Study Shows Damage to Placentas of Pregnant COVID-19 Patients

A new medical study from Northwestern University showed damage to the placenta for 15 pregnant women who tested positive from COVID-19 at Northwestern Medicine’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, showed injury to the placentas after pathology tests were taken right after the mothers had given birth. The findings indicated abnormal blood flow between the mother and baby in utero and blood clots in the placenta.

Co-author of the study and Northwestern Medicine Obstetrician Dr. Emily Miller said the placenta acts as a ventilator for the fetus and if it becomes damaged, there can be dire outcomes. “In this very limited study, these findings provide some signs that the ventilator might not work as well for as long as we’d like it to if the mother tests positive for SARS-CoV2,” or COVID-19.

Senior author of the study and Pathologist at Northwestern Medicine Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein said, that while injury to the placenta doesn’t appear to be inducing negative outcomes in newborn babies, as most of the babies from the study were born full-term and healthy from mothers with the virus, “it does validate the idea that women with COVID should be monitored more closely.”

Dr. Miller suggests monitoring the women through stress tests, to examine the oxygen flow of the placenta. She also suggested growth ultrasounds, which measure if the baby is growing at a healthy rate.

Before the pandemic reached Chicago in February, doctors at Northwestern had begun studying how this “flu-like epidemic” would affect the placenta. So they were prepared to examine pregnant women when the virus showed up in their city. 

The Realist Woman’s take:

Throughout this pandemic, I have seen news reports of women who had contracted COVID-19 give birth to healthy babies. But I knew there was no way a pregnant woman could experience this virus without it having some sort of negative effect on her body.

This study shows precisely where injury from COVID-19 has occurred in the body of a pregnant woman. The placenta is the lifeline between mother and child and what we learn from this report is that COVID-19 compromises the blood flow in the placenta and produces blood clots. That’s scary. But the information is helpful because currently, we are a long way from no longer living in a world without this virus, and doctors now know where and how to monitor pregnant women who have the virus.

The study helps doctors treating pregnant women with the virus