Over the previous 20 years, the world has confronted a sequence of public well being emergencies, all requiring a sturdy worldwide response. These embody the extreme acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014–16, the Zika virus outbreak in 2015/16 and, most not too long ago, the coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Every of those rising infections has required that obstetricians and different obstetric healthcare suppliers react rapidly to guard their pregnant sufferers in addition to the fetus. These outbreaks have introduced completely different challenges to obstetric healthcare suppliers – starting from elevated severity of sickness throughout being pregnant with 2009 H1N1 influenza1 to substantial results on the fetus, regardless of minimal results on the pregnant lady’s well being, with Zika virus.2 In every case, months handed earlier than information on the consequences of the an infection on being pregnant and the fetus have been out there. Within the meantime, obstetrics suppliers had no selection however to base scientific decision-making not on proof, however on knowledgeable opinion, usually with quickly altering tips as extra info grew to become out there. As well as, whereas remedy (e.g. oseltamivir for 2009 H1N1 influenza) and prophylaxis (e.g. vaccines for Ebola and COVID-19) grew to become out there for the overall inhabitants, these measures weren’t studied throughout being pregnant, as soon as once more leaving obstetrics suppliers with out proof on which to make suggestions to sufferers. Lastly, obstetrics suppliers generally confronted potential dangers to their very own well being as a result of data of methods to forestall infectious transmission to healthcare suppliers throughout labour and supply was restricted.3
Though many have framed COVID-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, that is unlikely to be the case. One essential lesson from the latest succession of rising infections (these for which the incidence has risen previously 20 years or threatens to come up sooner or later) is that rising infections will proceed to happen. One purpose for the rising emergence of infectious illnesses is the interconnectedness of the world’s inhabitants; the flexibility to quickly journey wherever on the planet implies that an rising an infection wherever is an rising an infection in all places. This idea was nicely demonstrated by COVID-19, which unfold quickly from a small variety of circumstances in China in December of 2019 to circumstances transmitted world wide, with declaration of a pandemic by the World Well being Group on 11 March 2020. One more reason is local weather change: illnesses through which the pathogen spends a major period of time exterior its human host are significantly weak to local weather change. These embody pathogens unfold by vectors akin to mosquitoes and ticks, and pathogens that unfold in water and in meals.4 As well as, as human populations are extra often encroaching on wildlife habitats, they’re positioned in shut contact with animals that would unfold pathogens to people.5 Most rising infections and virtually all pandemics have originated in animals (most in wildlife), with emergence pushed by ecological, behavioural or socio-economic adjustments.6
A lot has been written about the necessity to put together for the subsequent pandemic. A latest Nationwide Academy of Medication initiative recognized six steps to strengthen pandemic resilience within the USA, together with launching a fee to guage the US COVID-19 response, strengthening and modernising well being and public well being programs, renewing the standing of the USA as a world public well being chief and companion, reinforcing a science-based strategy to public well being coverage, rising federal funding and political independence for pandemic companies, and supporting One Well being (which emphasises the connections amongst individuals, animals, vegetation and the surroundings) and efforts to mitigate underlying drivers of pandemics.7 Improved public well being infrastructure is required not solely within the USA, however globally, in order that nations have the flexibility to forestall, detect and reply to outbreaks rapidly.
Basic pandemic preparedness efforts are essential, however particular issues are wanted to enhance our response to rising infections amongst pregnant ladies. Obstetric healthcare suppliers and public well being researchers that concentrate on maternal and youngster well being additionally want to organize for the subsequent pandemic, and public well being leaders on the nationwide, sub-national and native ranges have to recognise the significance of maternal and youngster well being as a part of pandemic preparedness in order that addressing these points might be prioritised. These preparedness efforts for pregnant ladies would require a collaborative strategy to incorporate not solely obstetrics suppliers and maternal and youngster well being researchers, but in addition consultants in infectious illness, public well being, epidemiology, information science and data know-how, amongst others.
As a part of the influenza pandemic preparedness efforts initiated within the USA in 2005, emphasis was positioned on ‘weak populations’; as a part of these efforts, particular plans to handle points associated to pregnant ladies have been developed by the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC).8 As soon as the H1N1 pandemic influenza virus emerged in 2009, these plans have been used to information the response. A collaborative response effort was developed rapidly to handle the pandemic’s results throughout being pregnant;9 nevertheless, after the pandemic ended, that infrastructure was dismantled and needed to be rebuilt through the CDC’s emergency response to Zika virus. The infrastructure developed to reply to COVID-19 and being pregnant must be maintained and additional developed in order that experience just isn’t misplaced and response actions might be ramped up rapidly on the time of the subsequent public well being emergency.
A number of methods are wanted to handle pandemic preparedness for pregnant ladies. These embody making certain that complete plans for surveillance and analysis to raised perceive the consequences of the an infection throughout being pregnant are in place earlier than the subsequent pandemic, addressing points that restrict the inclusion of pregnant ladies within the testing of interventions for remedy and prophylaxis (together with vaccines) throughout an emergency, and enhancing the experience within the obstetrics group associated to infectious illness, prevention of infectious transmission and fast growth of tips.
Establishing surveillance and analysis actions throughout an emergency response is difficult. Therefore, creating programs prematurely of a public well being emergency that may be rapidly tailored to gather and share real-time information is essential.10 For example, due to delays within the implementation of analysis research on 2009 H1N1, the Nationwide Institute for Well being Analysis within the UK developed a portfolio of tasks that have been ‘hibernated’, with plans for them to be activated within the occasion of a brand new influenza pandemic. Most of those tasks, together with one which centered on being pregnant and the postpartum interval, have been activated throughout COVID-19, which allowed early assortment of information on being pregnant. Inside 3 days of activation, information started to be collected throughout all obstetric models within the UK, and data on the consequences of COVID-19 in pregnant ladies was printed on-line on 8 June 2020.11, 12 One other instance is the CDC’s Surveillance for Rising Threats to Moms and Infants Community (SET-NET): constructed on the infrastructure of the US Zika Being pregnant and Toddler Registry, the CDC initiated help to state, native and territorial well being departments in 2019 to gather information on moms and infants within the occasion of an rising well being menace. This technique was activated through the COVID-19 response, with information on practically 4500 live-born infants born to moms with SARS coronavirus 2 an infection throughout being pregnant made out there on-line on 2 November 2020.13 Though these information have been essential, this evaluation of SET-NET included information on COVID-19 from solely 16 jurisdictions (13 states, one territory, one county and one metropolis). Enlargement of SET-NET to extra jurisdictions is required in order that information might be collected extra rapidly and might be nationally consultant.
One other essential space of analysis associated to maternal well being is expounded to transmission of infectious pathogens within the obstetric setting. Even primary questions akin to whether or not vaginal or cesarean deliveries are aerosol-generating procedures remained unanswered early within the COVID-19 pandemic,3 and the paucity of data on this space was detrimental early within the COVID-19 pandemic when N95 respirators have been reserved for healthcare suppliers performing aerosol-generating procedures. Higher understanding of transmission of infections in obstetric settings is critical to guard healthcare staff and their sufferers.
One other essential difficulty in making ready for the subsequent pandemic is making certain moral inclusion of pregnant ladies within the testing of therapeutics and vaccines. As is commonly the case, pregnant ladies have been particularly excluded from scientific trials of COVID-19 vaccines, as soon as once more leaving them and their healthcare suppliers with out information to information choices about vaccination. The truth is, on the time of emergency use authorisation by the US Meals and Drug Administration, developmental and reproductive toxicology research (animal research to check the consequences of vaccines on pregnant animals) weren’t but out there for the Pfizer vaccine.14 This was even if a lot work has been carried out because the 2009 H1N1 pandemic to handle points associated to the inclusion of pregnant ladies in scientific trials, together with their inclusion in vaccine scientific trials, and that immunisation throughout being pregnant for influenza and pertussis has been included as normal of care for a few years.15, 16 Not too long ago a multidisciplinary working group developed a set of twenty-two suggestions to make sure that the pursuits of pregnant ladies have been included when vaccines in opposition to future rising infections are developed and deployed.17 Addressing these suggestions can be needed to make sure that pregnant ladies have earlier entry to vaccines in future public well being emergencies.
In preparation for the subsequent pandemic, one other want is to develop extra experience in rising infectious illnesses, epidemiology and public well being amongst obstetric healthcare suppliers. Lately, obstetric apply has more and more centered on utilizing evidence-based drugs, requiring obstetric coaching to incorporate methods to critically interpret the literature underlying evidence-based drugs. Nevertheless, coaching in obstetrics wants to incorporate further emphasis on epidemiology in order that obstetric healthcare suppliers are capable of quickly interpret surveillance information relating to evolving traits within the unfold of illness of their location and to evaluate epidemiological information to grasp points akin to severity of illness throughout being pregnant and security and efficacy of vaccines. Skilled organisations such because the American Faculty of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal Faculty of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have performed a key function in latest public well being emergencies, however given the tempo of evolving info, obstetric healthcare suppliers additionally want to have the ability to interpret the surveillance and analysis information on their very own. As well as, future thought leaders in obstetrics can be wanted to information these skilled organisations sooner or later. Lastly, public well being companies have to recruit extra obstetric healthcare suppliers who’ve in-depth data of epidemiology, infectious illness and public well being, however who additionally perceive the problems concerned in caring for pregnant ladies.
As we emerge from greater than a 12 months of this devastating pandemic, we have now already seen many optimistic traits together with rising COVID-19 vaccination charges and quickly declining COVID-19 case counts and deaths. We’re wanting ahead to many optimistic developments within the coming months akin to full reopening of colleges and companies. Nevertheless, as we return to a point of post-pandemic ‘regular’, we should not develop into complacent. Now’s the time to plan for the subsequent pandemic, and it’s essential that being pregnant points be included in these planning efforts.
Disclosure of pursuits
The authors haven’t any related conflicts of pursuits. Accomplished disclosure of pursuits type is accessible to view on-line as supporting info.
Contribution to authorship
SAR and DJJ contributed equally to authoring this manuscript.
Particulars of ethics approval
No funding was obtained.