Louisiana doctors not surprised by study showing severe COVID-19 outcomes for unvaccinated pregnant women

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 8:38 PM CST
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Antibodies that a mother produces after getting the COVID-19 vaccine can help keep their baby...
Antibodies that a mother produces after getting the COVID-19 vaccine can help keep their baby safe.(CBS Newspath)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some local doctors are not shocked by a new study showing unvaccinated pregnant women are more likely to have severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection, including the death of their child. Tragic outcomes have been seen during the pandemic in Louisiana.

A study done in Scotland says unvaccinated pregnant women who contract the virus have a higher risk of severe complications including losing their babies, stillbirths, and deaths of infants following birth.

Dr. Robert Maupin is LSU Health New Orleans Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

“In the fall of 2021 when we were having, when we in the height of the Delta surge we saw reports from the health department that we had an undue level of hospitalizations that required ICU stays for moms who were pregnant and those moms unfortunately in many instances lost their pregnancies,” said Maupin.

COVID-19 vaccination numbers for pregnant women continue to lag in the U.S.

Dr. Veronica Gillispie-Bell is Medical Director for Louisiana’s Perinatal Quality Collaborative.

“Unfortunately, our vaccination rates among pregnant women are less than the general population and in particular among our black women the vaccination rate is even less,” she said.

The study published in the Journal Nature Medicine showed that 98% of those hospitalized for critical care as well as all baby deaths occurred in pregnant women who are unvaccinated.

Gillipsie-Bell said not being vaccinated puts pregnant women at risk for many health-related issues.

“Women are taking a risk when they’re not vaccinated. We know out of many studies now that women that contract COVID-19 while they are pregnant, have a higher risk of maternal mortality, they have a higher risk of being intubated in the ICU. They have a higher risk of pre-term birth as well,” Gillipsie-Bell stated.

Maupin agrees.

“Pregnant moms as a whole are more at risk for at-risk outcomes. But our experience has been specific, it’s the moms who are not vaccinated because those are the ones who are at greatest risk for severe disease, for severe symptoms,” said Maupin.

And Dr. Maupin says even though they are seeing steady progress in the number of expectant mothers getting vaccinated many more need to do get the vaccine.

“However, just as of this month we are still only seeing that 40% of mothers who are of reproductive age and pregnant are vaccinated,” he said.

Gillipsie-Bell says myths remain a serious problem.

“I do think that, that is truly an issue and as I talk to patients in the office they do have concerns just from what they have read on the internet and what they have seen on social and I try to relate to them, help them to work through those myths,” she said.

And both have a message for pregnant women who are on the fence about getting the vaccine.

“You are taking a step that protects your unborn child, you’re taking a step that protects your newborn,” Maupin stated.

“There’s a study out of Harvard that shows when mom’s get vaccinated their antibodies are passed to the baby through the umbilical cord, same for breast milk,” said Gillipsie-Bell.

It is information they hope encourages more expectant mothers to get vaccinated.

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