A worldwide study of 2,100 pregnant women shows that those who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy were 20 times more likely to die than those who did not contract the virus, according to a new study led by UW Medicine and University of Oxford doctors.

The study, published Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 nations from all economic levels between April and August 2020. 

“The No. 1 take-away from the research is that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19, but if they get it, they are more likely to become very ill and more likely to require ICU care, ventilation, or experience preterm birth and preeclampsia,” said Dr. Michael Gravett, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and one of study’s lead authors.

In addition to an increased risk of death, women and their newborns were also more likely to experience preterm birth, preeclampsia, intubation and admission to the ICU, UW Medicine reported on its website. The risk for severe disease was greatest for those with obesity, hypertension or diabetes, the findings showed.

Of the babies born to infected mothers, 11% tested positive for coronavirus. Infections transmitted to babies does not seem connected to breastfeeding but could be related to delivery by Caesarean section, the study indicates.

Gravett advised pregnant women to talk to their health care providers, keep wearing masks and “please get vaccinated.”