Despite stubbornly high maternal mortality in the United States, pregnancy is still woefully under-researched. But thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, technology that makes it easier to study pregnancy is starting to catch up.
During the public health emergency, federal agencies, health systems, and medical data companies were motivated to open up their records and create privacy-preserving methods to help hospitals share sensitive patient records for research. Those steps have given researchers a near real-time window into Covid-19 outcomes and the efficacy of therapeutics and vaccines — including in pregnant people, who they’ve learned are at greater risk of severe illness.
Those new networks could pay dividends for the understanding of pregnancy beyond the pandemic. Right now, clinicians don’t fully understand why dangerous complications like preeclampsia occur, or whether many drugs and procedures are safe during pregnancy. The clinical trials that could help answer those questions have long been considered unethical — and despite recent regulatory changes to encourage enrollment, prospective research in pregnancy is still rare.
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