UCSF study: COVID symptoms in pregnant women can last longer

A new study from UCSF found pregnant women who test positive for the coronavirus can have symptoms last longer than those who aren’t pregnant. The study found a quarter of pregnant participants had symptoms last for eight weeks.

“It’s part of 2020 right?” said Karla Avila of San Francisco. “It was one shock after the other.”

35-year-old Karla Avila experienced tightness in her chest and a sore throat back in July. The mother of two was diagnosed with Covid-19, unknown how she contracted it. Three days later, during an x-ray, she found out she was 10 weeks pregnant. 

“It was not just a shocker, but it was actually really stressful really scary, extremely scary,” said Avila.

Her symptoms were similar to a sinus cold but much worse. She didn’t fully recover until three weeks later.

Avila is one of 594 pregnant women, who had Covid, taking part in a national study that started in March led by UCSF and UCLA. Dr. Vanessa Jacoby from UCSF helped author the study noting very little is known.

“There were only a couple of studies in China of women who were infected during pregnancy but it didn’t give us information that we urgently needed,” said Dr. Jacoby.

Among the findings to date was that the most common first symptom for pregnant participants was a cough. Twenty percent had a cough, 16 percent had a sore throat and 12 percent had body aches.

“Don’t wait for a fever to think you have Covid-19 and call your health care provider to get tested, you really should be looking for cough, sore throat,” said Dr. Jacoby.

Another discovery was 50 percent of the participants had symptoms for three weeks and 25 percent had symptoms lasting eight weeks or more.

Dr. Jacoby said pregnant women have a suppressed immune system making them more susceptible for infection.

“We see this all the time with the seasonal flu so pregnant people who get the flu tend to have a more severe course if you are not pregnant,” said Dr. Jacoby.

Dr. Jacoby said some women can take over-the-counter medication. They should talk to their health care provider.

As for Avila, a recent ultrasound shows her baby boy is healthy due February 14.

“That was my fear that the virus would do something to the fetus, thankfully everything looks good enough to calm me, calm my nerves,” said Avila.

Another recent UCSF study found most infants were well even when moms were infected by Covid-19. Out of 179 babies born to mothers with the virus, only two babies tested positive.