Knowing the severe impacts that COVID-19 could have on an expectant mother, a Westmead Hospital obstetrician is stressing the importance of pregnant women getting vaccinated against the deadly virus.
“We’ve seen it with influenza, and we are seeing it with COVID-19. Women who catch a severe respiratory illness whilst pregnant are at higher risk of serious outcomes for both themselves and their unborn baby,” said Dr Greg Jenkins, head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Westmead Hospital.
“We have not had a fully vaccinated woman admitted to hospital while pregnant.”
Approximately 1 in 3 women who get the Delta variant of COVID-19 during pregnancy require hospitalisation – far higher than the rate in the general population.
This is because pregnancy can lower your immune system and leave you vulnerable to viral infections and diseases.
Dr Jenkins highlighted that contracting the virus while pregnant could lead to severe complications such as preeclampsia, pre-term birth or stillbirth.
“Your body is compromised when trying to grow and carry a baby. It does not fight off disease or infection as adequately as if you were not with a child,” he said.
“To minimise the risk of hospitalisation, you need to have the COVID-19 vaccination.
“Studies from around the world have not found any adverse outcomes specific to pregnant women or their babies. The vaccination is safe. The virus is not.”
Scientific evidence suggests that while the vaccine itself cannot cross the placenta, antibodies created by pregnant women can – and may provide the baby with some protection against COVID-19 for the first few months of life.
“If you get vaccinated while pregnant, you are providing both yourself and your baby with some immunity to the virus,” Dr Jenkins said.
“The vaccine is safe. Don’t put it off. The sooner you can get it, the better.”
Westmead Hospital midwife Marika Lee is pregnant herself and was originally hesitant to get vaccinated, but ultimately decided protecting herself, her baby, her family and her patients was the right thing to do.
“When you’re pregnant, you have to be very mindful about what you put in your body. But after speaking to the obstetricians here and reading some research papers, I realised it came down to my safety,” she said.
“I have contact with a lot of women here, so it was no brainer to get vaccinated.
“I felt a huge sense of relief after it was done. I’m 32 weeks now, and everything is going great. I definitely advocate for other pregnant women to get vaccinated for their protection.”
COVID-19 is circulating in the community, especially in western and south-western Sydney.
Dr Jenkins said it is essential for all residents, particularly pregnant women, to be vigilant.
“If you are a pregnant woman in western Sydney, there is a very high chance you will get COVID-19 if you are not vaccinated,” he said.
“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your baby it to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The sooner you get it, the safer both you and your unborn baby will be.”
If you are pregnant you are a priority for COVID-19 vaccination and should be routinely offered Pfizer or Moderna at any stage of pregnancy.
If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.
Real-world evidence has shown that Pfizer and Moderna are safe if you are pregnant and breastfeeding.