How does COVID-19 affect the placenta?

June 1, 2020  21:30

COVID-19 can damage the placenta, the American Journal of Clinical Pathology reported referring to a new study.

Although the injuries found did not affect the health of the children, the authors warn that such injuries could potentially disrupt the course of pregnancy.

The placenta is a temporary organ that connects the developing fetus with the uterus of a pregnant woman. Thanks to this organ, the fetus receives nutrients and oxygen, and it is involved in the excretion of metabolic products of the fetus, the regulation of its temperature, and protection against pathogens. Many viruses and bacteria are not able to cross the placenta, and in the vast majority of known cases, the COVID-19 was not transmitted from mother to child.

Scientists examined the placenta of 16 women who were diagnosed with COVID-19, immediately after birth. As it turned out, the infection can play a role in impaired blood flow between the mother and the fetus. The authors of the study do not rule out that this may be the cause of complications.

"Not to paint a scary picture, but these findings worry me," said Northwestern Medicine obstetrician Dr. Emily Miller, coauthor of the study published Friday in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, in a statement.

"I don't want to draw sweeping conclusions from a small study, but this preliminary glimpse into how Covid-19 might cause changes in the placenta carries some pretty significant implications for the health of a pregnancy," CNN reported quoting the obstetrician.

Scientists also found abnormal blood vessels and intervillous blood clots in the placenta of patients with COVID-19.

The newborns were "healthy, full-term, beautifully normal babies," Miller said, although blood flow was blocked, and "many of the placentas were smaller than they should have been."

However, placentas are built with an "enormous amount of redundancy," Miller added.

"Even with only half of it working, babies are often completely fine." 

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