COVID-19 medical data sharing opens window for pregnancy research

September 6, 2022—During the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems have found new ways to share deidentified medical records for research. This has allowed researchers to study COVID outcomes and the efficacy of vaccines and treatments in real time, and to gain insights into vulnerable populations including people who are pregnant. Now, some researchers are hoping to leverage newly available data sources to answer other questions about pregnancy that have been difficult to research.

“The tolerance for risk [in clinical trials] is so low, and for that reason you do see very few studies—and when you do, it’s voluntary and at your own risk,” said Jose Figueroa, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in an August 25, 2022 STAT article. “So real-world data is super important.”

He recently co-authored a JAMA paper that linked the pandemic to increased pregnancy-related complications and maternal deaths during delivery hospitalization.

But data can be messy—a single birth can include records from multiple clinical encounters—so Figueroa and colleagues are developing new tools and technology to interpret data and fill in gaps.

Read the STAT article: A pandemic push for data sharing could pay off for pregnancy research