COVID-19 zaps placentas immune response, study finds: This damage occurs even if the mother has a mild case of COVID-19, researchers found

If a woman contracts COVID-19 during her pregnancy, the infection, even if it’s mild, damages the placenta’s immune response to further infections, a UW Medicine-led study has found.

The studywas published Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“This is the largest study to date of placentas from women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancies,” said Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, senior author and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We were surprised to find that women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancies had placentas with an impaired immune response to new infection.”

This finding, Adams Waldorf added, “was the tip of the iceberg” in how COVID-19 might affect fetal or placental development.

Early in the pandemic, many thought that COVID-19 did not appear to harm the developing fetus because there were so few babies born with COVID-19 infection, she noted.

“But what we’re seeing now is that the placenta is vulnerable to COVID-19, and the infection changes the way the placenta works, and that in turn is likely to impact the development of the fetus,” Adams Waldorf said.

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