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HSE professor urges pregnant women to stay protected against Covid after reports of more stillbirths

Health officials first reported the condition last month.

Image: Shutterstock/10 FACE

THE DIRECTOR OF the HSE’s women and infants programme has said it is important that pregnant women protect themselves against Covid-19 after reports of more stillbirths linked to the virus.

Professor Peter McKenna said public health advice for people to minimise their contacts “applies to pregnant women even more than it does to the rest of the population” after two more stillbirths due to Covid placentitis were reported.

Health officials first reported four cases of the rare condition last month.

The condition occurs in some pregnant women who have tested positive for Covid-19, and can lead to complications including reduced foetal movements and stillbirth in unborn babies.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme this morning, McKenna urged pregnant women who come into contact with people who have Covid-19 to inform the hospital helping with their child’s birth so that they can be closely monitored.

“The general public health advice, which is to minimise contacts applies to pregnant women, even more than it does the rest of the population. I think that goes without saying,” he said.

McKenna also moved to reassure expectant mothers that 60,000 babies have been born in Ireland since the pandemic began, with just six stillbirths linked to the condition.

He also pointed out that there had been no cases where a pregnant woman had died as a result of Covid-19 in Ireland.

But he said reports about stillbirths changed the emphasis of how mothers-to-be should consider public health restrictions during the pandemic.

McKenna suggested it was unusual that health authorities in other countries had not reported similar findings in relation to Covid Placentitis.

“It is strange that this part of the world, which hasn’t suffered hugely from Covid is the one part of the world where this appears to be a bigger issue than it is elsewhere,” he said.

He said that although babies have died as a result of Covid-19 in other countries, Covid Placentitis had not been identified outside of Ireland.

But he added that it would be “a very big step” to prioritise all pregnant women for vaccination on foot of the reports.

“I think that it’s a very big step in saying that if you’re high risk, you should be vaccinated, to going on and saying all pregnant women should be vaccinated,” McKenna said.

“The reason I say this is that the condition that I’m talking about Covid placentitis – the disease has been here for 15 months, and we’re only beginning to become aware of this possible complication.

“So it’s difficult to see how we can extrapolate that to saying that for all pregnant women the vaccine couldn’t possibly have any complications.”

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Following reports last month, Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn said that pregnant women did not need to change their behaviour, beyond continued compliance with current public health advice.

“What I would say again to women is that this doesn’t change what you have to do, if you’re pregnant,” he said.

“Ultimately, Covid does pose a potential risk to all of us. And so it’s not individual women who need to do anything different, over and above what they have been doing.”

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