Hispanic women are more than twice as likely as other women to contract COVID-19 during pregnancy, according to a Sutter Health study.
The study took place from May through December 2020, when the spread of COVID-19 spiked and vaccines were not available.
Contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the likelihood of adverse outcomes such as maternal mortality, preeclampsia (high blood pressure complications, potential organ damage), preterm birth and stillbirth, the study said.
Throughout the entire study, 17,446 women delivered babies from May to December at Sutter Health facilities. When testing for antibodies, the study focused more specifically on the 4,500 women who went into labor from October to December.
The antibody data collected from those 4,500 mothers concluded that Hispanic patients were 2.4 times more likely of contracting and/or being infected with COVID-19 compared to other patients.
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This research was done because “we previously did not have a lot of information; it was not well described the pattern of COVID-19 during pregnancy,” said Dr. Alice Pressman, research director at the Sutter Institute for Advancing Health Equity and lead study author.
Sutter Health implemented a systemwide policy to test every labor and delivery patient upon admission to its health service centers to detect if patients had traces of COVID-19 regardless of symptoms.
Additionally, blood samples that were drawn for labor processes (in case a mother required a transfusion or other procedures) were tested for antibodies — after a mother had finished her delivery and did not need her blood sample — to see if woman was previously infected with COVID-19, Pressman said.
These two data sources — testing women when admitted in for labor and checking their blood samples for antibodies after labor — “helped us get a much bigger picture of the virus than just an active virus (infection) at the time of delivery,” she said.
Because vaccines were not available in 2020, antibodies in a mother’s samples “were attributable to women having the (COVID-19) disease,” Pressman said.
“This study really validates what we have been experiencing in our clinical practice since the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr. Jorge Siopack said, medical director of Obstetrics/Gynecology Women’s Health and Perinatal Services at La Clínica de La Raza and staff OB/GYN at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
At La Clínica — a health care services organization in the East Bay Area that serves a large Hispanic population — “we have seen an overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on our community,” Siopack said.
The findings of Sutter’s study, “are exciting in the sense that it gives us additional data that we can now share with our patients in helping them make the decision to get fully vaccinated during pregnancy, to protect them and their babies” Siopack said.
Through consented, self-reported surveys of women who went into labor between July 2020 and March 2021 — about their households, pandemic behaviors (social distancing, masking, work conditions), routines and environment — “the interesting thing was that by race and ethnicity, we found that there really was very little difference, very few people (self-) reported risky behaviors in terms of mask-wearing and social distancing,” Presser said.
“However, when it came to the living arrangements, the Hispanic population was much more likely to self-report living in a household with more than five other members,” she said.
“Hispanic patients in this survey (women who went through labor) were also much more likely to report having been exposed or thinking that they had potentially been exposed to someone with known COVID-19 (infection, sickness),” Presser said.
Given these living arrangements — and essential work conditions these women experience, too — “it seems like it was a vicinity of people with COVID-19 and a matter of congregate living environments,” that affected pregnant Hispanic women more than others, she concluded.
Results of this survey are part of a sub-study from these main findings, are being worked on now and expected to be published soon, Presser said.
From Siopack’s experience, some women are concerned about vaccine adverse effects during pregnancy, “so they are either declining or postponing it (getting vaccinated) after delivery,” he said.
“To date, there is truly no evidence of harmful effects,” Siopack said. Yet, there is, “good evidence that you can acquire COVID-19 while you are pregnant and can really have some serious health consequences to mom and baby.”
Vaccination against COVID-19 — of a pregnant mother and household members she lives with — “will help ensure the safety of mom and baby as a unit,” Siopack concluded.
Record reporter Laura Diaz covers social justice and societal issues. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @laurasdiaz_. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at recordnet.com/subscribenow.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Study: Hispanic pregnant women contract COVID-19 more than others