The Covid surge has started a trend that Dr. Tanya Sorensen finds alarming.
“For the first time during the pandemic, we are seeing huge numbers of sick pregnant women, really sick women," she said.
Sorensen is a maternal fetal health physician at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
She spoke this week during a Washington State Hospital Association briefing.
“I’ve been in touch with people, my colleagues around the state, we’re seeing ICU admissions. We’re seeing maternal deaths. We’re seeing babies born prematurely, either to help the mother breathe or to rescue the baby because the mother’s hypoxic and it’s really heartbreaking," she said.
Dr. Mark Schemmel, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Providence Health in Spokane, is also seeing sick mothers-to-be.
“Fortunately, the absolute numbers are still relatively low because they’re young, healthy folks and I think by virtue of the fact that they’re pregnant they’re being extra careful. But those who do contract this thing are at increased risk for more significant illnesses," he said.
Schemmel says that puts both parent and child at risk of complications. He says mothers don’t pass along Covid to their children in the womb, as they might with a disease like chicken pox.
“However, mothers who become severely ill then put their babies at risk just based on that. So we know that there’s an increased risk, as an example, of pre-term delivery because the mother becomes sick enough it may be necessary to deliver the baby early," he said.
Early in the pandemic, Schemmel says medical organizations didn’t offer a unified message recommending Covid vaccinations for pregnant women. He says that’s changing. The CDC, among others, have given their endorsement.
But Tanya Sorensen says mothers-to-be are less likely than the rest of the community to be inoculated. Part of that is because of the myths surrounding the potential effects of the vaccine on the mother and the fetus.
“There are no reasons that pregnant women should not get vaccinated. The vaccine does not cause infertility. The vaccine cannot give you Covid. In fact, the vaccine may protect your infant. We see there are Covid antibodies in breast milk and the maternal serum which can pass to the fetus," she said.
She says, in this case, the preventive approach is much less painful than the reactive approach. She’s strongly urging her patients to get their shots and lower their risk of getting seriously ill.