Study reveals how coronavirus can damage placenta during pregnancy
Previous studies have indicated that it’s remotely possible for coronavirus to be transmitted in utero, though in all but the rarest cases it appears not to pass through the placental barrier between mother and baby
Pregnant women should take extra precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic. A new study shows that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), attacks the placenta.
The researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago aimed to identify the histopathologic findings of women with COVID-19 during pregnancy. They found that the placentas of women infected with severe SARS-CoV-2 have higher rates of placental injury.
Placentas in a small study of 16 pregnant women who tested positive for the novel coronavirus showed evidence of injury, a new study has found.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, the study revealed that there is evidence of insufficient blood flow from the mother to the fetus and blood clot formation in the placenta.
The placenta is a flattened circular organ in the uterus of a pregnant woman that nourishes and maintains the fetus through the umbilical cord. The cord acts as the primary link from the fetus to the placenta. Through the umbilical cord, the placenta provides oxygen and nutrients. At the same time, it removes waste products from the baby's blood.
“Most of these babies were delivered full-term after otherwise normal pregnancies, so you wouldn’t expect to find anything wrong with the placentas, but this virus appears to be inducing some injury in the placenta,” senior author Dr Jeffrey Goldstein, a Northwestern medicine pathologist and an assistant professor of pathology at Feinberg, said in a statement.
“It doesn’t appear to be inducing negative outcomes in live-born infants, based on our limited data, but it does validate the idea that women with COVID should be monitored more closely.”
“Not to paint a scary picture, but these findings worry me,” study co-author Dr. Emily Miller, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg and a Northwestern Medicine obstetrician, said in the researchers’ statement. “I don’t want to draw sweeping conclusions from a small study, but this preliminary glimpse into how COVID-19 might cause changes in the placenta carries some pretty significant implications for the health of a pregnancy. We must discuss whether we should change how we monitor pregnant women right now.”
The new study published is the largest look at placental health in coronavirus-positive women. While there seemed to be no adverse effects, the presence of the abnormalities carries implications, the researchers said.