New study shows differences in how pregnant women experience COVID-19

Researchers found that COVID-19 has a prolonged effect for many pregnant women

We now understand more about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women, thanks to a new national study led by UCLA and UCSF that analyzed the clinical course and outcomes of 594 women who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus during pregnancy.

The study, which is the largest COVID-19 study among non-hospitalized pregnant women to date, showed that symptoms for pregnant women with COVID-19 can be prolonged, lasting two months or longer, as evidenced by a quarter of the women who participated in this study.

The study also found that the most common early symptoms for pregnant women were cough, sore throat and body aches. Half of the participants still had symptoms after 3 weeks and 25% had symptoms after 8 weeks. Findings appear Oct. 7, 2020, in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“The majority of participants in our study population had mild disease and were not hospitalized,” said lead author Yalda Afshar, MD, PhD, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Even so, it took a median of 37 days for symptoms to ease.”

While previous research on SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy has primarily centered on hospitalized patients, the new analysis focused on ambulatory patients, who represent the overwhelming majority of adults with the virus.

“Despite the potential risks of COVID-19 for pregnant people and their newborns, there are large gaps in our knowledge on the course of the disease and the overall prognosis,” Dr. Afshar said. “Our results can help pregnant people and their clinicians better understand what to expect with COVID-19 infection.”

The PRIORITY study (Pregnancy CoRonavIrus Outcomes RegIsTrY) is an ongoing study in the United States for women who are pregnant or up to 6 weeks postpartum and have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. It launched March 22, 2020.

The researchers found several common symptoms of COVID-19, but also that symptoms related to the virus were complicated by overlapping symptoms of normal pregnancy, including nausea, fatigue and congestion. Their findings included the following:

  • Primary first symptoms were cough (20%), sore throat (16%), body aches (12%) and fever (12%); by comparison, fever occurs in 43% of non-pregnant hospitalized patients;
  • Loss of taste or smell was the first symptom in 6% of pregnant women;
  • Other symptoms included shortness of breath, runny nose, sneezing, nausea, sore throat, vomiting diarrhea or dizziness;
  • 60% of women had no symptoms after 4 weeks of illness, but for 25%, symptoms persisted, lasting 8 or more weeks;
  • Medical conditions for some participants included hypertension, pregestational diabetes, asthma, cardiac disease, thyroid disease, anxiety and depression.