Covid-19 infection led to 68 women who were pregnant or had recently given birth being admitted to intensive care during the pandemic.

Some were treated in intensive care for more than two and a half months, according to a new report.

They included 47 pregnant women and another 21 women who had given birth less than six weeks previously.

They were in intensive care for between one to 76 days with the median length of stay at seven days, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The majority of admissions (60) occurred in 2021. There have been no admissions among this group since February last year, mainly thanks to the “positive impact” of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

One woman was in the first trimester of her pregnancy, 14 were in the second trimester, and 23 were in the third trimester. For nine cases, the trimester of pregnancy was unknown.

Others in this group received advanced respiratory support outside of intensive care and are not included in the data.

The median age was 32 and a half years with an age range of 15 to 44 years.

During their time in intensive care, 43pc received invasive ventilatory support, where air is delivered through a tube that is inserted into the windpipe through the mouth or nose.

A further 24pc received non-invasive ventilatory support involving a sealed mask placed over the mouth, nose or whole face.

Four of the cases received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) involving a life support machine which replaces the function of the heart and lungs. All 68 of the women were discharged to a ward or high-dependency unit following their admission to intensive care and no deaths were reported.

Of the 35 women or 51pc who were reported to have an underlying medical condition, nine had diabetes mellitus, including gestational diabetes.

Another six had chronic respiratory disease, including asthma.

The report in Epi Insight points out that when the Covid-19 vaccination programme commenced in late December 2020, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) recommended the administration of vaccines in pregnancy should only be considered when potential benefits outweighed any potential risks to the mother and foetus.

“Pregnant women at high risk of severe disease and/or who were healthcare workers were advised to speak to their obstetrician or GP to discuss the risks and benefits of Covid-19 vaccination,” the report says.

“On April 26, 2021 Niac recommended that pregnant women should be offered mRNA Covid-19 vaccination between 14 and 36 weeks of gestation following an individual benefit and risk discussion with their obstetric caregiver.

“On August 30, 2021, it recommended that all pregnant women should be offered mRNA Covid-19 vaccination at any stage of pregnancy following an individual benefit/risk discussion with their obstetric caregiver.

“The most up-to-date Niac guidelines recommend that unvaccinated pregnant women should get two doses of mRNA vaccine 28 days apart at any stage during pregnancy.

“An additional booster dose is recommended after 16 weeks gestation.”

The report said that between January 1 and August 31, 2021 – prior to the Niac recommendation that all pregnant women be offered vaccination – 35 pregnant women and a number who had recently given birth were admitted to ICU.

“All cases were reported as either not having received a vac cine or were not registered as vaccinated.”

Since September 1, 2021, when all pregnant and post-partum women became eligible for vaccination, 28 women were admitted to ICU who were pregnant or less than six weeks post-partum. Of these, 23 or 82pc were reported as not having had the Covid-19 vaccine.

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