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Covid placentitis: Four more stillbirths and two babies' deaths reported in Ireland

The deaths occurred from October to December 2021.

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File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Coffeemill

FOUR STILLBIRTHS AND the deaths of two newborns attributed to Covid-19 placentitis occurred in Ireland from October to December 2021, new research has confirmed.

Four stillbirths occurred in women whose pregnancies were beyond 20 weeks. Two neonatal deaths, when a baby dies in the first 28 days of life, were also reported.

None of the mothers in question were vaccinated against Covid-19, according to research led by experts at CUH’s Department of Pathology.

Six stillbirths connected to Covid placentitis, as well as one foetal death at 20 weeks’ gestation, were reported in Ireland from December 2020 to March 2021 during the third wave of the pandemic.

UCC Professor Keelin O’Donoghue said the stillbirths and neonatal deaths highlight the importance of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The mothers were not vaccinated. These are largely preventable deaths,” she said.

What is Covid placentitis?

Covid placentitis, or SARS-CoV-2 placentitis, is an infection of the placenta which occurs in some pregnant women who have tested positive for Covid-19.

It is a rare condition that has caused foetal distress and stillbirth in a number of women who had Covid-19 in Ireland and abroad.

It occurs within seven to 21 days of the infection

Anyone who has a Covid-19 diagnosis in pregnancy should inform their hospital to arrange a follow-up consultation. Mothers are advised to monitor foetal movements and present to their maternity unit if they notice a significant reduction in movement.

Placentitis can also occur for reasons unrelated to Covid-19.

Advice about vaccines

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Irish Medicines in Pregnancy Service at the Rotunda Hospital, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and the National Women and Infants Health Programme have compiled information for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding about the Covid-19 vaccine.

This document notes that pregnant women with Covid-19 are at “significantly higher risk of severe illness compared with non-pregnant women”.

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“This is especially true for women in the third trimester. Pregnant women who get Covid-19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital, to need care in an intensive care unit (ICU), and to die from Covid-19 when compared with non-pregnant women.”

The groups recommend that pregnant people get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying the protection the vaccine offers both mother and baby “outweighs any risk”.

The advice notes: “When the vaccine first became available, there were differing recommendations about the use of the vaccine in different countries. Since then, we have more information about the potentially serious impact of Covid-19 on pregnant women and their infants. We now also have more information which shows these vaccines are safe in pregnancy.

“As a result, the protection that the vaccine offers both mother and baby outweighs any risk of getting the vaccine in pregnancy. Hundreds of thousands of women worldwide have now received the Covid-19 vaccine in pregnancy.

“For pregnant women, getting the vaccine will reduce the chance of becoming severely unwell. It may reduce the chance of pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth, caesarean delivery and stillbirth, which are associated with Covid-19 illness.

Pregnant people are advised to get an mRNA vaccine, namely Comirnaty (manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech) or Spikevax (manufactured by Moderna). Anyone with questions about the vaccine should speak to their doctor. 

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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