One of the many ways in which the pandemic affects children is by preventing them from having a chance to be born. There is great potential for harm in being pregnant and ill with coronavirus at the same time. One reason why this matters is because maternal fever can affect the fetus. COVID-19 also increases the likelihood that even babies who are successfully delivered might lose their mothers within their first days or weeks of life.
Not only the virus itself, but the mere threat of it is dangerous when patients are constrained from making in-person office visits. A large proportion of expectant mothers have been having their checkups via telemedicine, which is unsatisfactory in itself and increases the chance that asymptomatic women will not be diagnosed with the virus.
A Scientific American article mentioned some typical cases, like where a pregnant woman ill with the virus had to have a C-section to deliver her baby two months early. More than a month later this mother was still in the intensive care unit and had not yet held her child, and the doctors were thinking she would need a double lung transplant in order to continue living.
A quickly worsening situation
Since the Delta variant arrived on the scene, the danger to pregnant women and their babies has seen a horrifying increase. Lately, new cases in the United States involving pregnant women have increased to 1,000 per week. Of 22,000 pregnant women who have been hospitalized, 161 have died. Carolyn Barber wrote,
Simply put, pregnant people have been avoiding the vaccine, and the toll may be enormous… The road to this point is filled with misinformation but also with fears and concerns about the COVID vaccines’ impact on fertility and pregnancy, which many physicians find understandable, if mostly unsupported.
At the University of Birmingham’s hospital, researchers documented the cases of 39 unvaccinated pregnant women, where nine babies did not survive, and two of the women died. A Centers for Disease Control study of 400,000 pregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 indicated that their risk of severe illness and/or death was higher than that of non-pregnant people. It gets worse:
Likewise, a study of about 870,000 women found that, compared with those who did not give birth with COVID-19, those who did so had a nearly one-and-a-half-fold increase in preterm births, a sixfold increase in ICU admissions, a 14-fold increase in mechanical ventilation and a 15-fold increase in death.
The news is not all bad. A study was done of 1,200 women who received positive COVID-19 test results before vaccines were available, and around three-quarters of them escaped with either a mild case or no symptoms at all. And after mRNA vaccines became available, it was discovered that high levels of protective antibodies are passed on to fetuses.
Jeanne Sheffield, M.D., an expert in maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins, also wrote about the possibilities, which are not uniformly grim. She tells parents,
We can provide treatment for COVID-19 in pregnancy. Several of the medications currently in use are also being used for our pregnant women, and early studies have shown they can provide some benefit.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Pregnant and Unvaccinated: Delta’s Deadly Toll,” ScientificAmerican.com, 10/01/21
Source: “Coronavirus and Pregnancy: What You Should Know,” HopkinsMedicine.org, undated
Image by Omer Ziv/CC BY-ND 2.0