More than half of pregnant women recently admitted to UK hospitals with coronavirus were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background, a new study has found.
The peer-reviewed research, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at data for pregnant women admitted to 194 obstetric units in the UK with a positive Covid-19 infection between March 1 and April 14.
It found that of the 427 pregnant women in hospital during that period, 233 (56%) were from BAME backgrounds, of which 103 were Asian and 90 were black.
The high proportion of pregnant women from BAME groups remained after excluding major urban centres from the analysis.
Researchers, led by Professor Marian Knight from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, said the findings now require “urgent investigation and explanation”.
The high proportion of women from black or minority ethnic groups admitted with infection needs urgent investigation and explanationStudy authors
It comes as a Public Health England report found that people from BAME backgrounds with Covid-19 were at higher risk of death than white British people.
Most of the women in the study, which was based on data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System, were in the late second or third trimester of their pregnancy.
Some 69% were classed as overweight or obese, 41% were aged 35 or over, and a third had pre-existing health conditions.
Five of the women died – including three as a direct result of complications linked to coronavirus – while 41 (10%) needed respiratory support in a critical care unit, the study found.
Twelve of 265 babies born to mothers in the study tested positive for Covid-19 – six of them within 12 hours of being born.
The study said most of the pregnant women had “good outcomes” and the transmission of coronavirus to infants was “uncommon”.
“The high proportion of women from black or minority ethnic groups admitted with infection needs urgent investigation and explanation,” the study said.
The authors said the report was produced at a time when active transmission of coronavirus was still occurring, with about 100 infected pregnant women admitted to hospital in the UK each week.
“We sought to collect national, population-based information on severe SARS-CoV-2 infection, defined as hospital admission, to capture the incidence and outcomes of severe disease in pregnancy,” the authors said.
“This study does not therefore provide any information about overall infection rates or the possibility of asymptomatic infection.”