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Covid-positive women in late stage of pregnancy have risk of premature delivery

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Bengaluru: In later stages of pregnancy, women are at an increased risk of becoming seriously unwell with Covid-19 and are three times more likely to have a premature baby which can affect their long-term health, said Dr. Vidya V Bhat, Fertility Specialist & Medical Director, RadhaKrishna Multispecialty Hospital. She was speaking ahead of the Safe Motherhood Day.

“Two-thirds of women who test positive for Covid-19 in pregnancy show no symptoms at all. However, some pregnant women can get life-threatening illness from Covid-19 if they have an underlying health condition like diabetes, immune problems, high blood pressure, heart disease or asthma. The risk of fetal distress, pre-term delivery and pre-labor rupture of membranes rises with the onset of Covid-19 in the third trimester (over 28 weeks) of pregnancy. The risk from Covid is also greater if pregnant women are overweight or above the age of 35,” Dr. Vidya V Bhat said.

Dr. Vidya V Bhat said the benefits of breastfeeding the infant by Covid-positive mothers far outweigh the risk of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk. “The main risk of breastfeeding is due to the close contact between Covid-positive mother and the baby, which can pose a risk of droplet infection that can spread to the baby while breathing. The presence of IgA antibodies in breast milk protects breastfeeding infants against infection and death,” she added.

Addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women, Dr. Vidya V Bhat said that Covid-19 vaccines would work whatever the stage of pregnancy. “Covid-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby. However, as Covid-19 has more serious complications in later pregnancy, some women may choose to delay their vaccine until after the first 12 weeks, which are most important for the baby’s development, and plan to have the first dose at any time from 13 weeks onwards.”

Women aged below 22 years and above 35 years of age are at the most risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Anemia, obesity, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, cardiac diseases and auto-immune disorders are the main risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes. “While thyroid, obesity and gestational diabetes are common risk factors for women of upper socio-economic strata, those from the other end of the spectrum face risks posed by anemia and pregnancy-induced hypertension,” the doctor said.

“About 6 lakh women die every year in the world during childbirth, 20% of which are from India. Maternal mortality is a national shame as these deaths are totally unnecessary. Severe bleeding and complications due to high blood pressure (eclampsia) are responsible for half of all maternal deaths worldwide. It is important for India to move to 100% institutional deliveries where such child-birth complications can be promptly addressed. Family planning, ante-natal area, clean and safe deliveries, and essential obstetric care are the four pillars of safe motherhood,” Dr. Vidya V Bhat added.

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