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Does COVID-19 increase the risk of pneumonia in pregnancy?

Researchers studied whether pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to develop severe pneumonia.

Pregnant women face more risks to their health, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, infections, toxemia, and preterm labor.  Little is known about the risks COVID-19 might introduce to pregnant women. Since they are already more susceptible to severe respiratory infections, COVID-19 could present a greater risk to pregnant women’s’ health.

Chinese COVID-19 data about the risk for pneumonia in pregnancy has been mixed. Initially reports were that mild cases of COVID-19 affected pregnant women in the same way as other women. However, later information reported severe cases that required hospitalization in the ICU.

Outside of China, Spain experienced early widespread transmission of COVID-19. Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics of the University Hospital ‘12 de Octubre’ studied the risk of pneumonia in pregnancy for patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The study was published in the journal EClinical Medicine published by The Lancet.

Patients were pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 5 to April 5, 2020. The research team evaluated the patients’ medical records and collected data such as vital signs, respiratory status, lab results, radiology results, and drugs administered. The data was collected at the time the patient was first diagnosed, the first three days, then days 5, 7, 10, and 14. 

The severity of COVID-19 was determined by the patients’ respiratory function and level of oxygen in the blood. Researchers classified changes in respiratory function over the course of the disease based on whether the patient was hospitalized and needed supplemental oxygen.

The patients were monitored and treated based on guidelines from the Spanish Ministry of Health. Patients with pneumonia during pregnancy were treated with antibiotics. The babies were monitored using ultrasound.

Of the 52 COVID-19 positive patients included in the study, 61.5% developed pneumonia, while 38.5% suffered from upper respiratory infection. More than half of these patients needed supplemental oxygen due to the severity of their infection. Older patients were more likely to develop pneumonia and 1-2% required admission to the ICU.

The researchers determined patients that did not experience trouble breathing, aches, and pains were likely to have a milder course of the virus. However, those that presented with patchy areas on their chest X-ray, poor liver function, and higher inflammatory symptoms were more likely to experience a severe case of COVID-19.

The researchers determined that pregnant women with COVID-19 were more likely to develop pneumonia because 60% of the study participants developed severe cases.

Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship B.Sc.


San-Juan, R., Barbero, P., Fernández-Ruiz, M., López-Medrano, F., Lizasoáin, M., & Hernández-Jiménez, P. et al. (2020). Incidence and clinical profiles of COVID-19 pneumonia in pregnant women: A single-centre cohort study from Spain. Eclinicalmedicine, 23, 100407.

What are some common complications of pregnancy?. (2020). Retrieved 30 June 2020, from

Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship is a freelance technical writer. She reviews, edits, and authors internal quality documentation required for regulatory compliance. She has twenty years experience in industrial pharma/medical device quality management systems and an honors BSc in chemistry. She is a natural born rule follower and enjoys applying this strength to help others be audit ready to meet regulatory requirements. She also loves learning about the latest scientific discoveries while writing for Medical News Bulletin. Her free time is spent as a full-time mom, encouraging can-do attitudes and cooperation in her three children.


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