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new figures 'Stark' rise in number of pregnant women diagnosed with Covid-19

19 pregnant women diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last wave required intensive care treatment

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(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

THE number of pregnant women diagnosed with Covid-19 has risen from 189 in the first wave to more than 1,000 during the most recent wave of the pandemic.

According to the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), pregnant women who contract Covid-19 are at higher risk of hospitalisation, pre-term birth, ICU admission and death.

1,147 women who were more than six weeks pregnant were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last wave from November. A total of 131 of these were hospitalised and 19 required intensive care treatment.

This compares with a total of 189 cases of Covid-positive pregnant women in the first wave between March and August in 2020 - with fewer than five in intensive care, according to figures released to the Herald from the Department of Health.

During the period August to November last year, there were 224 cases - 17 of these women were hospitalised and again fewer than five were in ICU.

Master of the Rotunda Professor Fergal Malone said although the increase was "stark" in the largest maternity hospital in the country, it was important to note the difference in the variants of the virus.

However, he said the number of pregnant Covid-positive women requiring intensive care treatment had risen and the number of patients currently in intensive care in the Rotunda Hospital is higher than during the earlier stages of the pandemic.

"I think it is fair to say we have noticed more pregnant patients who have been quite sick," he said.

Last week, the Government accepted a recommendation from Niac that pregnant women between 14 and 36 weeks' gestation should be offered an mRNA vaccine.

Prof Malone said he would "strongly favour" all pregnant women considering taking the vaccine.

"There are significant risks associated with Covid in pregnancy in terms of the mother getting very sick and in terms of placentitis and potential stillbirths," he said.

"Those are real, we have seen it time and time again."

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Niac has said the epidemiology of intensive care admissions in pregnant and postpartum women with Covid-19 in Ireland "changed between the first and subsequent waves".

"The overall risk of severe illness in pregnancy is low. However, pregnant women with Covid-19 infection are more likely to develop serious disease or to die than either pregnant women without Covid-19 or similar aged non-pregnant women with Covid-19," Niac said.

The figures released by the Department of Health outline that there have been no deaths notified in pregnant or postpartum women.

However, there have been seven cases of stillbirths associated with Covid placentitis.

Capacity

Prof Malone said it was important to account for the "significant differences" between the waves in terms of the particular strain of virus that was circulating at the time and the additional testing capacity that is available now.

"We know during the first wave it was likely the Wuhan strain of the virus rather than in this third wave, the B117 or so-called UK variant, which is much more transmissible," Prof Malone said.

"But also there was a difference in the testing that was done. We actually had challenges getting the tests done way back in the first wave - testing capacity was not nearly as much as it is now.

"So there was an increase in the third wave, but I think it is difficult to conclude why.

"I think it is fair to say we have noticed more patients who have been quite sick."

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