Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, an ob-gyn with the University of Washington School of Medicine and senior author of the report (Photo Credit: University of Washington School of Medicine)

Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, an ob-gyn with the University of Washington School of Medicine and senior author of the report (Photo Credit: University of Washington School of Medicine)

UW study shows high COVID infection rates among pregnant women

Study shows infection rates to be two to four times higher than expected among minority groups.

A recently published study led by University of Washington researchers indicated that COVID-19 infection rates were relatively high among pregnant women.

The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, estimated that COVID-19 infection rates are 70 percent higher among pregnant women than what was recorded among similar aged adults in Washington state.

“Higher infection rates in pregnant patients may be due to the over-representation of women in many professions and industries considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic — including healthcare, education, service sectors,” said Erica Lokken, an epidemiologist at the UW School of Public Health. She added that pregnant women may also have larger households, children in daycare or playgroups, and be caregivers within an extended family.

The study also showed that rates of COVID-19 infection among pregnant women of color were disproportionately high as they recorded infection rates among pregnant minority groups that were two to three times higher than what was expected based on state race-ethnicity distributions from 2018.

“Our data indicates that pregnant people did not avoid the pandemic as we hoped that they would, and communities of color bore the greatest burden,” said Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, an OB-GYN with the University of Washington School of Medicine and the report’s senior author. “We were disheartened to see the higher infection rates in communities of color as well as in patients with limited English proficiency.”

According to the study, a high number of pregnant women infected with COVID-19 chose to receive their medical care in a language other than English. Adams Waldorf said that indicates a greater need for public health resources and vaccination outreach in these communities.

Adams Waldorf said that higher rates of infection among pregnant women coupled with elevated risk for severe illness and maternal mortality due to COVID-19 suggest that pregnant women should be prioritized to receive the vaccine.

“Many states have written pregnant women out of vaccine prioritization altogether,” she said.


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