Update on pregnant healthcare workers

At one of our recent Employee Forums, the following question was raised:

“Pregnant women are considered vulnerable from 28 weeks gestation. Is there any new evidence surrounding pregnant women and higher risk of serious illness?” 

A/Prof Ryan Hodges, Program Director of Monash Women’s and Newborn, provided the following response:

“Pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to develop severe COVID-19 than the general population. It is expected that most pregnant women who develop COVID-19 will experience mild or moderate illness from which they will make a full recovery. However, there is currently limited information available regarding the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies.

Therefore, it would be prudent for pregnant women to practice physical distancing, ensure good hygiene practices and adhere to Standard and Transmission Based Precautions to reduce the risk of infection.

To answer the question specifically regarding “new evidence”, the latest data is from over 8000 pregnant women in the USA that compared coronavirus in this group compared with non-pregnant women in the same age group who also had coronavirus. This has shown there is higher risk of needing hospitalisation (30% vs 5%), and pregnant women are 1.5 times more likely to need admission to ICU and require ventilation.

Importantly, there is no difference in mortality between the groups.

However, we need to be careful in generalising USA data as Hispanic and African Americans are more likely to be represented here as were women with diabetes and heart and chronic lung disease. The largest UK data from 450 women is reasonably similar, showing most infections do occur in the third trimester and 1 in 10 women needed ICU.

This ICU admission rate is actually similar to the general population. Likelihood of transmission to the baby in utero remains very uncommon (2%). Outcomes for the baby and the live birth rate remain excellent, although we do see higher prematurity. This reinforces our policies that pregnant women should discuss with their manager about being considered a vulnerable group from 28 weeks gestation and explore, where possible, the opportunity to avoid higher risk areas and, of course, remain vigilant about their personal safety.”

Approved by A/Prof Ryan Hodges, Program Director of Monash Women’s and Newborn

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