Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection among obstetric patients in Ottawa, Canada: a descriptive study

CMAJ Open. 2022 Jul 12;10(3):E643-E651. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20210228. Print 2022 Jul-Sep.


Background: There is limited information on the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in obstetric settings in Canada, beyond the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (February to June 2020). We sought to describe the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnant people admitted to triage units at a tertiary care hospital in Ottawa, Canada.

Methods: We conducted a descriptive study of pregnant people admitted to obstetric triage assessment units at The Ottawa Hospital between Oct. 19 and Nov. 27, 2020 (second local wave of the COVID-19 pandemic). Participants underwent SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (via naso- or oropharyngeal swabs) and serology testing upon admission. We excluded individuals younger than 18 years, those who did not speak English or French, those who enrolled in conflicting studies, those admitted for pregnancy termination and those triaged between 11:31 pm and 7:29 am. Swab and serology samples were analyzed using digital droplet PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, respectively. We defined SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity as a positive result for immunoglobulin (Ig) G, either alone or in combination with IgM or IgA.

Results: Of the 632 eligible patients, 363 (57.4%) consented to participation and 362 collectively provided 284 swab and 352 blood samples eligible for analysis. Common reasons for declining participation included feeling overwhelmed or anxious, being worried about repercussions of testing, pain or discomfort with testing or disinterest in research. Participants were mostly multiparous (53.9%) and in their third trimester upon admission (88.4%). In all, 18 (4.9%) participants had evidence of SARS-CoV-2 exposure; 2 (0.7%) of 284 were positive for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR and 16 (4.5%) of 352 were positive for IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.

Interpretation: During the second local wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of active SARS-CoV-2 infection among obstetric patients in Ottawa was 0.7% and seroprevalence was 4.5%. Our low participation rate highlights the need for improvements in patient education and public health messaging on the benefits of SARS-CoV-2 testing programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Pandemics
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G