Coronavirus can destroy the placenta and lead to stillbirths

Feb 10, 2022, 12:04 PM | Updated: 12:53 pm
This microscope image provided by the College of American Pathologists and Archives of Pathology an...

This microscope image provided by the College of American Pathologists and Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine shows placental cells from a stillbirth with SARS-CoV-2 infection indicated by the darker stains. Research published on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022 suggests the coronavirus can invade and destroy the placenta in a deadly process that may be a major cause of stillbirths in infected pregnant women. (College of American Pathologists, Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine via AP)

(College of American Pathologists, Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine via AP)

New research suggests the coronavirus can invade and destroy the placenta and lead to stillbirths in infected women.

It’s an uncommon outcome for any pregnancy but women with COVID-19 face an elevated risk. Authorities believe vaccination can help prevent these cases.

Researchers in 12 countries, including the United States, analyzed placental and autopsy tissue from 64 stillbirths and four newborns who died shortly after birth. The cases all involved unvaccinated women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancy.

The study bolsters evidence from small case reports and it confirms that placenta damage rather than an infection of the fetus is the likely cause of many COVID-19-related stillbirths, said Dr. Jeffery Goldstein, a pathologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

He was not involved in the study, which was published Thursday in Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.

Previous evidence suggests the chances of stillbirth are higher than usual for pregnant women with COVID-19, particularly from the delta variant. Vaccination recommendations include pregnant women and note their higher risk for complications when infected.

Lead author Dr. David Schwartz, an Atlanta pathologist, said other infections can infiltrate the placenta and cause stillbirth, typically by infecting and damaging the fetus. A recent example is Zika virus.

He and his colleagues wanted to see if that was the case with stillbirths in women with COVID-19. But what they found was almost the opposite: it was the placenta that was infected and extensively destroyed.

“Many of these cases had over 90% of the placenta destroyed — very scary,” said Schwartz.

Normal placenta tissue is a healthy reddish hue and spongy. The specimens they studied were stiff, with dark discolorations of dead tissue. While other infections can sometimes damage the placenta, Schwartz said he’d never seen them cause such consistent, extensive destruction.

The placenta is an organ that forms and attaches to the womb during pregnancy. It connects with the umbilical cord, providing oxygen and nourishment from the mother’s bloodstream.

The virus likely reached the placenta through the bloodstream, attaching to susceptible cells and causing protein deposits and an unusual form of inflammation that blocked blood flow and oxygen. That in turn led to placenta tissue death and suffocation, the researchers said.

Coronavirus was also detected in some of the fetuses, but evidence of suffocation in the womb points to placenta damage as the more likely cause of death, they said.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in November found that among pregnant U.S. women infected with COVID-19, about 1 in 80 deliveries was a stillbirth — the loss of a fetus anytime after 20 weeks. That’s compared with 1 in 155 among uninfected women.

The study stillbirths occurred on average at 30 weeks; normal pregnancies last about 40 weeks.

High blood pressure, certain chronic illnesses and fetal abnormalities are among conditions that can increase chances for stillbirths, including in women with COVID-19.

It is unclear whether omicron infections also increase chances for stillbirths; the study was done before that highly infectious variant emerged.

___

Follow AP Medical Writer at @LindseyTanner.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - People walk outside the U.S Capitol building in Washington, June 9, 2022. The biggest invest...
Associated Press

In Biden’s big bill: Climate, health care, deficit reduction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change. A hard-fought cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors in the Medicare program. A new corporate minimum tax to ensure big businesses pay their share. And billions left over to pay down federal deficits. All told, the Democrats’ “Inflation Reduction […]
23 hours ago
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, A...
Associated Press

House Dems set to overcome GOP for climate, health care win

WASHINGTON (AP) — A flagship Democratic economic bill perched on the edge of House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on the brink of a back-from-the-dead triumph on his climate, health and tax goals that could energize his party ahead of November’s elections. Democrats were poised to muscle the measure through the narrowly divided House […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsy...
Associated Press

Fetterman plans ‘raw’ remarks in return to PA Senate race

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman is expected to open up about his personal health challenges as he officially returns to the campaign trail Friday, more than 90 days after the Democrat suffered a stroke that threatened his life and political prospects in one of the nation’s premier Senate contests. Fetterman will […]
23 hours ago
Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, center in blue mask, and other lawmakers participate in a prote...
Associated Press

At 75, India’s democracy is under pressure like never before

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Aug. 5 demonstrations by India’s main opposition Congress party against soaring food prices and unemployment began like any other recent protest — an electorally weak opposition taking to the New Delhi streets against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s massively popular government. The protests, however, quickly took a turn when key Congress […]
23 hours ago
A Clinton County employee helps direct traffic as an Ohio State Highway Patrol vehicle leaves the s...
Associated Press

Suspect who tried to breach FBI office dies in standoff

WILMINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities are investigating the motives of an armed man who they say tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office, fled and died hours later in a rural standoff with law enforcement, a case unfolding as the FBI warns agents to take extra precautions amid increased social media threats to its employees […]
23 hours ago
A long line of voters wraps around the Sedgwick County Historic Courthouse in Wichita, Kan., on the...
Associated Press

Kansas abortion vote shows limits of GOP’s strength

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An increase in turnout among Democrats and independents and a notable shift in Republican-leaning counties contributed to the overwhelming support of abortion rights last week in traditionally conservative Kansas, according to a detailed Associated Press analysis of the voting results. A proposed state constitutional amendment would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Coronavirus can destroy the placenta and lead to stillbirths