Outcome of coronavirus spectrum infections (SARS, MERS, COVID-19) during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2020 May;2(2):100107. doi: 10.1016/j.ajogmf.2020.100107. Epub 2020 Mar 25.


Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to report pregnancy and perinatal outcomes of coronavirus spectrum infections, and particularly coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) disease because of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 infection during pregnancy.

Data sources: Medline, Embase, Cinahl, and Clinicaltrials.gov databases were searched electronically utilizing combinations of word variants for coronavirus or severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS or Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS or COVID-19 and pregnancy. The search and selection criteria were restricted to English language.

Study eligibility criteria: Inclusion criteria were hospitalized pregnant women with a confirmed coronavirus related-illness, defined as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), or COVID-19.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods: We used meta-analyses of proportions to combine data and reported pooled proportions, so that a pooled proportion may not coincide with the actual raw proportion in the results. The pregnancy outcomes observed included miscarriage, preterm birth, preeclampsia, preterm prelabor rupture of membranes, fetal growth restriction, and mode of delivery. The perinatal outcomes observed were fetal distress, Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes, neonatal asphyxia, admission to a neonatal intensive care unit, perinatal death, and evidence of vertical transmission.

Results: Nineteen studies including 79 hospitalized women were eligible for this systematic review: 41 pregnancies (51.9%) affected by COVID-19, 12 (15.2%) by MERS, and 26 (32.9%) by SARS. An overt diagnosis of pneumonia was made in 91.8%, and the most common symptoms were fever (82.6%), cough (57.1%), and dyspnea (27.0%). For all coronavirus infections, the pooled proportion of miscarriage was 64.7% (8/12; 95% confidence interval, 37.9-87.3), although reported only for women affected by SARS in two studies with no control group; the pooled proportion of preterm birth <37 weeks was 24.3% (14/56; 95% confidence interval, 12.5-38.6); premature prelabor rupture of membranes occurred in 20.7% (6/34; 95% confidence interval, 9.5-34.9), preeclampsia in 16.2% (2/19; 95% confidence interval, 4.2-34.1), and fetal growth restriction in 11.7% (2/29; 95% confidence interval, 3.2-24.4), although reported only for women affected by SARS; 84% (50/58) were delivered by cesarean; the pooled proportion of perinatal death was 11.1% (5/60; 95% confidence interval, 84.8-19.6), and 57.2% of newborns (3/12; 95% confidence interval, 3.6-99.8) were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. When focusing on COVID-19, the most common adverse pregnancy outcome was preterm birth <37 weeks, occurring in 41.1% of cases (14/32; 95% confidence interval, 25.6-57.6), while the pooled proportion of perinatal death was 7.0% (2/41; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-16.3). None of the 41 newborns assessed showed clinical signs of vertical transmission.

Conclusion: In hospitalized mothers infected with coronavirus infections, including COVID-19, >90% of whom also had pneumonia, preterm birth is the most common adverse pregnancy outcome. COVID-19 infection was associated with higher rate (and pooled proportions) of preterm birth, preeclampsia, cesarean, and perinatal death. There have been no published cases of clinical evidence of vertical transmission. Evidence is accumulating rapidly, so these data may need to be updated soon. The findings from this study can guide and enhance prenatal counseling of women with COVID-19 infection occurring during pregnancy, although they should be interpreted with caution in view of the very small number of included cases.

Keywords: Middle East respiratory syndrome; coronavirus; coronavirus 2019; infection; pregnancy; severe acute respiratory syndrome; severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus-2.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology*
  • Fetal Membranes, Premature Rupture / epidemiology*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / statistics & numerical data
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus
  • Perinatal Death
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus