The association of COVID-19 infection in pregnancy with preterm birth: A retrospective cohort study in California

Lancet Reg Health Am. 2021 Oct;2:100027. doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2021.100027. Epub 2021 Jul 30.


Introduction: Our understanding of the association between coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) and preterm or early term birth among racially and ethnically diverse populations and people with chronic medical conditions is limited.

Methods: We determined the association between COVID-19 and preterm (PTB) birth among live births documented by California Vital Statistics birth certificates between July 2020 and January 2021 (n=240,147). We used best obstetric estimate of gestational age to classify births as very preterm (VPTB, <32 weeks), PTB (< 37 weeks), early term (37 and 38 weeks), and term (39-44 weeks), as each confer independent risks to infant health and development. Separately, we calculated the joint effects of COVID-19 diagnosis, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity on PTB and VPTB.

Findings: COVID-19 diagnoses on birth certificates increased for all racial/ethnic groups between July 2020 and January 2021 and were highest for American Indian/Alaska Native (12.9%), Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (11.4%), and Latinx (10.3%) birthing people. COVID-19 diagnosis was associated with an increased risk of VPTB (aRR 1.6, 95% CI [1.4, 1.9]), PTB (aRR 1.4, 95% CI [1.3, 1.4]), and early term birth (aRR 1.1, 95% CI [1.1, 1.2]). There was no effect modification of the overall association by race/ethnicity or insurance status. COVID-19 diagnosis was associated with elevated risk of PTB in people with hypertension, diabetes, and/or obesity.

Interpretation: In a large population-based study, COVID-19 diagnosis increased the risk of VPTB, PTB, and early term birth, particularly among people with medical comorbidities. Considering increased circulation of COVID-19 variants, preventative measures, including vaccination, should be prioritized for birthing persons.

Funding: UCSF-Kaiser Department of Research Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Program (BIRCWH) National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) [K12 HD052163] and the California Preterm Birth Initiative, funded by Marc and Lynn Benioff.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pregnancy; Preterm Birth; Racial/Ethnic Inequities.