Injuries Found in Placentas From COVID-19-Positive Pregnant Women – Suggests Abnormal Blood Flow Between Mothers, Babies

Fetal-Side COVID Impacted Placenta

The fetal side of a placenta from a patient with coronavirus, connected to the umbilical cord. Evidence of the disease process in the placenta is not visible in this photo. Credit: Northwestern University

Findings suggests abnormal blood flow between mothers, babies in utero.

The placentas from 16 women who tested positive for COVID-19 while pregnant showed evidence of injury, according to pathological exams completed directly following birth, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. 

The type of injury seen in the placentas shows abnormal blood flow between the mothers and their babies in utero, pointing to a new complication of COVID-19. The findings, though early, could help inform how pregnant women should be clinically monitored during the pandemic. 

Maternal-Side COVID Impacted Placenta

The maternal side of a placenta from a patient with coronavirus, connected to the umbilical cord. Evidence of the disease process in the placenta is not visible in this photo. Credit: Northwestern University

The study was published today (May 22, 2020) in the journal American Journal of Clinical Pathology. It is the largest study to examine the health of placentas in women who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Most of these babies were delivered full-term after otherwise normal pregnancies, so you wouldn’t expect to find anything wrong with the placentas, but this virus appears to be inducing some injury in the placenta,” said senior author Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, assistant professor of pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine pathologist. “It doesn’t appear to be inducing negative outcomes in live-born infants, based on our limited data, but it does validate the idea that women with COVID should be monitored more closely.”

Reference: “Placental Pathology in COVID-19” by Elisheva D Shanes, MD; Leena B Mithal, MD, MSCI; Sebastian Otero; Hooman A Azad; Emily S Miller, MD, MPH and Jeffery A Goldstein, MD, PhD, 22 May 2020, American Journal of Clinical Pathology.
DOI: 10.1093/ajcp/aqaa089

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