Coronavirus can infect and destroy placenta in expecting mothers, study warns

Coronavirus affects pregnancies differently from other viruses, researchers found.
Image of pregnant woman touching her belly with hands
Posted at 2:36 PM, Feb 11, 2022

Pregnant women who contract coronavirus face an elevated risk of a stillbirth, new research shows.

According to a study published in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, coronavirus can invade and destroy the placenta and lead to stillbirths in infected women.

Researchers looked at placental and autopsy tissue from 64 stillbirths and four newborns who died shortly after birth.

The cases all involved unvaccinated women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancy.

Chances of a stillbirth were even higher for women infected with the delta variant.

Other viruses, like Zika, have been noted to affect and damage the fetus.

But with coronavirus, it was the placenta that was infected and extremely destroyed.

“Many of these cases had over 90% of the placenta destroyed — very scary,” said David Schwartz, lead author of the study.

Schwartz said he’d never seen them cause such consistent, extensive destruction.

The virus likely reached the placenta through the bloodstream, attaching to susceptible cells and causing protein deposits and an unusual form of inflammation that blocked blood flow and oxygen.

That, in turn, led to placenta tissue death and suffocation, the researchers said.

It is unclear whether omicron infections also increase chances for stillbirths, as the study was done before that highly infectious variant emerged.

Obstetricians are now being advised to perform third-semester ultrasounds on women who were infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy.

This is an effort to screen for any symptoms or warning signs that could pose a danger to the baby’s health.