COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “strongly recommending” that pregnant women get vaccinated, two Ohio OB-GYNs joined Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff Monday to discuss concerns that may arise from pregnant women considering getting vaccinated and debunked myths about pregnancy and the vaccine.
The CDC reported last week that as of Sept. 27., more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalized and 161 deaths. The highest number of COVID-19 related deaths in pregnant people in a single month of the pandemic was reported in August 2021.
In case you missed the briefing about pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine, watch it in the media player below:
Risks to pregnant women who get COVID-19
Dr. Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, assistant professor of OB-GYN at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said there are several risks pregnant women face if they contract COVID-19, including preterm delivery, infant mortality and increased risk for other diseases during pregnancy.
“Because of the physiology of pregnancy, that puts you at an increased risk for severe disease with COVID-19. So you are now in the high-risk category, whereas previously you may not have been that," Dixon said.
Dixon said pregnant women have a twofold risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit and aditionally, increased risk for the need for ventilation or machines. There is a 70% increased risk of death when you have COVID-19 when you're pregnant, reports show.
"If you have other health issues like obesity or asthma or diabetes, you're at an increased risk for severe disease when you get COVID during your pregnancy," Dixon said.
Mothers concerned about breastfeeding
Doctors encourage women who are breastfeeding to get the vaccine because antibodies are passed through the breastmilk to the infant, and since children under 12 are not able to yet be vaccinated, it’s one of the few ways that mothers can protect their babies.
‘If it isn't during pregnancy, as soon as you have delivered, please be vaccinated because there is definitely an advantage for breastfeeding,” said Dr. Lisa Egbert, said OB-GYN and president of the Ohio State Medical Association.
How do you help pregnant patients understand COVID-19 vaccine and its benefits?
“Maternal instincts start even before we become pregnant, and it's very powerful. Every pregnant woman wants to protect her unborn child. So hesitancy is very understandable,” said Egbert.
Egbert said there is no increased risk of getting vaccinated during pregnancy. She posts statements in her office from the CDC, the American College of OB-GYN and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine asking to increase rates of vaccinations among all pregnant women.
“Imagine what it's like for that young guy when he has to risk delivering a pre-term baby to save his wife, and even then, he still may lose either his wife or his baby. Or even worse, both. And sadly, we've seen it right here in our ICUs in Ohio,” Egbert said.
Pregnancy is an immuno-compromised state. Egbert said the delta variant, which is more a contagious strain, is taking out young, healthy pregnant women.
"I tell my patients all of these things to help them understand that the risk of the vaccine, which we know is minimal in every study we've looked at versus the risk of COVID in pregnancy is no comparison. And I ask them to please get vaccinated," Egbert said.
Will getting the vaccine increase the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth?
Egbert echoed what Dixon said about how every study so far has shown no increased risk for adverse problems during pregnancy with the COVID-19 vaccine but says there is an increased risk of stillbirth among women who have COVID-19.
“A lot of the prematurity risk is likely secondary to that need to deliver babies early to help moms save themselves from COVID,” Egbert said.
Why is the message so urgent for pregnant women to be vaccinated?
For Egbert, it hits close to home. She had a personal friend who is an OB-GYN who had to deliver a 27-week-old baby and the mother died. The husband was a brand new dad with no mom and a baby in the NICU.
“In August, we had the highest number of women die from COVID while they were pregnant, and that just should not happen in this country, in this world, in this time,” said Egbert.
Dixon said she became an OB-GYN because pregnancy is one of the most exciting parts of a person’s life and wanted to be a part of that, but now worries that could be taken away with COVID-19.
“I didn't go in for intensive care and this is what we're seeing because of COVID,” said Dixon.
For complete guidance and information from the CDC on pregnancy and the vaccine, click here.
Visit our Vaccinating Ohio page for the latest updates on Ohio's vaccination program, including links to sign up for a vaccine appointment, a map of nearby vaccination sites, a detailed breakdown of the state's current vaccine phase, and continuing local coverage of COVID-19 vaccines in Northeast Ohio.
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