Coronavirus Chronicles — Another Set of Specialized Victims

In terms of reproductive news, February of 2021 was a bad month. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy published an article titled “Pregnancy tied to estimated 70% higher COVID-19 rate.” What does that mean exactly? Journalist Mary Van Beusekom reported that…

[…] population-based estimates of coronavirus infections in pregnancy are unreliable due to incomplete recording of pregnancy status or inclusion of only hospitalized patients.

Still, it appeared that in the state of Washington, pregnant women “were infected with COVID-19 at a 70% higher rate than others of similar ages,” and it was becoming more obvious that pregnancy combined with coronavirus is a recipe for severe illness and maternal mortality.

Another significant factor is that most of these expectant mothers were non-white. Since this group includes many women classified demographically as Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, a great many of them prefer to receive care in non-English languages. It is easy to empathize with the importance of that, in medical settings where stress is high and people are masked.

In spite of the difficulties with acquiring and collating data from many different sources, a University of Washington research team assembled numbers that pleased no one and spurred discussion of the importance of prioritizing vaccination in pregnant patients. Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D., one of the study’s co-authors, told the press that pregnant women were being ignored when it came to the plans for vaccine prioritization. She said,

Many states are not even linking their COVID-19 vaccine allocation plans with the high-risk medical conditions listed by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] — which include pregnancy.

Why are pregnant women so likely to catch the virus? Nobody quite understood, but some contributing factors are “exposures from children in daycare, their role as a caregiver within an extended family, residence in larger households.” Also, lead author Erica Lokken, Ph.D., had a suspicion:

Higher infection rates in pregnant patients may be due to the overrepresentation of women in many professions and industries considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic — including healthcare, education, service sectors…

Another journalist, Kellee Azar, also wrote about this trend of pregnant women with higher infection rates than others in their age group. Part of the problem is that they are likely to have additional medical issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and, of course, weight gain — that do not mix well with COVID-19.

Obstetrics and gynecology professor Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf said that one out of 10 pregnant women suffering from the virus were being hospitalized. Aside from the possibility of maternal mortality, pre-term birth is another potential result.

This is bad news for already existing children, too, because many of them have mothers who are likely to become pregnant again, and when those mothers and new babies are ensnared in illness and hospitalization, it poses tremendous problems for whole families in terms of child care, finances, and even the prospect of children being orphaned.

All of this creates another set of knock-on or sequential problems stemming from the COVID infection. Children in families disrupted in these ways are likely to experience many of the conditions and difficulties that are known to exacerbate childhood obesity, thus supplying another group of prospective victims for the virus that has already demonstrated its affinity for body fat.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Pregnancy tied to estimated 70% higher COVID-19 rate,”, 02/17/21
Source: “Pregnant women should be considered high risk for COVID-19, study finds,”, 02/19/21
Image by Andrew Seaman/CC BY-ND 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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