One in four pregnant women that contract the coronavirus has given birth prematurely, according to a Turkish expert.
Merih Çetinkaya, a professor at the University of Health Sciences in Istanbul, told Anadolu Agency that the Delta variant of the virus has been severely affecting pregnant women.
Attending health congresses in Turkey's Mediterranean resort province of Antalya, Çetinkaya said there had been a significant rise in the numbers of pregnant women who were admitted to intensive care and/or lost their lives due to the virus.
Babies born to mothers admitted to intensive care units with severe COVID-19 also tend to stay in the hospital for longer after birth, Çetinkaya said, noting that the Health Ministry had called on all pregnant women in Turkey to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"COVID-19 causes premature birth," he said. "There have been many studies on premature births after the pandemic around the world," he said.
Citing a new study published in a scientific journal in the US, he said: "We observe this in our own (hospital) services as well. According to the latest study, one out of every four pregnant women who contract the coronavirus gives birth prematurely."
Noting that studies have shown that the immunosuppressive status of pregnant women is higher than other individuals, Cetinkaya said pregnant women should not avoid going to the hospital to avoid the coronavirus. "They should have their check-ups on time, get their vaccinations, eat healthy, increase physical activity, and remain absolutely isolated."
Pointing out breast milk protects against COVID-19 and many other diseases, he said: "Mothers who are vaccinated during pregnancy or who have had COVID-19 pass on protective antibodies to the baby through breast milk."
"Even if the mother has the coronavirus, she must wear her mask, pay attention to her hygiene, and should breastfeed her baby," he added.
On Thursday, Turkey recorded 22,234 new COVID-19 cases, 226 deaths, and 29,538 recoveries over the past day.
Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 5.13 million lives in at least 192 countries and regions, with more than 256.26 million cases reported worldwide, according to the US' Johns Hopkins University.