Getting infected with COVID-19 could increase the risk of delivering stillborn babies in pregnant women who are unvaccinated, a new study found.
In a new research published in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, researchers found that the novel coronavirus attacked the placenta in some unvaccinated mothers-to-be. The placenta is a vital organ that serves as a fetus’s lifeline. It is responsible for developing a fetus and giving it oxygen and nutrients as it grows.
The attack could lead to asphyxiation or suffocation, and later to stillbirth or the death of a baby before or during delivery.
“We have never seen this level of destruction from an infectious illness before. It rendered the placenta unfit to carry out its duties,” Dr. David Schwartz, a perinatal pathologist in private practice in Atlanta, who led the study, said. “These fetuses and newborns died from asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen.”
In the study, Schwartz and his team of researchers examined 68 perinatal deaths from unvaccinated mothers in 12 countries. In all cases, the babies were stillborn or died within seven days of being born. Additionally, 77% of all placentas studied had been destroyed or “rendered useless” by the virus.
The researchers are now advising obstetricians to perform third-trimester ultrasounds on pregnant mothers who have been infected with COVID-19 to check for any signs that could endanger the baby.
“Obstetricians see placental insufficiencies happening in their practice all the time. You can never reverse it but you can contemplate delivery. If it’s medically feasible, you get the fetus out of there,” Schwartz added.
The latest study’s findings echo that of a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November wherein researchers found that stillborns among pregnant mothers in the U.S. who had COVID-19 increased to 1.26%. In comparison, pregnant mothers who were not diagnosed with COVID-19 had a stillbirth rate of 0.6%.
Doctors are now urging unvaccinated women who are pregnant to protect themselves and their babies by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. An Israeli study, published Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics, found that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech is completely safe for the mother and the fetus.
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