The increased risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy and why doctors are urging the vaccine

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – According to the CDC, the nation has seen an increase in pregnant people getting infected with the coronavirus. And doctors say the virus can lead to severe illness, which is why they are urging pregnant people to get vaccinated.

Throughout the last year and a half, Dr. Kimberlee McKay with Avera Medical Group has had to see multiple pregnant patients become severely sick and, in some cases, give birth early because of complications from a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Last year, the worst I ever felt was when we had a pregnant mom who we were getting ready to C-section and she needed to be intubated,” McKay, the clinical vice president of the Ob/Gyn Service Line at Avera Medical Group, said. “And before we intubated her, in order to deliver her baby and then take her to the ICU, I just looked over the top of the C-section curtain and I said, ‘I’m going to take really good care of you,’ and she just looked me straight in the eye and she said, ‘please, let me wake up to see my baby.'”

And now she says it seems patients are getting even sicker with the Delta variant spreading.

If your risk as a young person who is not pregnant is 0.8 percent chance of being admitted to the ICU, a pregnant woman’s, they say, is 22 times higher.

Dr. Kimberlee McKay, the clinical vice president of the Ob/Gyn Service Line at Avera Medical Group

“Most of them are unvaccinated and so when they come in it’s just with the full blown disease,” McKay said. “What’s hard is that, when mom can’t breathe, what you’ll see is changes in the baby’s heart rate. And when mom is having trouble oxygenating, the baby, of course, is going to have trouble.”

McKay says COVID-19 also targets blood vessels, which is what the placenta is primarily made of.

And so, even in mild cases of the disease, we’re seeing a good number of these patients, probably 25 to 30 percent, who go on to develop things like preeclampsia and have other maternal sicknesses that necessitate an early delivery.

Dr. Kimberlee McKay, the clinical vice president of the Ob/Gyn Service Line at Avera Medical Group

Other risks include miscarriage and stillbirth.

And, of course, any time that a baby needs to be delivered early, there are acute needs, meaning more care that’s needed right then and also long-term health effects for the baby.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller is an Ob/Gyn with Sanford Health

That’s why doctors are urging pregnant patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr. Elizabeth Miller is an Ob/Gyn with Sanford Health; she’s also a mom.

“So one of the things that I share with my patients to help them feel confident about getting the vaccine is that I got the vaccine when I was fifteen weeks pregnant with my son,” Miller said. “And it was one of the first times that I felt hopeful in this pandemic, knowing that I was more protected and that my son would be born with protection as well.”

Dr. Miller says 150,000 pregnant people have received the vaccine nationally. She says the vaccine is safe for expecting parents, but it also provides extra safety for the baby.

“And also, when moms get the vaccine in pregnancy, it passes antibodies through the placenta to baby and can help protect babies against COVID when they’re born,” Miller said. “Babies can’t get the vaccine so this is one of the best ways that moms can protect their babies too.”

Getting vaccinated in pregnancy is one of the best ways that you can help keep you and your baby safe.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller is an Ob/Gyn with Sanford Health

Doctors also urge parents who are breastfeeding to get the vaccine, as antibodies can also pass into breast milk.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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