Researchers in Scotland found that pregnant people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 and got infected near the end of their pregnancy are more likely to suffer severe complications.
Scientists from Scotland's public health agency and the University of Edinburgh analyzed data on every recognized pregnancy in Scotland between Dec.8, 2020, through Oct.31, 2021. There were 145,424 observed pregnancies, along with data on PCR test results and vaccinations.
The peer-reviewed study was published in the journal Nature Medicine. The results found that those infected within 28 days or fewer before their delivery dates were prone to complications.
Researchers found that most of these complications occurred in unvaccinated individuals and urged vaccinations as it is a crucial way to protect pregnant people from life-threatening complications.
Researchers say that pregnant people do not seem to be more susceptible to Covid-19 infection than non-pregnant individuals, but they are at higher risk of severe Covid-19. It was observed that Covid-19 in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of pregnancy-specific complications pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and stillbirth.
"We want to advocate for clear and consistent public health messaging, and that's so that doctors and midwives and healthcare professionals can give the right advice to women," Dr. Sarah Stock, one of the authors of the study, publicly said. "This advice needs to go out to partners and parents and grandparents and friends, so people can recognize that vaccination in pregnancy is the safest and most effective way for pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies."
There were about 4,950 confirmed infections within pregnant individuals in Scotland between December 2020 and October 2021. Researchers found over 90 percent of Covid-19 infections associated with a hospital admission were unvaccinated, and 98.1 percent of pregnant people in intensive care were also unvaccinated.
Only 11 percent of the pregnant people within the study who were infected with Covid-19 were fully vaccinated.
The data showed those infected with Covid-19 had a higher rate of perinatal deaths, otherwise known as infant deaths in the later stages of pregnancy or shortly after birth, compared to the general population.
Those who gave birth 28 days after being diagnosed saw a rate of 22.6 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to a rate of 5.6 per 1,000 births within the general population.
According to the study, all of the perinatal deaths following Covid-19 infection involved those not vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals saw near normal levels of prenatal deaths.
Researchers stated that it is impossible to determine if Covid-19 contributed directly to the preterm births or deaths because they did not have detailed clinical records.
In the United States, the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show about 42 percent of pregnant people are fully vaccinated, compared to 73 percent of all those aged 18 and up.
Additional data from thousands of pregnant people show that vaccines are safe and effective in pregnancy, and the CDC recommends vaccines before or during pregnancy.