States have seen a surge in pregnant women hospitalized due to COVID-19, a worrying trend that doctors linked to fears about the vaccines' effects on unborn infants.
UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, reported last week that 39 unvaccinated pregnant women have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in August. Ten of them are in the ICU, seven are on ventilators, and two have died. Many of their babies were born prematurely, some as early as 26 weeks, about 11 weeks short of the ideal gestational age.
“Truly, we’ve never had this number of pregnant women in my ICU,” Dr. Steve Stigler, director of UAB Hospital’s medical intensive care unit, said on Friday. “In a typical month, we may have one or two pregnant women who require our care in a medical intensive care unit, but those are very rare circumstances.”
A busy hospital in Springfield, Wisconsin, meanwhile, has resorted to transferring very sick pregnant women to other hospitals, including one in St. Louis, Missouri, and another about 300 miles away in Milwaukee, according to Dr. Robert Abrams, director of obstetrics for the South-Central Illinois Perinatal Center at HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital.
In Los Angeles County, the number of pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19 increased 300% from the end of June, with 27 cases, to the end of July, with 81 cases. Several hospitals in the area are recording recent upticks in pregnant women admitted due to the disease, sometimes in such severe respiratory distress that they need to be sedated and connected to ventilators, the Los Angeles Times reported. As of Aug. 10, a dozen pregnant women in the county have died due to the disease.
“Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the risks of COVID-19 infection and complications for both you and your baby,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the LA County Department of Public Health. “If you are pregnant or a new mom, we encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you can, and you can get vaccinated at any time during pregnancy.”
Pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19 are more likely to require treatment with a ventilator and to deliver their babies early, according to a report in the medical journal JAMA published earlier this month. Doctors analyzed patient data from 650 hospitals across the United States and reported that more than 5% of pregnant women sick with COVID-19 had to go into intensive care, compared with 0.9% of pregnant women that did not have the virus. They also found that more than 16% of pregnant women with the virus delivered prematurely, compared with 11.5% of vaccinated pregnant patients.
Vaccinations among pregnant women remain low due in part to fear that the shots have not been sufficiently studied in pregnant women, who were underrepresented in clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines. Even with the blessing from federal regulators who said earlier this month that the shots are perfectly safe for mother and baby, less than 24% of pregnant women have been vaccinated.
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Original Author: Cassidy Morrison
Original Location: Rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations of pregnant women alarms doctors