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