Bonus Episode | Trisha's Take on the recent CDC data and NY Times Article: Study Raises Concerns for Pregnant Women With the Coronavirus

July 3, 2020

In this bonus mini-sode, Trisha address the questions and concerns related recent data released by the CDC and published in the New York Times article by Apoora Mandavilli: Study Raises Concerns for Pregnant Women With the Coronavirus. Learn what the new CDC data on COVID-19 really means for pregnant women and whether you need to feel especially concerned just because you're pregnant. Tune in for Trisha's take, and get the details.

New York Times Article: Study Raises Concerns for Pregnant Women With the Coronavirus

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

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Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, its Trisha. I wanted to jump on today for a quick minisode to talk about an article that came out in the new york times this week. It was around COVID-19 and pregnancy, and no doubt if you have seen it, it's created some worry and fear. The opening paragraph of the article reads, pregnant women infected with Coronavirus are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to intensive care and put on a ventilator than are infected women who are not pregnant. Of course, the article also includes an emotionally disturbing picture of a mother wearing a mask and being whisked away in the dark and an ambulance. For any pregnant person who comes across this article before bed. We know that they're not sleeping well that night or any night thereafter. To me, this is a great example of the media doing what it does best selling drama and inciting fear. In fact, I was listening to a podcast today featuring Dr. David Katz. He's someone I believe has a pretty good perspective on the pandemic overall. And he described the media's job as affecting the comforted and comforting the affected. So basically what that means is that if pregnant women are getting too comfortable with the idea that they may not be at higher risk than the average woman their age, which basically that has been what the data and information has showed since early March, then let's be sure to tell a different story, knock them off their feet and affect their comfort level. And no doubt, that's what this article probably did for a lot of pregnant people. So I'm not a data analyst. Data is definitely not my area of expertise. I didn't love statistics. But I do feel compelled to help pregnant mothers understand that this data is limited. Yes, it shows that pregnant women are admitted to the hospital at higher rates than non pregnant women. But if you think about it, that actually makes sense because 99% of pregnant women are going to be admitted to the hospital at some point for labor and delivery and this data did not say separate out women who were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 infections, or women who are admitted to the hospital for labor and delivery. So that leaves it really unclear whether this information actually reflects a true increase in risk of hospitalization for pregnant women or not. So let's look at the actual numbers. The report included information on 8207 pregnant women between the ages of 15 to 44. And compare them with 83,205 women in the same age bracket, who were not pregnant. So that's taking data from two very different sized groups, they have hugely different denominators, a tenfold difference. And again, it's not accounting for the already high rate of hospital admission for pregnant mothers who are going to the hospital to have their baby. So that right there should be a red flag to anybody looking at this data. However, there's still concern over the higher rate of ICU admission and the use of mechanical ventilation in pregnancy. So let's look at what the numbers actually were. Pregnant women were determined to be five times more likely to be admitted to the hospital, which we already addressed is not a very accurate number. They were one and a half times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 1.7 times more likely to require mechanical ventilation. However, there was no indication of a higher rate of death in pregnant women overall of 10,000 women who've been infected with Coronavirus, the death rate at 26 is still very small. Also of note is that in a separate analysis done by another organization, the data showed that the risk of ICU and mechanical ventilation was lower, excuse me the risk of ICU admission and mechanical ventilation was lower among pregnant women compared to non pregnant women. In fact, the CDC that posted this information actually took down the statistics within a few hours of posting it. So clearly there was definite confusion around this data. The conclusion of the New York Times article states, at the very least, pregnant women who test positive for the Coronavirus should be carefully monitored.

Okay, that seems fairly obvious.

Another thing to point out is that pregnant women who are already at higher risk in pregnancy due to obesity, hypertension and gestational diabetes, are potentially at higher risk for admission to the ICU, or the need for mechanical ventilation, because we know that these conditions impact the severity of illness and non pregnant people who get sick with COVID-19. And none of these risk factors were accounted for in the data that suggested that pregnant women have a higher rate of ICU admission, or higher rate of need for mechanical ventilation. So my takeaway from all this information is that pregnant women should continue to be vigilant. Obviously, hand washing is a no brainer. Pregnant women should continue to be socially distanced as much as possible. Yet still maintaining enough social connection and activity to protect their mental well being. That's very important. I recommend finding a few trusted people that you can socially distance with and do activities like walking or meeting at a park, know your circle of people and who they spend time with. Keep it small, create your pod. And in particular, especially the weeks before giving birth, that's a very important time to be extra careful. You don't want to run the risk of getting exposed and testing positive, even if a symptomatically at the time of birth, because that will lead to a whole host of interventions and subsequent challenges that you really don't want to deal with for yourself, your baby and your family. But if you did see this article, or you came across it on social media, or you caught wind of it from a friend, please don't go to sleep at night with an additional burden of fear for your health and well being. Continue to be proactive and educate yourself. Protect yourself. Get your prenatal care via telemedicine. are in person when needed. It can be so difficult to keep things in perspective when all we see is the highlight reel of bad numbers and drama and the worst things that could possibly happen. But remember what I said about the media affecting the comfortable and comfort in the affected. It's really true, and it's really not the truth.

So I hope that was helpful. And please know that we will be here for you as we continue to learn. And thank you for listening. Please share this with a friend if you know it might help them. Until next time.

If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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