NEWS

What to Know About BA.2 and Pregnancy

pregnant woman

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Key Takeaways

  • BA.2 is a sublineage of the Omicron variant and is quickly becoming dominant around the globe
  • BA.2 appears to be more contagious than previous forms of Omicron, but it is not thought to be more severe
  • Although it's unknown at this time how BA.2 impacts pregnant individuals, vaccines are believed to protect against severe infection

Over the past few weeks, BA.2 has become more dominant around the world, outpacing other lineages of Omicron, including BA.1 and BA.1.1. As of March 29th, the CDC estimated that BA.2 made up more than 50% of all COVID infections in the United States.

If you are an expectant parent with concerns about BA.2—a sublineage of the Omicron variant that is currently spreading around the world—you are not alone. COVID infections in pregnant individuals can be serious, and it’s important to be informed about how news like this might affect you and your baby.

There is still a lot we don’t know about BA.2, and studies are ongoing as we attempt to understand this sublineage. But one aspect of BA.2 is clear, explains David Colombo, MD, division chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Spectrum Health; “The new variant of the Omicron COVID-19 virus appears to be more infectious than the previous mutation.”

Other key attributes of BA.2 are similar to other sublineages of Omicron. “Luckily, once a person becomes infected with the BA.2 variant the disease does not appear to be more severe than BA.1,” notes Dr. Colombo. Similarly, the current vaccines we have seem to protect against BA.2 as they did against other versions of Omicron. For example, a preprint of a study on the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine against BA.2 found that protection against hospitalization and death was in the 70-80% range after two doses, and in the 90% range after a booster.

What Are the Risks to Pregnant Individuals and Their Babies?

It’s very good news that preliminary data have found BA.2 doesn’t appear to cause more severe infection than previous versions of Omicron. It’s also good news that vaccines seem to protect against the worst outcomes from the virus. That said, pregnant individuals are at higher risk to begin with, so having a more transmissible variant circulating is something to take seriously.

“Pregnant people are more susceptible to all variants of COVID due to their suppressed immunity,” explains Michael Cackovic, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Cackovic explains that the most dangerous result of severe COVID disease during pregnancy is preterm birth, noting that preterm birth puts your baby at risk for medical issues at birth and health vulnerabilities later in life.

Denise Moses, MD, an OB/GYN at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York City, agrees that pregnancy is a time to be especially vigilant when it comes to COVID. “Pregnancy is considered a high-risk category for severe infection and disease,” she says. In addition to preterm birth, Dr. Moses explains that COVID-19 infections during pregnancy come with an increased risk of ICU admission, a need for mechanical ventilation, and death.

What Symptoms Should You Expect?

Pregnant people who get infected with BA.2, or any COVID variant, will experience many of the same symptoms as non-pregnant individuals, explains Dr. Moses. This may include sore throat, cough, fatigue, fever, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and body aches.

Since you may be more susceptible to severe disease, it’s important to recognize the signs, and be in contact with your healthcare provider. “Pregnant people are at high risk for severe symptoms and should be on the lookout for any difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, loss of speech or mobility, or chest pain,” Dr. Moses warns.

Reducing Your Risks of Catching BA.2

Learning that COVID infections—including infections with BA.2—may put you at higher risk of severe disease if you are pregnant is frightening. But you are not powerless in this situation. Experts agree that the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against severe disease during pregnancy is to get vaccinated. If you're already vaccinated, consider getting your booster.

Early research of BA.2 shows significant protection against severe disease and hospitalizations, explains Dr. Cackovic. “Given the extra risk associated with pregnancy, the vaccine remains the best and most effective tool for pregnant people against the BA.2 variant of COVID,” he says.

Dr. Columbo recommends that pregnant people should also take common-sense precautions at this time, such as hand washing and wearing a mask in public.

“I know it is tempting to remove [your] mask in the grocery store when nobody else is wearing one,” he says. “The risk of transmission is very high in a social situation where people are unmasked. A pregnant patient should always error on the side of caution.”

What This Means For You

Being pregnant during a pandemic can be challenging, and it’s understandable that you may have concerns about the emergence of BA.2. The good news is BA.2 appears to be no more severe than other versions of Omicron, and the vaccines still seem to protect against severe outcomes. There is no reason to panic, but it’s important for pregnant people to remain especially cautious as the pandemic continues to evolve. If you have any further questions about your pregnancy and the impact of BA.2, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or midwife.

10 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.