Alarming number of pregnant COVID-19 patients hospitalized in August

Vanderbilt University Hospital treated 39 pregnant patients hospitalized with active COVID-19 infections in August, 10 of whom were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Currently, there are four pregnant and postpartum patients in the Medical ICU with COVID-19 — one patient is still pregnant, and the remaining three patients recently underwent emergency deliveries due to the severity of their symptoms.

“With this delta surge of COVID, we have been experiencing a high number of unvaccinated, pregnant females who are becoming critically ill with COVID pneumonia,” said Todd Rice, MD, associate professor of Medicine in Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and director of the Medical ICU.

“These patients get very sick very quickly and end up needing a ventilator or ECMO. A significant proportion of them end up losing their pregnancies, and if they don’t, their babies have to be delivered early, which causes a number of issues for the baby due to being delivered prematurely,” Rice said.

Jennifer Thompson, MD, associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Maternal Fetal Medicine, reiterates Rice’s message and urges pregnant people to carefully consider the risks of COVID-19 infection versus the minimal risks of vaccine side effects.

“The risks associated with COVID and pregnancy are significant: an increased risk of hospitalization, increased need for ICU care, increased risk of needing mechanical ventilation or ECMO, and an increased risk of death,” said Thompson. “Those risks are anywhere between two and 15 times greater than similar-aged, non-pregnant people with COVID. For pregnant people who have other comorbidities such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes, the risks are even further increased.”

Additionally, Thompson warns, there is an increased risk of pre-term delivery, increased risk of pregnancy loss (both stillbirth and miscarriage), increased risk of hypertensive disorders and increased risk of C-sections among pregnant moms who develop COVID-19.

“Potential risks from the vaccine — which is safe and effective in preventing severe disease — pale in comparison to the risks of COVID infection during pregnancy. I strongly recommend the vaccine to anyone who is pregnant,” Thompson said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, as well as the CDC, recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. To schedule your vaccine, visit: www.vumc.org/coronavirus/GetVaccines.