Pregnant Women Should Be Prioritized In COVID-19 Research, Experts Say
Local experts say there needs to be more research on the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women.
Cleveland researchers wrote a recent paper expressing concerns about the lack of studies focused on this population.
“COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and it’s been around for months now, and while data is emerging now, it’s lagging,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Ruth Farrell, who co-authored the article. “It’s important to have data about pregnant women."
Farrell serves as the vice chair of research in the OB/GYN & Women’s Health Institute at the clinic. She said questions remain unanswered about how pregnant women’s bodies will respond to the coronavirus as well as to potential vaccines and treatments. That’s because, she said, there hasn’t been much research about this population, and studies have not had a large number of pregnant participants.
“This is a serious and quickly evolving pandemic, and if we don’t get women in those studies, we’re truly going to cause harms in the long run, because we won’t know how to treat them as a scientifically complex population,” she said.
Farrell also said researchers need to do more to safely include pregnant women in clinical trials.
“It’s about having more studies specific to pregnant women, but also for those existing studies, making allowances so that pregnant women can participate, as they can participate in other trials,” she said.
Farrell said ethical problems could arise as well if pregnant women aren’t included in clinical trials.
“If the trial excludes her, or doesn’t make allowances to include her, then she can’t be a part of those studies,” she said. “I think that there are ethical harms by saying a woman, because she’s pregnant, suddenly doesn’t have access to trials or the ability to make decisions about trials that may affect her baby, as she would if she weren’t pregnant.”
She said ethical measures should include having proper regulatory standards in place and a robust informed consent process.
Farrell’s work was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Ethics & Human Research. Dr. Marsha Michie, an assistant professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University and Dr. Rachel Pope, an obstetrician-gynecologist at University Hospitals, also contributed to the article.