It is by now understood that a pregnant woman can possibly transmit the novel coronavirus to her baby (or also deliver a healthy baby); the Indian Council of Medical Research laid down norms for the care of mother and child last month itself. Now a new concern has emerged around pregnant women who have Covid-19 — injuries in placentas.
In 16 women who had tested positive for Covid-19 while pregnant, tests conducted immediately after birth found their placentas had evidence of injury. The study was conducted by researchers from Northwestern University, Chicago, and published in The American Journal of Clinical Pathology on Friday. The babies themselves did not contract Covid-19, senior author Dr Jeffrey Goldstein told The Indian Express by email.
The type of injury showed abnormal blood flow between mothers and babies in utero. The researchers said the findings could help inform how pregnant women should be clinically monitored during the pandemic.
As of now, it was not clear where these could cause health issues among the babies, Goldstein said, while referring to long-term health effects in people born to women who had been infected during the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. “It’s too early to tell [about the babies born to women covered in the study],” Goldstein told The Indian Express; “we know the people in utero during the 1918-19 flu pandemic had higher rates of heart disease and other long-term outcomes — we need to continue to look at the outcomes for these kids.” In that epidemic, too, the flu doesn’t cross the placenta; so whatever is causing life-long problems in those people is most likely due to immune activity and injury to the placenta, Goldstein said.
The pregnant women among Covid-19 cases were identified through health records and traced through an app. The babies were born between March 18 and May 5. Fourteen of them were born after full-term pregnancies.
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Co-author Dr Emily Miller said in a statement: “Not to paint a scary picture, but these findings worry me. I don’t want to draw sweeping conclusions from a small study, but this preliminary glimpse into how Covid-19 might cause changes in the placenta carries some pretty significant implications for the health of a pregnancy. We must discuss whether we should change how we monitor pregnant women right now.” She suggested non-stress tests, which examine how well the placenta is delivering oxygen, or growth ultrasounds, which measure if the baby is growing at a healthy rate.
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