Study: Pregnant women more likely to die of COVID-19

Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and far more likely to die of COVID-19 than their peers, according to a study that monitored hundreds of pregnant women in Washington state last year.

Doctors have suspected throughout the pandemic that pregnant women may be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, but the rate of increased mortality and hospitalizations shocked even the lead author of this study.

"This was a shockingly high rate of mortality for pregnant patients in Washington state — we weren’t expecting it," said Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UW Medicine. "This was the first time that fatality rates in pregnant patients have been studied on a population-wide level."

The Washington-based study tracked 240 pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 between March and June of last year. Compared to their non-pregnant peers, the study showed they were 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized over COVID-19 and 13 times more likely to die from it.

RELATED: Variant strain of coronavirus confirmed in Pierce, Snohomish counties

Three pregnant women in the study died of COVID-19, or 1.3%. According to the study, all three were from minority ethnic groups and most had other health conditions, like obesity and hypertension.

The study also found that nearly half of the women who had severe COVID-19 illness in their third trimester ended up in premature labor.

The results are coming out while there’s still a lot of confusion over whether pregnant women should take the COVID-19 vaccine. The study suggests pregnancy puts women at higher risk of hospitalization and death but currently pregnant women are not prioritized in vaccinations. 

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization recommended pregnant women not take the Moderna vaccine unless at severe risk of contracting COVID-19, citing insufficient studies on the effects on pregnant women. The same recommendation has not been made by the CDC and other health organizations.