Expectant mothers are being urged to get vaccinated after a new study outlined evidence of a link between coronavirus and complications during pregnancy.
Research has been published as part of a COPS (Covid-19 in Pregnancy) study, which provides population-based information on the incidence and outcomes of Covid infection and vaccination in pregnancy.
It found that women who have the virus towards the end of their pregnancy are more vulnerable to birth-related complications.
The study also indicates that the majority of complications, including Covid-related critical care admissions, occurred in unvaccinated women.
Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Nicola Steedman outlined the importance for pregnant women to get the vaccine “as soon as possible”.
“The findings of this new study showing that preterm births, stillbirths and new-born deaths are more common among women who have the virus 28 days, or less, before their delivery date are very concerning,” she said.
“This adds to recent data in Scotland that indicates almost all (98%) of pregnant women admitted to intensive care units with coronavirus with symptoms were unvaccinated.
“The Covid-19 vaccine is strongly recommended during pregnancy – it is the best way to protect pregnant women and their babies against these risks.
“The vaccine can be given at any stage during pregnancy and it is important that pregnant women get it as soon as possible.”
Professor Steedman urged pregnant women and those considering pregnancy to look at the information that is available on NHS Inform, as well as speaking to their clinician if they have any further questions.
She said: “Previous data reported by Public Health Scotland, The Scottish Intensive Care Society Audit Group (SIGSAG), UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) and MBRRACE led to updated JCVI advice to prioritise pregnant women for vaccination recognising the increased vulnerability they have to severe illness should they get infected.
“I would urge all expectant mothers to have a first, second or booster vaccine dose as appropriate in order to better protect yourself and your baby.
“As the advice has strengthened our chief medical officer wrote to all NHS chief executives and medical directors underlining the importance of promoting vaccination in pregnancy and again in December following the change in JCVI advice underlining the importance of promoting vaccination in pregnancy and encouraging them to provide vaccine advice in antenatal settings.
“Pregnant women and those considering pregnancy who want more information should look at the wealth of information on NHS Inform and should speak to their clinician if they have any further questions.”
Scotland’s public health minister Maree Todd said it remains a key priority to ensure that all pregnant women have the most up-to-date information on vaccination as possible.
“These worrying findings highlight how important it is for pregnant women or those thinking of getting pregnant to have access to trusted information on the risks of Covid-19 during pregnancy and how they can get vaccinated to protect themselves and their baby,” she said.
“It remains a key priority to ensure all pregnant women are armed with the most up-to-date information.
“As such Public Health Scotland have developed a leaflet setting out important information about the Covid-19 vaccination and pregnancy, including information on fertility and breastfeeding.
“All health boards have copies of this leaflet to distribute to pregnant women in their care, in addition to the information on Public Health Scotland’s website and information from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.”
Todd explained that bespoke vaccination teams are also present in many maternity units to provide on the spot vaccination.
“Our health professionals across the country have access to learning resources about COVID vaccination in pregnancy which are continually reviewed and updated,” she said.
“We also have bespoke vaccination teams present in many maternity units to provide on the spot vaccination.
“Since July, we have delivered marketing campaigns via post, radio, TV and online, addressing vaccine hesitant audiences with messaging for pregnant women with further media activity planned to address the low uptake of the vaccine amongst pregnant women.
“Pregnant women or those thinking of getting pregnant can attend a local drop-in clinic, book an appointment via the online portal or by phoning 0800 030 8013.
“If you have any questions about the risks and benefits of vaccination you should discuss these with your clinician.”