COVID-19 in pregnancy: What we know from the first year of the pandemic

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2021 Dec 1;1867(12):166248. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2021.166248. Epub 2021 Aug 28.


The COVID-19 pandemic has infected nearly 178 million people and claimed the lives of over 3.8 million in less than 15 months. This has prompted a flurry of research studies into the mechanisms and effects of SARS-CoV-2 viral infection in humans. However, studies examining the effects of COVID-19 in pregnant women, their placentae and their babies remain limited. Furthermore, reports of safety and efficacy of vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 in pregnancy are limited. This review concisely summarises the case studies and research on COVID-19 in pregnancy, to date. It also reviews the mechanism of infection with SARS-CoV-2, and its reliance and effects upon the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Overall, the data suggest that infection during pregnancy can be dangerous at any time, but this risk to both the mother and fetus, as well as placental damage, increases during the third trimester. The possibility of vertical transmission, which is explored in this review, remains contentious. However, maternal infection with SARS-CoV-2 can increase risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and stillbirth, which is likely due to damage to the placenta.

Keywords: COVID-19; Placenta; Pregnancy; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / metabolism*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Fetus / immunology*
  • Fetus / virology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Pandemics
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placenta / virology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / virology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification


  • COVID-19 Vaccines