A UCC professor and obstetrician at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) says pregnancy complications due to Covid-19 are “very uncommon”.
Professor Keelin O’Donoghue was speaking after a preliminary report linked four stillbirths in Ireland to a condition called Covid placentitis, a coronavirus infection of the placenta in pregnant women who have Covid-19.
Professor O'Donoghue has acknowledged that women who are currently pregnant or trying to conceive may be fearful of recent studies carried out into covid placentitis.
“It is pretty scary for pregnant women hearing about this. This is a rare complication from what we know and we are still investigating. What we could have here is a cluster by complete chance," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.
Dr O’Donoghue says, according to research, these Covid linked placental abnormalities can present from about 24 weeks on and she urges women who notice a decrease in foetal movement, to notify their healthcare provider:
“Most importantly women should not ignore any signs of concern they may have," she added.
Prof O’Donoghue has advised pregnant women to continue to take all measures to try to avoid acquiring the virus by adhering to public health advice and to share any other concerns they have with medical professionals:
“My advice for pregnant women, at a very simple level, is to try not to get Covid, secondly vaccinations should be considered… for those who currently have the virus it is really important that you let your healthcare provider know and you attend your visits as normal.”
Also responding to the alert issued by the HSE on Thursday, Professor Peter McKenna, Head of the HSE Women and Infant’s health programme, told Newstalk Breakfast that the information was “very much preliminary” and further evidence would be required.
He also said if the women detected decreased foetal movements it would be prudent to have tests carried out and have them repeated on an ongoing basis.
However, Prof McKenna said it seemed unusual that health authorities were only hearing of the issue at this stage, a year into a pandemic. There had been thousands of births in Ireland in the past year and millions throughout the world. If there was a frequency of such incidents it would have come to light in other countries, he said.
Meanwhile, the Master of the Rotunda, Professor Fergal Malone has repeated a call for pregnant women to be moved up the vaccination priority list.
“Putting them at the end of the queue is not a good thing,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Of the 200 cases in the Rotunda hospital of pregnant women with Covid-19 there had been no adverse baby outcomes, he said.
The further into the pregnancy that a woman contracted Covid-19 the higher a chance of getting very sick, which made their care “a little bit trickier” explained Prof Malone.
Maternity hospitals were safe places and any woman who had concerns should contact their hospital “day or night.”
Prof Malone also said he was “a strong advocate” for pregnant women to be vaccinated, saying “it’s the safe thing to do.” Internationally “thousands” of pregnant women had been vaccinated with no adverse effects.