By Khanh Nguyen
Pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Before this report, little was known about the impact of the coronavirus on pregnancy. However, health experts advised pregnant women to avoid unnecessary risk due to the increased likelihood of getting the flu and other diseases during pregnancy.
Now, data from national COVID-19 cases indicate that reports of hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit and need for mechanical ventilation were higher for pregnant women with COVID-19 than for non-pregnant women. There were no observed differences in deaths.
Additionally, the report highlighted data suggesting that Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black pregnant women may be disproportionately affected by SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19. This aligns with racial and ethnic disparities observed in the general population, where non-Hispanic Black persons have a rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 that is five times that of non-Hispanic white persons, and Hispanic or Latino persons have a rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 that is four times that of non-Hispanic white persons.
Despite the limitations in the data, including unknown underlying conditions, missing data on pregnancy status for reported positive cases and reason for hospitalization, the CDC now recommends that all pregnant women take steps to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 due to potential risk of severe illness and adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth.
States’ guidance for pregnant women has largely mirrored guidance for the general population due to lack of data around the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy. Some states, such as Indiana and California, recommend following CDC guidelines for protecting pregnant and postpartum women from COVID-19, which is regularly updated to reflect new information.
State leaders are responding to the evolving challenges presented by the pandemic, including those impacting maternal and child health populations. In late June, 23 legislators and legislative staff from 18 states met virtually to discuss current priorities in maternal and child health as a part of NCSL’s Maternal and Child Health Fellows program. These leaders will continue to meet over the coming months to exchange ideas and solutions to the health challenges facing moms and children today, including those brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus Resources for States, NCSL webpage
State Action on Coronavirus, NCSL legislative database
Pregnant in a Pandemic: Coronavirus Changes Birth Plans for Many, NCSL blog
Characteristics of Women of Reproductive Age with Laboratory-Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection by Pregnancy Status — United States, January 22–June 7, 2020, CDC
Guidance for People Who are Pregnant, Breastfeeding or Caring for Young Children, CDC
COVID-19 Maternal and Child Health Bureau Frequently Asked Questions, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)
COVID-19 Maternal and Child Health Resources, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Khanh Nguyen is a senior policy specialist in NCSL’s Health Program.