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We Can Protect Moms and Their Babies from COVID-19

I decided to become an obstetrician and gynecologist when I was in high school. This decision was largely motivated by a desire to provide excellent care to the women in our community because when I treat these patients I see my own sisters, my mother, my grandmother, and nieces. I give the care I would want my family to receive.

Preparing for the best health outcomes

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, it became apparent that our education as health care providers never ends. My partners and the entire OB GYN community in Reno/Sparks rose to the occasion and took every effort to educate ourselves in how to treat Covid-19 in women of all ages, especially our pregnant and lactating patients. While it seems impossible to become an expert in a disease that keeps shifting and evolving, we will always try our best to read the research and give you answers to questions and advice you can trust. We have our patient’s best health care interests at heart.

At OB GYN Associates, we strongly support the advice issued by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine in July of 2021. They recommend ALL eligible pregnant and lactating patients receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Why pregnant women are vulnerable

Pregnancy is a unique time where a mother’s immune system is not as active as it typically would be. This enables her to successfully grow a baby inside her body for nine months! However, this suppression of her immune system puts her at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 infection. She also has the monumental task of breathing for two people and the increased oxygen demands make it more likely she may need help breathing if she becomes sick with Covid-19. She may even require hospitalization, time in the ICU, or intubation to help her breathe. Covid-19 infection also increases her risk of having a pregnancy complication. Women with Covid-19 are more likely to deliver prematurely, to require cesarean delivery, and to develop high blood pressure and preeclampsia that can be life-threatening. Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of forming blood clots and Covid-19 infection makes this even more likely. There are so many reasons to avoid Covid-19 infection during pregnancy.

The miracle of vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to decrease disease spread and protect against severe illness requiring hospitalization. It is important for pregnant and lactating mothers to understand that this vaccine does NOT contain live virus. It will NOT infect the pregnancy. The vaccine will not enter the cell’s genetic information center, so it will NOT cause genetic changes to mothers or their children. The beneficial immunity that mothers get from the vaccine crosses the placenta to protect their unborn baby. It also enters into breast milk, providing infants with protective antibodies to help them fight off Covid-19.

Some of our patients remain hesitant to take our advice and accept the vaccine. The most common reasons we hear include: “The vaccine is too new,” “There is not enough data for pregnant and lactating mothers,” “I already had Covid-19,”and “It won’t happen to me/affect me as I am healthy.”

It’s important to know that clinical trials for the vaccine could not include pregnant and lactating mothers. It is not ethical to experiment on these patients! But studies in pregnant animal showed no negative effects. There were women who got pregnant during the clinical trials, and they did not see any negative effects. Since the vaccine was introduced in December 2020, over 140,000 pregnant women have received it. Tracking these women over time has shown NO increase in miscarriage, fetal death, growth restriction of the infant, diabetes, preeclampsia, or preterm labor. More data continues to come in on the vaccine’s effects in pregnant women and it is overwhelmingly positive!  

COVID-19 infection can be devastating to pregnant women

Many people may feel as though they won’t be affected by the virus, or they think the seriousness of the disease is overblown. The facts just don’t support this.

The Mississippi State Health Department recently reported that fetal deaths have doubled among unvaccinated pregnant women who get COVID-19. 72 horrible, tragic, largely preventable deaths of unborn babies. Eight pregnant Mississippi mothers lost their lives to COVID-19 in a four-week period and their babies, delivered by emergency c-section, are now motherless. Hawaii reported its first death of a Covid-19-infected mom shortly after giving birth. A new study from Mexico reported more than 1000 deaths of pregnant women from February 2020 to February 2021.

I and other healthcare providers in this community have seen this type of devastation right here at home. The Delta variant has increased admissions to the hospital labor and delivery units with very sick pregnant patients. We have seen babies pass away before they could be born. We have seen maternal deaths in this community. These are loved ones. And in a town the size of Reno, if it has not personally affected you, there is a good chance you may know someone who is now missing a loved one because of this illness.

Let’s protect new and expecting moms

The Pfizer COVID-19 has received full FDA approval for use in those 16 years and older. We expect the Moderna and Janssen vaccines will follow in the coming months. My sincere hope is that this final step can help those who are uncertain to choose vaccination. Wide-reaching vaccination, along with social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, can hopefully draw this pandemic to its long-awaited closure. If you can get the vaccine – whether you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, already a parent, or just someone who cares about community health – please get it. By doing so, we not only protect mothers and their unborn babies, we protect others who, because of health issues, cannot get vaccinated.

Dr. Iolanda Edsall, MD, FACOG

Dr Ioland Edsall

Dr. Edsall is a board-certified OB-GYN who has been in practice at OB GYN Associates in Reno, Nevada, since 2017. A native of Northern Nevada, Dr. Edsall is strongly invested in her community and devoted to the health and well-being of all Northern Nevada women.