Recent studies underline the dangers of pregnancy complications for unvaccinated women with Covid.

Two new reports outline the additional difficulties unvaccinated women with Covid face during pregnancy and childbirth, adding to research showing they are at increased risk.

A study, published Thursday in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, suggests that the coronavirus can invade and destroy the placenta, causing the mother to pass nutrients to the fetus.

The other, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that pregnant women infected with the coronavirus are about 40 percent more likely to develop serious complications or die during pregnancy than those who are not infected.

The study of the effects of the virus on the placenta found that infection can deprive the fetus of oxygen in unvaccinated pregnant women, leading to a higher risk of stillbirth. While other infections can cause stillbirth by crossing the placenta and damaging the fetus, Covid-19 is taking a different, dangerous course.

“It causes extensive damage to the placenta and stillbirth occurs from lack of oxygen,” says Dr. David Schwartz, a perinatal pathologist in Atlanta and the study’s lead author. “The destruction of the placenta is so severe that it may not be relevant whether or not the fetus becomes infected.”

The research team of Dr. Schwartz analyzed 64 stillbirths and four neonatal deaths in 12 countries. All the pregnant mothers were not vaccinated and they would all be infected with the Delta variant. In the 68 cases, an average of 77 percent of the placenta had been destroyed.

While stillbirths attributed to Covid-19 are uncommon — in total, about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year — a November study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that pregnant women who had Covid-19 they gave birth to their babies almost twice as likely to have a stillbirth as healthy women who didn’t have Covid.

The new study on complications for mothers found that the severity of their Covid symptoms was the main factor in their increased risk. The most critically ill women were three times more likely to have pregnancy complications than those who tested negative or had milder symptoms.

The researchers analyzed electronic health records of about 14,000 pregnant women between March 1 and December 31, 2020, before vaccines were widely available. Of these, about 2,350 tested positive during pregnancy or within six weeks of giving birth.

The study also pointed to an increased danger for newborns: Covid-19 was significantly associated with preterm birth and admission to intensive care units for newborns.

“We know from other studies that vaccination prevents the most severe symptoms of the disease,” says Dr. Torri D. Metz, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health, who led the study. “So this is just another piece of the puzzle that should encourage pregnant people to get vaccinated.”

The new studies add to research showing the danger of Covid-19 to pregnant women and their babies. The CDC has strongly encouraged vaccination for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant. But vaccination rates among pregnant women are low, although early research has found no evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines pose any serious risks during pregnancy.

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