Central Texas doctors are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated. They say the COVID-19 Delta variant is sending more expecting mothers to the ICU with some even on life support.
Monday specialists from UT’s Dell Medical School, Baylor Scott, and White, and St. David’s Medical Centers came together with one message: pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should get vaccinated. They warn not doing so can lead to serious health complications.
Central Texas couple Valerie and Lucas Manring are expecting a baby in about 14 weeks. Lucas is fully vaccinated and Valerie is scheduled to get her second shot soon.
“We’re still taking protective measures-- making sure that we're wearing our masks while we're out, social distancing and keeping our contact group really nice and small,” says Valerie who is 26 weeks pregnant.
After talking to her doctor and reading research and recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Valerie decided getting vaccinated was best for both her and their baby.
“Just knowing that the Delta variant is out there now it makes me feel a lot more confident going forward,” Valerie says.
Hospitals report more pregnant women being admitted for virus complications –like COVID pneumonia—than ever before with some women in ICU on ventilators and others on life support.
“We are seeing so many pregnant people extremely ill in our hospitals right now,” says Dr. Alison Cahill, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist and professor in the Department of Women’s Health at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Cahill adds, other mothers who have been discharged from the hospital still aren’t fully recovered. “Many of them have continued on to have chronic disabilities like chronic lung disease and gone home on oxygen and other types of things that effect their ability to even care for their baby-- bonding and breastfeeding and other things like that are very important for a developing baby,” Cahill says.
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Doctors specializing in fetal medicine are urging expecting moms to get the shot.
“Almost 150,000 pregnant patients have been vaccinated already with clearly demonstrated safety thus far. We know that the earlier in pregnancy you're vaccinated the more antibodies there are present at time of birth, so it protects the infant,” says Dr. Kimberly DeStefano, Medical Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women’s Center of Texas and St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.
Doctors say unvaccinated, pregnant women hospitalized with the Delta variant have an increased risk of maternal death, pre-term birth, and stillbirth.
“We know that the biggest risk to these moms coming out of COVID is pre-term birth and that can affect babies long-term,” explains Dr. Jessica Ehrig, Obstetrics Chief and Maternal Medicine and Maternal Transport Director at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple.
Some of the long-term effects of premature birth include respiratory issues, blindness, and neurological development delays. As their due date approaches, the Marnring family hopes more people will consider the research and get vaccinated.
“There’s a lot of bodies in the hospital now, and that's just generally concerning. We're about to have a child there, and I urge anybody that's listening to this to just look at the data and really think about the decision you're making rather than just have a feeling about something,” says Lucas Manring.
Doctors say COVID-19 poses a risk for women at any stage of pregnancy but particularly in the second and third trimesters. They also say pregnant women who have previously had COVID-19 should still talk to their doctors about getting vaccinated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 22% of pregnant individuals have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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In a statement the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said:
“ACOG encourages its members to enthusiastically recommend vaccination to their patients. This means emphasizing the known safety of the vaccines and the increased risk of severe complications associated with COVID-19 infection, including death, during pregnancy,” said J. Martin Tucker, MD, FACOG, president of ACOG. “It is clear that pregnant people need to feel confident in the decision to choose vaccination, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician–gynecologist could make a meaningful difference for many pregnant people.”