UIHC advises pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine

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Hospitals across the country are seeing an increase in unvaccinated pregnant women with COVID-19, including Iowa’s largest hospital.

Last month, University of Iowa hospitals and clinics cared for six unvaccinated pregnant women with COVID-19 in the medical intensive care unit. Joel Kline, an intensive care doctor at UIHC, said these women get very sick; they must be intubated and ventilated. The women had an emergency caesarean section to give birth to their children early, he said.

“While early delivery is naturally risky, we know that low oxygen levels are far more devastating to the fetus,” said Kline, “so this is our choice.”

Kline said he believes many pregnant women are not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine out of fear of the unknown. Nationwide, less than a quarter of all pregnant women are vaccinated. but current studies have shown that the vaccine is safe to use during pregnancy.

“I think every pregnant mother obviously wants the best for her unborn child, and there are concerns about what an unknown new vaccine could do,” said Kline.

The reason pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill is “a little unclear,” said Kline. He said pregnancy acts like an immunosuppressive state to aid a child’s development. UIHC is working closely with the hospital’s high-risk obstetrics team to monitor the health of the mother and baby so they can make a decision about whether an early delivery is necessary, Kline said. They carefully monitor the mother’s oxygen levels.

“After the mother uses up the blood, it is passed on to the baby, so a small change in the mother’s oxygen levels can result in devastatingly low levels of oxygen for the baby,” said Kline. “We want to prevent that.”

Kline said most pregnant women with COVID-19 stayed in the hospital’s MICU for at least 10 days. He advises expectant mothers to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the COVID vaccination to all pregnant women.


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