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After infertility struggles, nurse Jennifer Brillhart hopes quarantine lifts before she delivers her baby so her family can be present for the birth.

USA TODAY

Pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, breaking from earlier guidance that found no difference in risk between the two groups.

The good news is that pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 aren’t at any greater risk of death than women who aren’t pregnant, said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, a COVID-19 deputy incident manager with the CDC. 

The worse news is that infected pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and are at increased risk for ICU admission and to require mechanical ventilation, according to a CDC study of thousands of women in the U.S. from January to June.

Among women with COVID-19, about 32% of pregnant women were reported to have been hospitalized compared with about 6% of nonpregnant women, the study found.

It’s possible, but not known, that the higher hospitalization rate might be due to doctor’s overall concerns for the health of pregnant women, so they could be more likely to admit them to a hospital, CDC officials said.

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So far there’s no data on how a COVID-19 infection affects a woman’s pregnancy or the health outcomes of their babies, said Meaney-Delman.

“Pregnancy is nine months,” Meaney-Delman noted, so most women who’ve become pregnant since the coronavirus began to circulate widely in the U.S. haven’t yet given birth. 

There is concern that a COVID-19 infection could bring on preterm labor or premature birth, but information is still being collected on that, she said.

The CDC findings are similar to those from a recent study in Sweden, which found that pregnant women with COVID-19 were five times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and four times more like to receive mechanical ventilation than were nonpregnant women, according to the study.

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The CDC study recommended that pregnant women not skip prenatal care appointments. They should also limit interactions with other people as much as possible, take precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 when interacting with others, have at least a 30-day supply of medicines, and talk with their health care provider about how to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The CDC has previously noted that pregnant people are at greater risk of getting sick from other respiratory viruses than people who are not pregnant but said that there is “no data” showing that COVID-19 affects pregnant women differently than others.

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Toward the beginning of the pandemic, pregnant women were initially grouped with others at-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, but that changed when it became clear neither they nor their babies were seriously affected by COVID-19.

More on coronavirus, pregnancy and birth:

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