Delta COVID-19 variant more dangerous for unvaccinated pregnant women: study

Researchers reported a 10-15% increase in pregnant patients battling severe COVID-19 by summer's end

The Delta COVID-19 variant increases the risk for complications among unvaccinated pregnant women, a recent study found.

The study, published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, analyzed the trend of severe COVID-19 illness among pregnant women as the highly transmissible delta variant rose to become the predominant strain.

From May 2020 to September 2021, 1,515 pregnant women were diagnosed with COVID-19 at a Dallas public health system, including 82 severe cases (81 among unvaccinated patients) and 11 requiring mechanical ventilation. Study authors reported two maternal deaths.

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Results indicated that around 5% of pregnant patients battled severe COVID-19 until around March 2021, and before increasing to 10-15% by summer’s end, amid a delta-driven surge.

Dr. Emily Adhikar, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and lead researcher on the study, told the Dallas Morning News of concerns over future implications for pregnant women who have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"I am concerned about what the future holds for pregnant women who have not been vaccinated," Adhikari told the outlet. "We have experienced sicker patients with this last variant, so it means we have to vaccinate as many people as possible."

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The study concluded that pregnant women diagnosed with the delta variant were more likely to have severe disease and those who were also unvaccinated were more likely to be hospitalized. Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease specialist and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, who was not directly involved with the study, told Health Day: "If you’re pregnant and you get COVID-19, you’re at increased risk of becoming severely ill."

Researchers urged pregnant women to get vaccinated as the best method to prevent COVID-19. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health alert urging pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

As of Sept. 27, 2021, CDC data indicate over 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in pregnant women, 22,000 of which resulted in hospitalization, with 161 deaths. Despite the severe risk, the CDC reports that only about 31% of pregnant women ages 18 to 49 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.