Pregnancy doesn’t increase susceptibility to COVID-19 -Gynaecologist

Angela Onwuzoo

A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Gregory Ohihoin, says though pregnant women are anxious about COVID-19, their condition does not increase their susceptibility to the virus.

According to him, a lot of things are associated with COVID-19 being a pandemic that makes pregnant women and those who are not pregnant also anxious and depressed, especially its non medical impacts like the lockdown and loss of jobs.

Dr. Ohihoin, who is a Deputy Director, Maternal and Reproductive Health Research at NIMR, disclosed this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, adding, however, that pregnant women are likely to be anxious during this pandemic due to their low immunity, compared to non pregnant women.

The gynaecologist explained, “The virus is associated with so many things. The virus itself, the anxiety it created in the world, the restrictions in movement, the mortality and morbidity associated with it.

“If you are a pregnant person, you are already having the unique challenges that come with pregnancy. Any pregnant person will be anxious that now that I am pregnant and my immunity is not as high as my pre-pregnancy state, will I have increased disposition to COVID-19?

“That will be a source of anxiety really. Though, the evidence that we have does not suggest that pregnant women generally have increased susceptibility to COVID-19.

“By this, I mean that it doesn’t necessarily mean that because you are pregnant, you are going to catch COVID-19 faster than somebody who is not pregnant.

“So, pregnancy does not increase susceptibility necessarily to COVID-19, that we know.”

A recent study published in Psychiatry Review says that COVID-19 may deepen depression and anxiety among pregnant and postpartum women.

According to the study, though childbirth is often anticipated with optimism and enthusiasm, approximately 10 to 20 per cent of pregnant individuals also experience mental health challenges during the weeks immediately before and after birth.

In the study, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital surveyed pregnant women and those who had recently given birth to examine their mental health status.

The researchers found that mental health challenges faced by women during and after pregnancy may be exacerbated by COVID-19.

Findings from the survey showed increased rates of depression, generalised anxiety and Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, which were found to be exacerbated by COVID-19-related grief and health worries.

But it is unknown how the stressors of a significant health pandemic can impact these complications.

Corresponding Author, Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry, Cindy Liu, said, “We know the perinatal period is already a time in which women are particularly vulnerable to mental health concerns. We primarily wanted to see what factors related to the pandemic might be associated with mental health symptoms,”

Dr. Ohihoin further said that for pregnant women to be having anxiety in this pandemic, that is understandable considering the level of their immunity.

The researcher said, “Knowing that pregnancy is associated with reduced immunity compared to non pregnant counterparts, if the pregnant woman now contracts COVID-19, there is a tendency that the virus may be more aggressive in that pregnant woman because her immunity is very low.

“But we have had pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 and they delivered successfully and recovered fully with their babies coming out alive and doing well. Many of them, their babies do not have the virus at birth.”

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