NIH launches study looking at long-term effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy


NIH launches study looking at long-term effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy and will follow 1,500 pregnant women and their children over four years

  • The NIH announced it has launched a study of the long-term effects of COVID-19 when contracted during pregnancy
  • Researchers will follow 1,500 pregnant women and their children for four years
  • The team hopes to learn the percentage of pregnant women at risk of long Covid and how it compares with non-pregnant women who develop the condition
  • Several studies have shown that expectant mothers are at risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus
  • CDC data show just 33.5% of pregnant women have received the Covid vaccine 


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week it has launched a study looking at the long-term effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy.

The study is part of the NIH’s larger RECOVER initiative to understand why some people still have symptoms months after recovering from the infection as well as how to prevent and treat what is known as ‘long Covid.’

Researchers will recruit 1,500 pregnant patients with COVID-19 and their children and follow them for four years.

It is well-known that expectant mothers are at increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from Covid – but the new study is among the first to examine the effects of the virus following pregnancy.    

The NIH announced it has launched a study of the long-term effects of COVID-19 when contracted during pregnancy and will follow 1,500 pregnant women and their children for four years (file image)

The NIH announced it has launched a study of the long-term effects of COVID-19 when contracted during pregnancy and will follow 1,500 pregnant women and their children for four years (file image)

According to a press release, some of the participants will be enrolled from an earlier NIH study looking at severe COVID-19 in pregnancy.

The women will be a mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients who give birth  at 36 Maternal-Fetal Medicine Network hospitals, part of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Researchers will study what percentage of pregnant women are at risk of long Covid and how this compares with non-pregnant women who develop the condition. 

Long Covid appears in patients that have recovered from the virus and continue exhibiting symptoms for weeks, or potentially months or years, after clearing the infection.

There are a wide-array of symptoms that can appear, including continued loss of taste and smell, long-term fatigue and long-term sensory issues.

Several studies have shown that expectant mothers are at risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus, but CDC data show just 33.5% of all pregnant women (yellow line) have received the Covid vaccine

Several studies have shown that expectant mothers are at risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus, but CDC data show just 33.5% of all pregnant women (yellow line) have received the Covid vaccine

The team hopes the findings will lead to recommendations of how to reduce the risk of long Covid during pregnancy and and of how to treat symptoms. 

As of October 30, the latest day for which data is available, only 35.1 percent of pregnant people have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is despite several studies finding that expecting mothers are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to the general population.

And, once they do fall ill with the virus, they are more likely to develop severe cases or die from it.

One study from the University of Washington in Seattle found pregnant women infected with Covid were 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with complications and nearly 14 times more likely to die than younger Americans.

Expectant mothers who have COVID-19 also more likely to experience complications with their pregnancies.

Another study from the University of Oxford in the UK, found mothers-to-be had a 76 percent higher risk of developing preeclampsia – a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure – and 59 percent more likely to give birth prematurely.

And a study from the from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, also found babies born to symptomatic mothers were more likely to need respiratory support or be admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

In September, the CDC encouraged pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after previously saying pregnant women were just ‘eligible.’ 

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