Covid 19 and Pregnancy
Worldwide, as of September 7, 2021, there were more than 222 million cases of COVID-19, with around 4.6 million deaths. In the United States, 40.8 million cases and nearly 667 thousand deaths, and in the Philippines, more than 2.1 million cases and around 34,500 deaths. The Delta variants have been found to be more rapidly transmissible, with greater hospitalization and death rates. More than 90 percent of recent cases were unvaccinated people. Because of some breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated individuals, mainly caused by the Delta variant, a booster shot is now recommended for everyone, redefining “fully vaccinated” to mean those who had the third shot, which increases the antibody titer 9-10 times. Since we are averaging 163,000 cases a day, because unvaccinated people are getting the virus and spreading it around, it is most prudent (and urgent) that everyone eligible get the vaccines, and everyone continue to stay out of crowds, do social distancing, and wear a face mask, covering both the nose and the mouth in public. This more virulent strain is a serious killer.
Does COVID-19 risk pregnancy?
Yes, those pregnant infected with COVID-19 are more likely to have preterm birth (baby delivered less than 37 weeks) and might even have added poor outcomes related to pregnancy (like losing the baby) compared to those who are pregnant but uninfected and non-pregnant women in general.
Do the vaccines cause miscarriages?
No, the vaccines for COVID-19 do not cause miscarriages or complicate the pregnancy. As a matter of fact, the vaccines prevent these problems. Dangerous fake news in the social media suggesting vaccines are not safe only confuse and scare people, the reason this pandemic might be with us much longer.
Can those pregnant get the vaccines?
Yes, those pregnant are strongly advised to get the vaccines soonest to prevent the risk of premature delivery, adverse health effects on the baby, or still birth. The vaccines have been found to be safe and effective for the mother and the baby inside her.
Does the virus pass through the placenta?
No, the virus in an infected woman who is pregnant does not pass through the placenta, so the baby cannot get infected that way, according to NIH-funded studies. But when the mother gets severely infected with COVID-19, the violent inflammatory cytokines (passing though the placenta) developing into a crisis reaction of the immune system of the mother could harm the baby’s neurodevelopment in the womb. The vaccine the pregnant people get does not pass through the placenta either. The antibodies produced by the vaccines can pass through the placenta and protect the baby, who could also get the antibodies from breast-feeding for at least 80 days following vaccination. So, vaccination protect both the mother and the developing baby or the newborn.
How are newborns protected?
Infected mothers could protect their newborn babies by staying away from crowds, washing hands frequently, wearing a facemask, when with other people, and when near or taking care of the newborn. This is exactly how nurses routinely do to care for newborns, even without a pandemic.
Not an isolated tragedy
The unvaccinated mother who died of COVID-19 September 1, 2021, in Las Vegas, refused to get the vaccines because she feared the shots might cause a miscarriage. She waited for 10 years to get pregnant. Her 30-week old baby girl was delivered by emergency C-section. The newborn has underdeveloped lungs and bleeding in the brain, but reportedly doing better.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. There have been reports of similar tragedies, some ended with both the infected (unvaccinated) mother and baby dying. The luckier ones who survived with their babies have now been converts, advocating people to get vaccinated.
The two radio talk show hosts, who were self-proclaimed anti-vaccine advocates, who got infected with COVID-19 and died, have surely scared their listeners into getting vaccinated.
Globally, about 2.2 billion people (out of 7.9 billion total world population) have been fully vaccinated, 176 million in the United States, which is about 53.6 percent of the US population. These data are overwhelming and most convincing proof that the vaccines are safe and effective (since more than 90 percent of current COVID-19 infections and deaths involved unvaccinated people).
Fetuses doubly safer
Fetuses in the womb of vaccinated mothers are safer from COVID-19 as explained above. They are also safer now from being intentionally terminated, at least in Texas, according to news media, with a new most restrictive law which has taken effect September 1, 2021, “prohibiting abortions whenever an ultrasound can detect a fetal “heartbeat.” This act essentially bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. This law would affect at least 85 percent of the abortions performed in Texas. The new legislation “establishes a system where members of the public can sue abortion providers for a minimum of US$10,000 in statutory damages, instead of State officials enforcing the new law. The clever legal mechanism skirts Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. More than 62 million babies have been aborted since 1973. The effect of this new law is a de facto ban on abortion in Texas. Other States are expected to follow suit.
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As we celebrated the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a new research by the Edith Cowan University has shown that “responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks are still suffering 20 years later, with many facing significant health issues related to the event. More than 91,000 responders were exposed to a range of hazards during recovery and clean-up operations, with 80,785 enrolling in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) set up after the attacks. Records show 3,439 are now dead—far more than the 412 who died on the day of the attacks—with aerodigestive illness (34 percent) the number one cause, ahead of cancer (30 percent) and mental health (16 percent). Deaths attributed to these three factors and musculoskeletal and acute traumatic injuries have increased six-fold since the start of 2016.”
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Let us continue to remember and honor the military who risk their lives to protect our freedom and security, and all first responders in calamities, all our physicians and allied healthcare providers, who expose themselves (and their families at home) to COVID-19 while saving millions of lives in the country and billions around the world. Their sacrifices also have severe tolls on their own physical and mental health, and yet they continue to serve. May God bless all of them for their unselfish services to their fellow beings and to humanity as a whole.