PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Doctors have reported a recent spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated pregnant women. Many of these women, including one in Pinellas County, Florida, end up in the intensive care unit.
Jessica Six was eight months pregnant when she contracted COVID-19. After a week at home, she went to the hospital.
“They kept her because her placenta ended up erupting,” Stephanie Six, her sister, explained. “So they had to do an emergency C-section on her.”
Jessica’s daughter Kaydence was delivered a month early.
Jessica’s condition then worsened. The 33-year-old got pneumonia and was put on a ventilator.
“Just her being in there on the machine… it breaks my heart,” Stephanie said.
Dr. Jill Hechtman, an OBGYN in South Florida, says they’re seeing a huge increase in the number of pregnant women in the ICU.
“It didn’t happen before, but now it is happening,” she said.
Compared to the prior strain, Dr. Hechtman says the delta variant is causing more severe illness in unvaccinated pregnant women.
According to Dr. Hechtman, pregnancy puts you in an immunocompromised state up to six weeks postpartum.
“The bodily changes that occur once they become pregnant make them more susceptible to problems during. Infection or even the flu,” Dr. Hechtman explained. “So their blood volume changes, the way their heart contracts changes and their lung volumes change.”
The result: If you get COVID-19, you’re two times more likely to end up in the ICU with a breathing tube.
“When they get pneumonia or bronchitis with [a] COVID infection, they’re much harder to ventilate, meaning it’s much harder to make them breathe,” Dr. Hechtman said.
Still, many pregnant women remain conflicted. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows less than one in four are vaccinated during pregnancy with others worrying that it could somehow impact the baby’s development.
But the CDC is strongly recommending pregnant and breastfeeding women be vaccinated.
“The vaccine is safe to your unborn child,” Dr. Hechtman said.
The CDC says a study of nearly 2,500 pregnant women found no increased risk of miscarriage with one of the mRna vaccines.
Dr. Hechtman says there’s still a lot of hesitation for some pregnant women but she continues the conversation.
Jessica’s family just wants her to wake up and meet her little girl.
“She hasn’t even gotten to see her baby or hold her yet and every time you just do anything with the baby, you wish it was her doing it with them,” Stephanie said.