Study by new research group looks at 16 women in S'pore infected by Covid-19 while pregnant

SINGAPORE – When auxiliary police officer Nurshila Zainal tested positive for Covid-19, it was more than just her life on the line, as at the time, she was 25 weeks pregnant.

“All six of my other family members had already tested positive, so before I tested positive, I was very anxious ,” she said in an interview on Friday morning (Dec 18).

Thankfully, the 35-year-old mother of two recovered, and her baby daughter, who was born in June, was found to be virus-free. Both mother and daughter subsequently tested positive for antibodies against the disease.

Madam Nurshila is one of 16 women in Singapore who tested positive for Covid-19 while pregnant during the pandemic, and were all part of a recently released 16-patient study on the effect of Covid-19 on pregnant women.

The Singapore Obstetrics Research Network (Sorn), which was established in July this year, conducted the study.

The study, published by the medical journal Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore on Thursday night, found no evidence of transmission from mother to baby, and also that pregnant women were not more severely affected by the virus than the general population.

While the sample size is small, these results mirror similar studies in countries where infection rates are much higher and sample sizes are larger, such as a study conducted in Britain by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

That study, published in May, surveyed 427 pregnant women and found that most pregnant women were not more severely affected by Covid-19, except those in the later stages of pregnancy.

All 16 patients in the Sorn study made a full recovery. Two mothers lost their babies, but only one miscarriage was linked to complications from the disease.

The new research network was formed by Singapore’s three public hospitals which offer maternity services – the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the National University Hospital (NUH).

Sorn aims to improve healthcare provision for reproductive health, and is an extension of the existing collaboration between the hospitals, it said in a statement on Friday announcing its establishment.

Dr Jerry Chan, senior consultant in the department of reproductive health at KKH, said: “Under the SingHealth Duke-NUS obgyn academic clinical programme, KKH and SGH have been exchanging ideas and sharing resources to excel in academic medicine through research education and clinical work.

“With NUH, the network is complete to take research and multi-centre trails to a higher level. Sorn is unified towards improving health outcomes nationally, for women, children and their families.”

He added that Sorn will help the hospitals increase their capacity for research by sharing patient pools, resources and expertise.

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Under Sorn, the three hospitals are working on research into common yet severe obstetrics and gynaecological conditions such as atypical endometrial hyperplasia, which is an overgrowth of abnormal cells which may lead to cancer, and pre-eclampsia, which is high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Madam Nurshila said she was glad she overcame her initial reluctance to be part of the study on Covid-19 and pregnancy.

“I’m so happy to be able to do something for the community by taking part in the study.”

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