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rare infection Four stillbirths among women now linked to Covid, health officials confirm

The women were found to have Covid placentitis, an infection of the placenta, which pathologists who carried out examinations in each case say was the significant factor in the stillbirth.

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Dr Cliona Murphy, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, at yesterday’s Covid briefing in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Cliona Murphy, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, at yesterday’s Covid briefing in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Cliona Murphy, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, at yesterday’s Covid briefing in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

FOUR stillbirths among women who caught Covid-19 earlier this year have now been linked to the virus.

The women were found to have Covid placentitis, an infection of the placenta, which pathologists who carried out examinations in each case say was the significant factor in the stillbirth.

The cases were revealed late last week, but at that point doctors were cautious about attributing the stillbirths to the virus.

"It is the view of our pathologists that Covid-19 was the significant factor that resulted in the stillbirths of the babies," said Dr Cliona Murphy, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

It remains quite rare, and a small number of similar cases have been documented abroad.

Perinatal pathologists are liaising with international colleagues, but it was important to "keep an open mind", Dr Murphy added.

Cork University Hospital last year diagnosed Covid placentitis in a pregnant woman who underwent an emergency caesarean section, delivering a healthy baby.

Not all cases would have been documented in medical journals, Dr Murphy said.

Earlier, she said doctors are concerned about the misinformation circulating about the risk of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, claiming the jab affects fertility.

"There is no evidence that taking any of the Covid-19 vaccines affects a woman's future ability to conceive, or to continue a pregnancy," Dr Murphy said.

"We recommend that all those of reproductive age take the Covid-19 vaccine as it becomes available."

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She said some men who catch the virus and have moderate to severe symptoms can suffer lower sperm count in the weeks afterwards, but there is no long-term data.

In the case of someone discovering they are pregnant shortly after receiving the vaccine, the second dose can be deferred until after 14 weeks.

"For someone with a history of recurrent miscarriages, there is no reason to avoid the vaccine," Dr Murphy said.

"In the case of planning for IVF, women could make the choice to wait until they have received both doses before proceeding with scheduled treatment as it would be beneficial to be fully vaccinated.

"It is safe to commence IVF a few days after the second dose."

There are increasing hopes that if the spread of the virus continues to fall at the current pace, some easing of restrictions will be on the cards next month.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will consider a report on resuming a phased return of visits to nursing homes later this week, with a view to having a new system in place over the next seven to 10 days.

As more people get the jab, there will be an expectation of a vaccine bonus.

That hope was raised as no new deaths from coronavirus were reported yesterday, while 437 more people were reported as having been diagnosed with the virus.

Prof Philip Nolan said there is sustained and possibly "accelerated progress" in suppressing transmission, with case counts falling by around 100 a week.

The cases remain high, but contrast with the previous week at around 620.

There were 418 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 yesterday, with 103 in intensive care.

Prof Nolan said there are around 14 Covid-related deaths a day, which is still high but lower than in recent weeks.

A report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre yesterday showed the third wave started in November, before lockdown was lifted for Christmas with the reopening of shops and the easing of restrictions to allow family gatherings.

Prof Nolan said pre-Christmas data "tells us that when we get to March, April and May we need to be immensely careful that the level we have succeeded in suppressing the virus to does not bite us in the space of a few weeks".

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the progress could turn around in a matter of weeks, adding: "We have made more progress in the last fortnight than any other country in Europe."

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