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The journal of maternal-fetal & neonatal medicine


OBJECTIVE: COVID-19 has been reported to increase the risk of prematurity, however, due to the frequent absence of unaffected controls as well as inadequate accounting for confounders in many studies, the question requires further investigation. We sought to determine the impact of COVID-19 disease on preterm birth (PTB) overall, as well as related subcategories such as early prematurity, spontaneous, medically indicated preterm birth, and preterm labor (PTL). We assessed the impact of confounders such as COVID-19 risk factors, a-priori risk factors for PTB, symptomatology, and disease severity on rates of prematurity.

METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of pregnant women from March 2020 till October 1st, 2020. The study included patients from 14 obstetric centers in Michigan, USA. Cases were defined as women diagnosed with COVID-19 at any point during their pregnancy. Cases were matched with uninfected women who delivered in the same unit, within 30 d of the delivery of the index case. Outcomes of interest were frequencies of prematurity overall and subcategories of preterm birth (early, spontaneous/medically indicated, preterm labor, and premature preterm rupture of membranes) in cases compared to controls. The impact of modifiers of these outcomes was documented with extensive control for potential confounders. A p value <.05 was used to infer significance.

RESULTS: The rate of prematurity was 8.9% in controls, 9.4% in asymptomatic cases, 26.5% in symptomatic COVID-19 cases, and 58.8% among cases admitted to the ICU. Gestational age at delivery was noted to decrease with disease severity. Cases were at an increased risk of prematurity overall [adjusted relative risk (aRR) = 1.62 (1.2-2.18)] and of early prematurity (<34 weeks) [aRR = 1.8 (1.02-3.16)] when compared to controls. Medically indicated prematurity related to preeclampsia [aRR = 2.46 (1.47-4.12)] or other indications [aRR = 2.32 (1.12-4.79)], were the primary drivers of overall prematurity risk. Symptomatic cases were at an increased risk of preterm labor [aRR = 1.74 (1.04-2.8)] and spontaneous preterm birth due to premature preterm rupture of membranes [aRR = 2.2(1.05-4.55)] when compared to controls and asymptomatic cases combined. The gestational age at delivery followed a dose-response relation with disease severity, as more severe cases tended to deliver earlier (Wilcoxon p < .05).

CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 is an independent risk factor for preterm birth. The increased preterm birth rate in COVID-19 was primarily driven by medically indicated delivery, with preeclampsia as the principal risk factor. Symptomatic status and disease severity were significant drivers of preterm birth.

Medical Subject Headings

Infant, Newborn; Female; Pregnancy; Humans; Premature Birth; Retrospective Studies; Michigan; Pre-Eclampsia; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Obstetric Labor, Premature; Pregnancy Outcome

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