Pregnant women at higher risk of serious disease if contracting Covid-19.
While the number of COVID-19 cases in Mississippi seem to be on a downward turn, the Mississippi State Department of Health is still warning at risk groups to protect themselves from the virus.
Unlike the first wave of COVID-19, the Delta Variant is impacting some populations in a more devastating way. This includes children, those under 40, as well as pregnant women.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, a total of 15 pregnant women have died and 72 babies (after 20-weeks) have been lost in late term after the mother contracted the virus. According to Dr. Thomas Dobbs, 100% of the maternal deaths were unvaccinated, one of which was partially vaccinated.
Dr. J. Martin Tucker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center said UMMC alone has seen 372 admissions of pregnant mothers with the virus, 30 were sent to the ICU and 16 of those women have required mechanical ventilation.
UMMC has seen 12 of the 15 statewide deaths since April of 2020, however Tucker reported that five of those deaths have occurred since the wave of Delta began in July and 10 of the 16 ventilation patients occurred during that time frame.
“It progresses much more rapidly. Someone might look well in the morning and by the end of the day they’re very very sick,” said Tucker.
Tucker said the babies from those 12 mothers did survive, but some were delivered very early and required additional intensive care. He said they will be monitoring the continued care of those babies long term.
While specific numbers could not be given regarding how many pregnant women had contracted covid overall, Tucker said nationwide they’re seeing data that even if pregnant women may not be any more susceptible to the virus, if they do get it they’re at a higher risk of severe disease
“This Delta variant is a more wicked actor,” said Tucker. “Pregnant women are at an increased risk of complications and death if catching covid unvaccinated.” He went on to add that not all of these deaths and hospitalizations have occurred in women with co-morbidities. Some of the patients are healthy and as young as 23 years old. He said on average they were seeing women in their late 20’s and early 30’s having severe complications.
Roughly 24% of women pregnant women in the U.S. have been vaccinated.
However, Tucker said he understands the hesitancy of some women and sought to answer some of the most common questions physicians are being asked by pregnant patients.
- Why should I get the vaccine while I’m pregnant?
- Will it have adverse impacts on my baby?
- Could it negatively impact my fertility in the long term?
Tucker said the “why” is more obvious, pregnant women are at a higher risk with the Delta variant and vaccine protection is effective. Since the recommendation from the ACOG and CDC for pregnant women, they have found that the vaccine does not pass to the baby. Meaning, it does not cross the placenta and therefore the baby is not “getting vaccinated.”
However, there is evidence that antibodies from cord blood as well as vaccinated mothers who are breastfeeding are being transferred to those babies.
“Regarding long term impacts, there are absolutely zero safety signals to suggest that there are any concerns for long term impacts regarding fertility of baby,” said Tucker.
Tucker urged pregnant mothers to get fully vaccinated, as they are seeing severe reactions to the virus in later term mothers, around the second trimester. He also encouraged physicians to do their research and encourage their pregnant patients to get vaccinated, as studies show people are more likely to listen to their doctors.
There have been some reports of locations turning pregnant women away when coming in for a vaccine, Tucker said those establishments are not correct. He emphasized that the vaccine is safe and there are plenty of locations in the state where a vaccine can be received. Furthermore, Dr. Dobbs issued a standing order to pharmacies and hospitals who have vaccines are to vaccinate pregnant women.
Mississippi is currently leading the way on monoclonal treatment for individuals who contract COVID-19. This treatment is also available for pregnant mothers but is most impactful if the virus is detected and treatment is administered quickly.