Experts say they found evidence that COVID-19 could be attacking women’s placenta, the organ that acts as the gut, kidneys, liver, and lungs for a foetus during pregnancy.
Pathological exam conducted on 16 women following their childbirth was said to have found signs of insufficient blood flow from the mother to the foetus, lesions, and blood clots in the placenta.
In their report, which was published in the journal AJCP, obstetricians and gynecologists at Chicago’s Northwestern University ruled that this might interfere with oxygen flow to the foetus.
With placental blood flow problems being capable of causing foetal organ damage or death, none of the children had any health troubles although one of the mothers miscarried in her third trimester.
“Not to paint a scary picture, but these findings worry me,” said Emily Miller, an author of the study, who is also a professor of obstetrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“This preliminary glimpse into how COVID-19 might cause changes in the placenta carries some pretty significant implications for the health of a pregnancy.”
The researchers described the study as the largest examination of the health of placentas in women who tested positive for COVID-19 done to date — despite the fact it was conducted on 16 women.
On the need to modify how pregnant COVID-19 patients are monitored, the authors said testing for oxygen delivery of the placenta and observing the growth of babies with ultrasounds would be enough.
However, Denise Jamieson, a doctor who co-wrote the physician practice advisory for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, cited the flaws involved in the study.
“I was surprised the author started talking changes in care based on this. There are all sorts of risks in doing additional screening and testing, which can result in unanticipated outcomes,” he said.
“I don’t think we should jump the gun. This study raises more questions than it answers. Looking at the placenta will help us understand what’s going on in pregnancy.
“But I think we need to be careful about jumping to what that means clinically in terms of care of pregnant women with COVID-19.
“There’s increasing evidence that pregnant women may not be more severely affected by COVID-19 than the rest of us, which we had worried about at the beginning of the pandemic.
“But COVID-19 is still a severe disease in pregnancy that needs to be taken seriously and studied carefully.”