A study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh has found that women who have Covid-19 towards the end of their pregnancy are vulnerable to birth-related complications.

They are more likely to have complications than those who get Covid-19 in the earlier stages of pregnancy or not to have had Covid-19 at all.

The findings show that preterm births, stillbirths and newborn deaths are more common among women who have the virus 28 days, or less, before their delivery date.

The majority of complications, which also include Covid-related critical care admissions, occurred in unvaccinated women, according to one of the first national studies of pregnancy and Covid-19.

Researchers say more should be done to increase vaccine uptake in pregnant women, whose vaccination rates are much lower than those of women in the general population.

Evidence shows that vaccination in pregnancy is safe and is the best way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from COVID.

Sands Trustee was co-lead on the study

These findings are part of the COPS study, which was supported by Sands, and provides population-based information for the whole of Scotland on the incidence and outcomes of Covid-19 infection and Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy.

Our data add to the evidence that vaccination in pregnancy does not increase the risk of complications in pregnancy, but Covid-19 does.

Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy is crucial to protect women and babies from preventable, life-threatening complications of Covid-19.

- Dr Sarah Stock, COPS co-lead of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, and Sands Trustee.

Experts stressed that it is not possible to say if Covid-19 contributed directly to the deaths or preterm births as they did not have access to detailed clinical records for individual women.

Admission to hospital and critical care were also significantly more common in pregnant women with Covid-19 who were unvaccinated at the time of diagnosis than in vaccinated pregnant women - 98 per cent of women with Covid-19 during pregnancy who were admitted to critical care were unvaccinated.

Our data provide valuable information on both Covid-19 infections and vaccinations among pregnant women. It is clear that vaccination is the safest and most effective way for pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies from severe Covid-19 disease. 

Vaccination can be given at any stage of pregnancy, so I strongly encourage women who are pregnant, or hoping to become pregnant, to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

COPS co-lead Dr Rachael Wood, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with Public Health Scotland.

The team analysed data relating to all pregnant women in Scotland. It included more than 87,000 women who were pregnant between the start of vaccination uptake in December 2020 and October 2021.

The findings have been published in Nature Medicine.

Further information about the risks of COVID-19 infection for mothers and babies, and support for decision making about vaccination, is available from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

Exit Site