COVID-19 Delta variant nearly triples risk for stillbirth, CDC says

Nov. 19 (UPI) — Becoming ill with the COVID-19 Delta variant during pregnancy nearly triples the risk for stillbirth at delivery, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even before the emergence of the more contagious, and possibly more serious, variant of the coronavirus, the risk for stillbirth was nearly 50% higher among pregnant people infected at the time of delivery, the data showed.

Among nearly 1.25 million births in the United States between March 2020 and September of this year, about 8,200 stillbirths occured, for a rate of less than 1%, the CDC said.

However, of roughly 22,000 births involving people infected with COVID-19 during that period, 273 stillbirths occurred, for a rate of 1.3%.

From July though September, after the Delta variant became the predominant one in circulation nationally, nearly 1,200 stillbirths were reported among people infected with the virus at the time of delivery, or nearly 3% of pregnancies, the data showed.

Conversely, fewer than 1% of pregnancies in non-infected people at the time of delivery resulted in stillbirth.

“This analysis adds to growing evidence of an association between COVID-19 in pregnancy and stillbirth,” CDC researchers wrote.

It also “highlights that the risk for stillbirth associated with COVID-19 is affected by maternal morbidity and demonstrates that the risk has increased during the Delta period,” they said.

Stillbirth, or fetal death, can occur at up to 28 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

It results in a baby born without signs of life, and it can have significant mental and physical health effects on the person who delivered the child, the organization says.

Although stillbirth remains a rare occurrence in pregnancy in the United States, based on the CDC data, it has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.

Based on its analysis of data from more than 1.25 million births across the country during the pandemic, people infected with COVID-19 at the time of delivery have a 90% higher risk for stillbirth compared to uninfected people, the agency said.

This figure was adjusted to account for other risk factors associated with stillbirth, such as socioeconomic status, as well as the presence of other underlying health conditions, including being a smoker or severely overweight.

And babies are not the only people at risk from the Delta variant, a separate analysis also released Friday by the CDC suggests.

In Mississippi, between March 1, 2020, and Oct. 6 of this year, 15 deaths were reported among pregnant people infected with COVID-19 at the time of delivery, with nine of them occurring during the period in which the Delta variant was predominant, from July through October.

“Although stillbirth was a rare outcome overall, a COVID-19 diagnosis documented during the delivery hospitalization was associated with an increased risk for stillbirth in the United States,” the agency researchers wrote.

There was “a stronger association during the period of Delta variant predominance,” they said.

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