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NIH to study long-term effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy

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Effort will follow up to 1,500 pregnant patients with COVID-19 and their offspring for four years

The National Institutes of Health will support a four-year follow-up study on the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on women infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy. The study will also follow their offspring for any potential long-term effects.

The effort is part of NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative(link is external), which aims to understand why some individuals who have had COVID-19 don’t fully recover or develop symptoms after recovery. Known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), or more commonly as Long COVID, these conditions affect all ages. Long-term effects include fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, sleep disorders, fevers, anxiety and depression.

The current study will enroll some participants from an earlier study by the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network, a 36-site research collaboration supported by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Participants will be recruited from roughly 4,100 patients with asymptomatic and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy who gave birth at MFMU Network hospitals. The research teams will assess patient symptoms periodically during the four-year period and evaluate their offspring for neurologic symptoms and cardiovascular conditions.

Researchers led by Torri Metz, M.D., of the University of Utah School of Medicine, will seek to understand what proportion of patients with COVID-19 in pregnancy are at risk for Long COVID, whether the severity of COVID-19 in pregnancy influences the likelihood of developing Long COVID, and how the proportion of patients who develop PASC after COVID-19 in pregnancy compares to that of non-pregnant women who develop PASC. Researchers hope the study findings will inform efforts to reduce the risk of Long COVID after pregnancy and to treat its symptoms.

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