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U of U study focuses on pregnant women and COVID-19

University of Utah researchers are studying women who became pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic, to determine if they are at any more risk than the general population. Photo credit: Deseret News, Sara Reid

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is conducting a study about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women.  

Dr. Torri Metz, Associate Professor and Vice-Chair for Research in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, says they are gathering data.  “I would say the jury is largely out on whether pregnant women get sicker than non-pregnant adults,” said Dr. Metz. “[But] we do always worry about pregnant women and viruses because [they] are relatively immuno-compromised [when carrying.]”

Are 25% of pregnant women “long haulers?”

Another ongoing study from scientists at UC San Francisco (UCSF) finds some startling conclusions.  It says that COVID-19 symptoms like fatigue, head and body aches, and shortness of breath, linger in pregnant women, which leads the researchers to refer to those patients as having Long Haul Syndrome. The study finds that 1 out of 4 pregnant women had symptoms that remained 2 months after diagnosis.

But Dr. Metz says there are limitations in that study, something that the UCSF doctors admit.  The researchers say many of the study’s participants are health care workers, and this might may skew the results.  Nearly 41% of the people in the study have an income of $100,000 or more.  This makes the doctors think the results are “rosier” than what might be reflected in the general population. 

Metz also says they didn’t have a control population of non-pregnant women in that study, so they can’t be sure if pregnant women are more at risk for Long Haul.

Both Metz and those scientists think broader and longer studies need to be done. 

Population data vs. pregnant 

Dr. Metz says when you compare the “initial data” from the general population with COVID-19 against pregnant women who get it, there doesn’t seem to be much difference.  “We do see a similar rate of severe and critical infections, so we don’t think there is a stark difference between pregnant women and women who are not.”

Metz says their study is being conducted with a large network of maternal researchers.  She says they are drawing on data from across the country. 

Study could show how pandemic affects moms and babies born during COVID-19

Dr. Metz says they are also looking at pregnancy in general during the pandemic.  “Even if [pregnant women] don’t get COVID infections … do they have different outcomes than women that did not deliver during the pandemic?  We know that women are under a lot of stress right now and there have been a lot of changes to health care.”

Dr. Metz says they are looking at a pool of 20,000 women who are delivering during the time of COVID-19 in comparison to a similar pool who delivered last year. 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States