Irish health authorities are investigating whether four cases of stillborn babies are linked to the coronavirus outbreak, the country's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said on Thursday.
At a press conference in Dublin, Glynn said that "four preliminary reports of stillbirths potentially associated with a disease called Covid placentis" had been traced by the authorities.
According to the medical examiners who reported the cases, the pregnant women tested positive for coronavirus and then gave birth to a stillborn baby whose cause of death was an infection of the placenta.
"More research needs to be done" before the results can be confirmed, Glynn said, adding that he could not "give too many details because there is not much more at this stage" as the coroners had not concluded their findings.
Covid Placentitis is "a concern" but "very rare," he said. The condition is noted in women who have had positive coronavirus tests prior to having a stillbirth.
"We have not seen a high incidence of it internationally, and we wouldn't expect to see a high incidence of it here," Glynn told reporters.
In a statement, Dr Cliona Murphy, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that a small number of cases were being "scientifically investigated".
"It is important that pregnant women who have Covid positive results attend appointments with their healthcare providers in the weeks after infection," Murphy said.
"The vast majority of pregnant women who had Covid have had mild symptoms and have not had adverse outcomes. Large-scale surveillance data in UK have not shown higher incidence of stillbirth.
"Pregnant women within the priority groups can get vaccinated. Data from the US regarding COVID vaccines in pregnancy is reassuring," she added.
"We are beginning to see the impact of COVID vaccines which, together with the restrictions, are reducing the incidence of COVID-19 infections in the community which will be protective for pregnant women".
According to the latest official figures, the Republic of Ireland has recorded 4,396 deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic. The country is currently in the midst of its third lockdown after suffering the highest per capita infection rate in the world in early January.