Pregnant women more likely to develop severe COVID symptoms, give birth prematurely, doctors say

More pregnant women are showing up in emergency rooms suffering from COVID-19 and doctors say they are at a higher risk of developing a severe infection from the virus.

Medical experts say most of those patients who are pregnant are not vaccinated. The highly transmissible delta variant is putting them at risk, regardless of how healthy the woman is. That's why doctors are warning women that pregnant women who are unvaccinated are more likely to end up in the hospital because of COVID-19 and are also more likely to have premature babies.

"Pregnancy is now considered an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection," said Dr. Jose Prieto, the medical director of maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute.  "You are more likely to have severe symptoms, you’re more likely to end up in the ICU, and what’s even more concerning is that there’s some published studies now that are suggesting that pregnant patients who are unvaccinated and who get COVID-19 infection, are also more likely to deliver premature babies."

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There’s a similar situation at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

 "The volume of sick pregnant patients has absolutely skyrocketed the past several weeks," said Dr. Felice Baron, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at SMH.

She explained that COVID-19 impacts the mother as well as a developing fetus.

"The baby doesn’t get COVID from mom. It’s not as if mom has COVID and the baby is going to get it in utero, that doesn’t happen, but it’s something about the COVID infection and all of the other things that COVID sets off, with the inflammation, and the other chemicals that are set off due to the COVID infection, something about that is, the placentas are taking a hit and the babies are, and the babies are getting stressed and sometimes going into distress," she said.

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To protect the mother and her baby, Dr. Baron and Dr. Prieto highly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for expectant mothers. They say the shot is safe to get at any point during pregnancy.

They also recommend the vaccine for women who want to get pregnant.

Medical experts say only about 25-30 percent of pregnant women are fully vaccinated. They hope that number increases now that the Pfizer vaccine has FDA approval.