Covid ‘significantly’ impairs the placenta’s immune response – study

Coronavirus: Key symptoms of the new Centaurus variant

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Since the start of the Covid pandemic we have continued to learn more about the disease and the lasting impact it can have on the body. For example, it is now widely known that certain people will live with symptoms for months after the initial infection, And now research has found it can have a specific impact on pregnant women.

A paper, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, revealed that the infection could have a severe effect on the placenta – which is vital in providing oxygen, nutrients and immune protection for the foetus.

As part of the research, 164 pregnant women were studied.

Of these 24 were uninfected healthy patients – used as the control group – and 140 individuals had contracted COVID-19.

On average all the participants delivered their babies at around the same time: 37 to 38 weeks.

However, there were three times the number of premature births among the mothers with Covid compared to those without.

And about 75 percent of the patients with COVID-19 were reported as either asymptomatic or having “mild symptoms”.

Speaking in an University of Washington School of Medicine release, the paper’s senior author – Doctor Kristina Adams Waldorf – said: “This is the largest study to date of placentas from women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancies.

“We were surprised to find that women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancies had placentas with an impaired immune response to new infection.”

She added that this finding was just “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to understanding how COVID-19 might affect foetal or placental development.

In the early days of the pandemic it was thought that Covid did not seem to harm the foetus simply because there were few babies born to mothers with the infection, she stated.

Dr Adams Waldorf added: “But what we’re seeing now is that the placenta is vulnerable to COVID-19, and the infection changes the way the placenta works, and that in turn is likely to impact the development of the foetus.”

It comes as previous studies have found that pregnant women are at higher risk of hospitalizations or premature birth, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a result, Dr Adams Waldorf stressed the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid and working to protect yourself from infection if you are pregnant.

“The disease may be mild, or it may be severe, but we’re still seeing these abnormal effects on the placenta,” she added.

“It seems that after contracting COVID-19 in pregnancy, the placenta is exhausted by the infection, and can’t recover its immune function.”

And it is not yet known exactly how different variants of Covid affect pregnant women.

Dr Adams Waldorf concluded: “Studying each of the variants in real time is really challenging because they just keep coming so fast, we can’t keep up.

“We do know that the COVID-19 Delta variant was worse for pregnant individuals, because there was a spike in stillbirths, maternal deaths and hospitalizations at that time.”

Common symptoms of Covid include:

  • A high temperature or shivering (chills)
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • An aching body
  • A headache
  • A sore throat
  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or being sick.

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