Pregnant women urged to take 'normal' Covid precautions as virus linked to four stillbirths 

Pregnant women advised to carry on as normal and contact their GP or obstetrician if they have any health concerns, including Covid-19
Pregnant women urged to take 'normal' Covid precautions as virus linked to four stillbirths 

Pregnant women are being advised by Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn to carry on their normal safe practices in light of a study carried out at Cork University Maternity Hospital into covid placentitis, an 'uncommon but distinctive complication of maternal Covid-19 infection'. File picture

Pregnant women are being advised to maintain their normal safety practices in relation to Covid-19 and to contact their GP if they have specific concerns following preliminary reports of four stillbirths potentially linked to Covid-19.

A rare condition called covid placentitis is a coronavirus infection of the placenta in pregnant women who have Covid-19. It has been provisionally linked by coroners to four stillbirths here, although their reports are not finalised.

  • Eleven cases of covid placentitis were reported internationally up to November 2020;
  • The four stillbirths in Ireland are not yet confirmed as being linked to the virus.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said it is Nphet policy to inform the public of any changes to the Covid-19 situation in Ireland, even when the data is provisional.

Take normal precautions 

He called on women to maintain their normal safe practices in terms of avoiding Covid-19, stressing they do not need to change their behaviours.

He said: “I would say to women it doesn’t mean you have to do anything different than you have been doing, if women have specific concerns, they should talk to the GP.”

Alerts have already gone out to maternity hospitals and GPs through the HSE’s National Women and Infants Programme and the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

He said two of the stillbirths took place this year. 

“We know from international data, this is a very rare condition," he said. “We wouldn’t expect to see high incidences in this country, these findings are preliminary.”

Dr Cliona Murphy, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said a small number of stillbirths potentially associated with a condition called covid placentitis in mothers who recently had Covid-19 are being scientifically investigated:  

It is important that pregnant women who have Covid-positive results attend for appointments with their healthcare providers in the weeks after infection. 

"The vast majority of pregnant women who had Covid have had mild symptoms and have not had adverse outcomes. Large-scale surveillance data in UK have not shown higher incidence of stillbirth."

Research from CUMH

Research carried out on covid placentitis at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) and published in the medical journal Placenta says it is an “uncommon but distinctive complication of maternal Covid-19 infection”.  

The authors say there were just 11 cases notified internationally. They found most women who develop Covid-19 while pregnant have a positive outcome.

They said: “This would be in keeping with the apparent low rates of fetal complications and vertical transmission reported to date.” 

A woman in Cork who developed this condition was given a C-section at CUMH. Both mother and baby were well enough to go home eight days after the birth, the study says.

A difficult year 

This year has been particularly difficult overall for pregnant women and their families, children's minister Roderic O'Gorman said yesterday.

He told the Dáil that many women have experienced important milestones such as the 12-week or 20-week scans or even the birth of their child alone: 

"The strength shown by pregnant women during this pandemic has been remarkable," Mr O'Gorman said during last night's Dáil debate on the impact Covid has had on women

So many women have spoken out about their experiences of reproductive healthcare during this pandemic, and I think it is imperative that we listen to these voices so we can ensure women are empowered to make their own decisions around reproductive healthcare and make sure they are supported in their journey through pregnancy.

Meanwhile, health minister Stephen Donnelly has announced that people with underlying conditions will start to receive their Covid19 vaccine next week following updated advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

Stephen Donnelly said: "It's a complex group — there's planning and engagement going on in the HSE, working through the details for how these patients will be contacted, and indeed where they will be vaccinated," he told the Dáil.

500,000 vaccines by the weekend

People aged between 80 and 84 will also begin to receive invitations to attend for vaccination from this week.

Mr Donnelly said around 500,000 vaccines will be administered by the end of the week, but admitted there are challenges with uncertain supplies of AstraZeneca.

"I certainly remain concerned about AstraZeneca's ability to deliver on schedule, and to deliver at the volumes that have been agreed."

However, he added that Ireland has consistently had one of the fastest rollouts anywhere in the European Union.

You can read the CUMH study in 'Placenta', the medical journal

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