A Northwestern Medicine study completed pathological examines on placentas of 16 women who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were pregnant. The examinations, which happened immediately after the women gave birth, showed evidence of injury to the placenta. The examinations showed abnormal blood flow between babies in utero and their mothers, providing evidence of a new COVID-19 complication. It is too soon to tell whether or not this restriction in blood flow may cause potential birth injuries.
What Does This Study Mean for Pregnant Mothers?
Dr. Emily Miller, who is a co-author of the study, stated that the findings of the study worry her. She has stated that “this preliminary glimpse into how COVID-19 might cause changes in the placenta carries some pretty significant implications for the health of a pregnancy. We must discuss whether we should change how we monitor pregnant women right now.”
Specifically, these patients’ placentas showed two abnormalities. First, there was insufficient blood flow from the mother to the fetus. These placentas showed abnormal blood vessels that are referred to as maternal vascular malperfusion (MVM). These placentas also showed blood clots called intervillous thrombi.
The condition of MVM is often seen when the mother suffers from preeclampsia or hypertension. Only one out of the 15 patients studied had preeclampsia, however. More scientists are wondering whether or not pregnant COVID-19 patients suffer problems with coagulation and blood vessel injury.
During the Spanish Flu pandemic, which happened between 1918 and 1919, some interesting discoveries were made. Children who were in utero during the flu pandemic have had lower incomes throughout their lives as well as higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Since the flu could not have passed into the placenta, some have wondered whether these lifelong problems were due to injury to the placenta and/or immune activity.
Can COVID-19 Cause Birth Injuries?
Of all of the women studied, 15 patients gave birth to infants in the third trimester. One patient, who was showing no symptoms of COVID-19 had a miscarriage during the second trimester. Researchers are investigating whether or not her miscarriage was caused by COVID-19. Researchers note that they are aware of four other women who miscarried as a result of COVID-19. The placenta of three out of the four women showed signs of severe inflammation.
COVID-19 Injuries in Mothers and Babies
As we learn more about the injuries caused by COVID-19, the standards for prenatal care need to change. Doctors should take all of the new research into account when it comes to treating pregnant women with COVID-19.
If you are a woman who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may rightly have concerns about your birth. Or, you may have suffered a miscarriage after contracting COVID-19. If your child has suffered a birth injury during this challenging time, we can help. Contact Pulvers Thompson as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.