By Kathy Fray & Lesego Moya
In the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was suggested pregnant women were not at any higher risk of the disease because there was little evidence to support the possibility of vertical transmission (from mother to baby). However, now several cases have been seen in the world, and pregnant women are now considered one of the at-risk populations for COVID-19.
American researchers in Philadelphia looked at nearly 1300 women who gave birth, and are hypothesizing immune responses to COVID-19 in pregnant women may be different than those in the general population, with their research stating “About 6.2% of the women had developed antibodies against the coronavirus. That’s four times more people than the 1.4% of the city’s general population” at the time.
”Pregnant women are fairly representative of community exposure, and these data provide more evidence, on top of what we already know with COVID 19, that health and socio-economic equity are inextricably linked” stated co-lead author Dr Scott Hensley, an associate professor of Microbiology at Perelman.
According to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania:
- About 6.2% of the women had been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against it
- That is about four times higher than the 1.4% of the city’s general population, at the time
- Additionally, Black and Hispanic women were much more likely to test positive for antibodies at 9.7% and 10.4%, respectively
- That’s five-fold the number of white and Asian women who had antibodies at 2% and 0.9%, respectively (likely socio-economic factors of inequities)
Kathy Fray, midwife/author and founding director of IIMHCO [Intl Integrative Maternity HealthCare Org] reminds us a woman’s Immune System alters when she is pregnant. “For a long time, science believed the maternal immune system response is naturally repressed throughout the pregnancy to stop the woman’s body from rejecting her fetus. However recent research is shedding new light on the actual constant flux of how the human immune system changes as pregnancy progresses.” Fray continues “Thus, although stating a pregnant woman is immune-compromised isn’t technically correct, it is also not technically incorrect – and these dramatic statistics prove this point, which is exactly why for so long Flu Vaccines have also always been particularly promoted for those who are sick, geriatric or pregnant”.
“The bottom-line for any expectant woman during the pandemic” Kathy explains “is the knowledge that her Immune system works differently to when she is not pregnant – which is why with COVID-19 she should manage her day-to-day life just as if she is unwell or elderly, such as self-quarantining as much as possible including working from home; a mask on at all times outside her home; and limiting her social interaction”.