COVID-19 and pregnancy: A review of clinical characteristics, obstetric outcomes and vertical transmission

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2020 Oct;60(5):640-659. doi: 10.1111/ajo.13204. Epub 2020 Aug 10.


Background: Since its emergence in December 2019, COVID-19 has spread to over 210 countries, with an estimated mortality rate of 3-4%. Little is understood about its effects during pregnancy.

Aims: To describe the current understanding of COVID-19 illness in pregnant women, to describe obstetric outcomes and to identify gaps in the existing knowledge.

Methods: Medline Ovid, EMBASE, World Health Organization COVID-19 research database and Cochrane COVID-19 in pregnancy spreadsheet were accessed on 18/4, 18/5 and 23/5 2020. Articles were screened via Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The following were excluded: reviews, opinion pieces, guidelines, articles pertaining solely to other viruses, single case reports.

Results: Sixty articles were included in this review. Some pregnant participants may have been included in multiple publications, as admission dates overlap for reports from the same hospital. However, a total of 1287 confirmed SARS-CoV-2 positive pregnant cases are reported. Where universal testing was undertaken, asymptomatic infection occurred in 43.5-92% of cases. In the cohort studies, severe and critical COVID-19 illness rates approximated those of the non-pregnant population. Eight maternal deaths, six neonatal deaths, seven stillbirths and five miscarriages were reported. Nineteen neonates were SARS-CoV-2 positive, confirmed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction of nasopharyngeal swabs. [Correction added on 2 September 2020, after first online publication: the number of neonates indicated in the preceding sentence has been corrected from 'Thirteen' to 'Nineteen'.] CONCLUSIONS: Where universal screening was conducted, SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy was often asymptomatic. Severe and critical disease rates approximate those in the general population. Vertical transmission is possible; however, it is unclear whether SARS-CoV-2 positive neonates were infected in utero, intrapartum or postpartum. Future work should assess risks of congenital syndromes and adverse perinatal outcomes where infection occurs in early and mid-pregnancy.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; novel coronavirus; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / trends*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Maternal Mortality / trends
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pandemics / statistics & numerical data
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • World Health Organization
  • Young Adult