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SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has a variant called Omicron.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has a variant called Omicron. It is the most recent variant as of December 2021. It was initially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24, 2021, by South Africa. The WHO identified it as a variant of concern on November 26, 2021, and named it “Omicron,”. The Omicron variant features an exceptionally large number of mutations, many of which are unique, and many of which disrupt the spike protein targeted by most COVID-19 vaccines at the time of discovery. Despite initial findings showing that the variant caused less serious disease than earlier strains 1,2, this amount of diversity has raised worries about its transmissibility, immune system evasion, and vaccine resistance.
The arrival of Omicron from South Africa has caused concern in several countries, including India. Passengers from South Africa and other neighbouring countries have been barred from entering over 20 countries. While cases continue to rise around the world, researchers are concerned about the severity and velocity of transmission of the new variety, and pregnant women are one of the groups that remains particularly sensitive to virulent virus Covid-19 strains.
Omicron in pregnancy
New research on SARS-Cov-2 has revealed more information on its influence on specific segments of the population, even as researchers throughout the world focus on the Omicron variety of Covid-19. Pregnant women with Covid-19 are more likely than those without the infection to suffer difficulties during pregnancy and birth, according to a research study.
Physicians and academics have been examining the influence of the Covid-19 virus and its mutations on pregnancy since the virus’s debut in 2019.
The delta variant, for example, has been associated to an increased risk of problems and stillbirths in pregnant women. With the development of more mutations, let’s take a look at what we know about omicron mutation impact on pregnancy so far3.
Omicron impact pregnancy: current state of knowledge
According to the World Health Organization, it is still unclear if Omicron infection produces more severe disease than infections caused by other variants, such as Delta. There is currently no evidence that the symptoms associated with Omicron are distinct from those associated with other variations. Previous variations, such as Delta, did, however, offer a larger risk to pregnant women. In the United States, pregnant women infected with Covid-19 have been found to have a four-fold increased risk of stillbirth compared to uninfected women. While researchers work to determine the severity and transmissibility of the novel variety, preliminary evidence suggests that there may be a higher chance of Omicron reinfection. However, information remained scarce, particularly about Omicron’s influence on vulnerable communities.
Complications in pregnant women: Preeclampsia is a pregnancy condition marked by high blood pressure and symptoms of organ damage, whereas eclampsia is the beginning of seizures or coma in a pregnant woman who already has preeclampsia. Infected mothers were also more likely to have gestational hypertension, haemorrhage before or after birth, very early spontaneous or induced birth, and caesarean section. Pregnancy terminations, stillbirths, gestational diabetes, placenta Previa, placental abruption, and blood clots have all been associated to Covid-19 in studies. Therefore this mutation may cause almost same degree of damages to the pregnant women like earlier mutations did.
Higher Risk of premature delivery: Covid-19 infections in pregnancy may raise the risk of premature delivery, the baby’s weight may be less than 2.5 kg, and in rare cases, the baby may die before birth, according to a report by India’s Union Health Ministry. Pregnant women, those over 35 years old, those who are obese, those who have a pre-existing illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and those who have a history of clotting in the limbs are at a higher risk of problems following Covid-19 infection, including the omicron variant 4.
Higher risk of stillbirth: This is not the first time that the Covid-19 has been linked to complications in pregnancy. According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA, Pregnant women with Covid-19 face increased chances for stillbirths compared with uninfected women, and that risk spiked to four times higher after the delta variant emerged. The data was based on the examination of 1.2 million deliveries in 736 hospitals across the US from March 2020 through September 20215.
Other risks associated with pregnant women
One of the most important things scientists have discovered about Covid is that it is not only a lung illness, but also a blood vessel disease. Covid can cause blood clots and constrictions in our arteries and veins, making it difficult for our heart to supply oxygen to our bodies. Because a growing baby need oxygen and nutrients, blood circulation is even more critical during pregnancy. As a result, it’s thought that Covid raises the risk of a variety of painful consequences, including pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth, and stillbirth. According to preliminary Swedish study, the condition also causes respiratory distress syndrome in neonates. It’s possible that the child will face additional risks in the future that we are unaware of.
Risks of the vaccines during pregnancy
There is a wealth of data proving that the immunizations are safe and effective for pregnant women. The results of studies that investigated this data came to the same conclusion. Vaccines have not been connected to any safety issues during pregnancy. Women who are vaccinated while pregnant have no increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, low infant birth weight, or congenital abnormalities, according to studies. While immunizations may have long-term impacts that we haven’t seen yet, the same can be said about Covid’s hazards to the foetus. It is risk-free because none of them use a live, active virus. The code for only one of Covid’s proteins, the spike protein, is found in most vaccinations.
Hence vaccination of COVID 19 is safe for pregnant women although data on the Omicron variant still lacking.
|Dr Arti Shukla MBBS, MD (Obs & Gyn)
Brinda Maternity& Surgical Centre, Co-operative Colony, Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand.