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Concerns raised over possible link between Covid-19 and four stillbirths in Ireland

Dr Ronan Glynn emphasised that while Covid placentitis is extremely rare and investigations are at a preliminary stage, the HSE has alerted obstetric departments around the country out of an abundance of caution.


by Lauren Heskin
05th Mar 2021

getty

Covid placentitis

 

Last night, as well as the now-familiar recitation of the daily new Covid-19 cases and the (mercifully reducing) death numbers, there was some new information in the NPHET briefing about the impact of Covid-19 infection during pregnancy.

Dr Ronan Glynn reported that the HSE is looking into a number of reported stillbirths that could potentially be related to Covid-19 infections during pregnancy. “We have been made aware through various corners of four reports of stillbirths that are possibly linked with a condition called Covid placentitis,” he explained during the briefing.

Covid placentitis is an infection of the placenta that can occur when a pregnant person becomes infected with Covid-19. While the condition is said to be very rare and the large majority of pregnant people who test positive for Covid-19 have mild symptoms and go on to have healthy babies, the HSE has informed obstetric departments and there is an investigation underway.

Dr Glynn emphasised that the warning was done in an abundance of caution and the investigation is still in the very preliminary stages to see if there any correlation and if it relates to infection during a specific stage of gestation.

Surveillance data

Covid placentitis has been seen internationally but in very small numbers.  Dr Cliona Murphy, Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists pointed out that “large-scale surveillance data in the UK have not shown a higher incidence of stillbirth”.

In a study published by Science Direct in January 2021, a team from the Cork University Hospital on Covid placentitis found that while most infected pregnant patients had only mild illness and no further complications, there have been “reports of serious maternal illness, maternal death, intrauterine death and preterm birth, but with no clear correlation between illness severity and pregnancy.”

Another international systematic review found that Covid-19 infections in pregnancies past 20 weeks’ gestation increases the risk of requiring intensive care and ventilation, and that “preterm birth rates are high in pregnant women with Covid-19 than in pregnant women without the disease.”

As we move towards hopefully towards the end of this pandemic, Dr Glynn emphasised the importance of remaining safe. “The advice remains as it has been, which is to continue to do all you can to protect yourself and your baby.”