With SMH Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist Felice Baron, MD
The number of pregnant SMH patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has skyrocketed in recent months, raising grave concerns among healthcare providers about the Delta variant’s impact on pregnant women and their developing babies.
"What we’ve seen is an increase in the number of pregnant women who are coming to the emergency room with COVID-19, high fevers, pneumonia, respiratory distress and their babies not moving much,” explained Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist Felice Baron, MD.
Pregnant women are considered high risk for developing severe COVID-19, especially those who are black or Hispanic.
Pregnancy brings about many changes in the body — including a strained immune system — some of which make it more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 and respiratory viruses. Compared to non-pregnant women, those who are pregnant or were recently pregnant and have COVID-19 are more likely to require hospitalization, supplemental oxygen, intensive care or a ventilator for life-saving intervention.
Pregnant people with COVID-19 also are at a higher risk for poor pregnancy outcomes, including delivering baby pre-term (earlier than 37 weeks), and they may be more likely to experience pregnancy loss than pregnant women who don’t have the disease.
“There's something about COVID infection — and all the things it sets off like inflammation — that affects the placenta,” Dr. Baron said. “The placentas are really taking a hit, and the babies are getting stressed, sometimes going into distress.”
The placenta attaches mom to her unborn baby; it’s what supplies baby with oxygen and nutrients in utero.
“It's a balancing act of aggressively treating mom, giving her supportive care, giving oxygen and needing to watch the baby very closely,” Dr. Baron said. “With COVID, there's a possibility that even as mom gets better, the baby still may be going into distress.”
How can we reverse this growing trend of pregnant women becoming severely ill with COVID-19? COVID-19 vaccines.
“Whether you're newly pregnant or close to delivery, get vaccinated against COVID-19,” urged Dr. Baron.
Protecting both pregnant women and their unborn children through vaccination during pregnancy is highly recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with 18 organizations representing maternal care experts and public health professionals.
“It's going to protect you, and for those who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, it's going to be safer for your baby as well,” added Dr. Baron.
In our community, COVID-19 vaccines are free and readily available from numerous retail pharmacies and the Department of Health. Click here to find a nearby vaccination site.
The Facts on COVID-19 Vaccination during Pregnancy
The benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy far outweigh any known or potential risks, particularly when you consider the impact the Delta variant is having on pregnant women and pregnancy outcomes.
Evidence that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is safe and effective has grown significantly since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) first authorized the vaccines for emergency use in 2020, according to the CDC.
Pregnancy & Prevention
Pregnant women and their families — like everyone — should take preventive steps to avoid COVID-19 infection:
Get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are free and readily available. Click here to find a vaccination site near you.
Avoid crowds, and practice physical distancing, staying at least 6 feet away from those not in your household.
Wear a face mask when you’re out and when you may not be able to physical distance.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap is not available.
Stay Informed, Stay Healthy
Talk with your doctor or midwife frequently about COVID-19 prevention and related concerns. Guidance evolves — sometimes quickly — and your questions will also change over time.
We encourage you to learn the facts about mRNA vaccines, their decades-long research history, the unfounded myths causing vaccine hesitancy, and the severe illness many pregnant women are experiencing due to COVID-19 infection.
Be selective about where you get your COVID-19 and pregnancy information. Reliable sources include the SMH COVID-19 webpage and the websites for the CDC, ACOG, the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and your expert SMH healthcare providers.
Seek Treatment for COVID-19
Pregnant women who do get sick with COVID-19 should find out whether they qualify for monoclonal antibody infusion treatment.
Monoclonal antibodies help boost your body's immune system, reducing your risk of developing pneumonia and severe disease by 70 to 80 percent, Dr. Baron said, but they must be administered within 10 days of symptom onset.
“The monoclonal antibody treatment can keep you out of the hospital. It can prevent your baby from potentially being an emergency C-section and ending up in the NICU, It can prevent you from getting admitted to the adult ICU,” added Dr. Baron.
For information on monoclonal antibodies eligibility and treatment providers, click here or visit our dedicated COVID-19 webpage.