Easing COVID-19 lockdown ‘perfect storm’ for pregnant women, says royal colleges

on 15 July 2021

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) are concerned that restrictions easing in England, increasing cases and vaccine hesitancy could increase COVID-19 infections in pregnant women.

New data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) shows pregnant women, especially in the third trimester, are at risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, with 1 in 10 pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms required intensive care.

Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the University of Oxford and Chief Investigator of the UKOSS national study of pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19, Professor Marian Knight, said: “More than 100 pregnant women have been admitted to hospital in each of the last two weeks with COVID-19. Vaccination remains the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both mother and baby, including admission to intensive care and premature birth.”

Pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms are twice as like to give birth prematurely. Recent studies also suggest that women who test positive for COVID-19 at birth are more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, need an emergency caesarean section and had higher rates of stillbirth. However, actual increases remain low.

Cases across the UK have increased significantly. National data suggests the number of pregnant women being admitted per week to hospital are now three times greater than they were at the end of May.

Doctors and midwives are now encouraging pregnant women to consider getting the vaccine as soon as possible and book their second dose as soon as they are eligible.

President at RCOG, Edward Morris, said: “We are concerned that increasing rates of COVID-19 infection will adversely impact pregnant women, due in part to our data showing 58 per cent of women have declined the COVID-19 vaccine especially as we start to return to ‘normal’.

“We know that whose who are pregnant with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill, especially in their third trimester, an the vaccine is the safest and most effective way of protecting women and their babies.”

CEO of RCM, Gill Walton, adds: “Along with mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, vaccination is a vital tool in the fight to protect yourself against this virus. If you are unsure or worried about this, do speak to your midwife or doctor to get the facts so that you can make an informed decision.”

A survey* conducted by RCOG conducted in February and May on vaccine uptake in pregnant women, around 40% of the 1,500 respondents had been offer the vaccine and accepted, 40% planned not to get and 20% were undecided.

In the US, 130,000 pregnant women received the COVID-19 vaccine with no safety concerns being raised. Public Health Scotland reported 4,000 pregnant women receiving the vaccine with no adverse effects recorded.

*The RCOG surveys were conducted on social media between 16 February and 26 February. The second survey was also conducted on social media between 17 May and 28 May 2021.