New York, Sep 23 : Women who contract Covid-19 during pregnancy are at significantly higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia, the leading cause of maternal and infant death worldwide, according to a new study.
Pre-eclampsia is a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy.
The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed that women with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy had 62 per cent higher odds of developing preeclampsia than those without the infection during pregnancy.
"This association was remarkably consistent across all predefined subgroups.
Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy was associated with a significant increase in the odds of pre-eclampsia with severe features, eclampsia and HELLP syndrome," said Roberto Romero, Professor of Molecular Obstetrics and Genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
HELLP syndrome is a form of severe pre-eclampsia that includes hemolysis (the rupturing of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes and a low platelet count.
The team published their findings after reviewing 28 previous studies that included 790,954 pregnant women, including 15,524 diagnosed with Covid-19 infection.
"Both asymptomatic and symptomatic infection significantly increased the risk of pre-eclampsia," Romero said.
"Nevertheless, the odds of developing pre-eclampsia were higher among patients with symptomatic illness than among those with asymptomatic illness."
Pre-eclampsia warning signs, in addition to elevated blood pressure, can include headaches, swelling in the face and hands, blurred vision, chest pain and shortness of breath.
The condition is responsible for 76,000 maternal deaths and more than 500,000 infant deaths every year, according to estimates from the Pre-eclampsia Foundation.
The babies of pre-eclamptic mothers are affected by the condition and may develop intrauterine growth restriction or die in utero.
The researchers said health care professionals should be aware of the association and closely monitor pregnant women who are infected for early detection of pre-eclampsia.
A separate study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology-Maternal-Fetal Medicine, showed that women who receive the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy pass high levels of antibodies to their babies.
The study of 36 newborns whose mothers received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy showed that 100 per cent of the infants had protective antibodies at birth.