OB-GYN: Some pregnant women with COVID-19 experience premature births, other health complications

A pregnant South Dakota woman dies in federal prison after contracting COVID-19. (AP)
A pregnant South Dakota woman dies in federal prison after contracting COVID-19. (AP)(Source: Associated Press)
Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 10:18 AM CDT
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By Ashley Bowerman | June 28, 2020 at 7:05 PM CDT - Updated June 29 at 7:09 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in Montgomery, and according to local health experts, a growing number of pregnant women are among those getting the virus.

“As the numbers continue to increase we are seeing a significant increase in the amount of pregnant women that have COVID-19,” said Jackson Hospital OB/GYN Dr. LaToya Clark. “We focus on all these different sub-groups of patients that are being affected like the elderly in nursing homes but one of the things that we have totally missed is how COVID-19 is affecting the delivery of pregnant women in Montgomery.”

Clark said pregnant women already have a weakened immune system making them easily susceptible to infections, therefore putting them in a higher risk category for contracting the virus.

A virus that is proving to have major impacts on the mother and the fetus.

“With COVID-19, although it sometimes presents as a respiratory virus, it’s also causing other vascular problems and pregnant women are more susceptible to vascular complications,” Clark said.

She said she is seeing a lot of pregnant patients with COVID-19 that are having obstetrical complications and, in some rare cases, stillbirths.

“Preterm labor, placental abruptions, and unfortunately we’ve actually had some women that had intrauterine fetal demises so the babies will pass from the virus,” Clark said.

Clark said some women come in with bleeding or may be in preterm labor but have no other symptoms. She said they are being aggressive in getting those women tested.

“For a lot of the OB patients that actually do have COVID, most of them are not presenting with the common cough, cold, fever symptoms that we typically think of with a respiratory virus,” Clark said. “Some patients are just presenting with obstetrical complications and so we have been very fortunate that we have picked up on that early and that women that come in with unusual obstetrical complications we are being sure to test those mothers early to figure out exactly what’s going on.”

What makes it even harder is that if a mother delivers a preterm child, they have to be separated from the baby to help minimize exposure.

“When a mother may deliver a preterm baby, if the baby has to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time, that mother that has COVID-19 is not allowed to stay in the hospital with her baby so it’s very traumatic,” Clark said.

She also said the hospital is extra careful to try and not expose the baby to the virus.

“We are careful to not try to expose the baby to COVID-19 so those mothers have to make a very difficult decision whether to deliver their baby and quarantine away from the baby for 14 days or allow the baby to stay in the room with them, but then of course that poses a small risk that the baby could be exposed.”

Clark said as of Sunday she is treating nearly 20 COVID-19 positive mothers and she has others that have been tested and are awaiting results. So far, she has not had any babies born from COVID-19 positive mothers that have tested positive for the virus.

Clark said pregnant mothers do not need to fear. Their hospital has several systems in place to care for both COVID-19 positive moms and those who are not positive nor have had any exposure.

“We have a lot of systems in place now to take care of COVID positive patients, so all of our mothers are getting excellent care whether they have COVID-19 or not,” Clark said. “I don’t want any mothers to feel like they won’t receive the appropriate prenatal care if they do have COVID.”

“If we have an asymptomatic patient that has COVID-19 and not having any kind of obstetrical complications, we have special rooms set aside for those mothers and we have one on one nursing care,” Clark said.

So far Clark said she has seen some mothers locally who have had to receive ICU care for an extended period of time, but she personally has not cared for any mothers who have passed away from COVID-19 complications.

Clark encourages all pregnant women and family members living with a pregnant woman to stay vigilant.

“I want to encourage all pregnant women to wear a mask while in public or when going to your doctor visits. If those mothers are living with many household members, I would ask that they encourage their family members to also wear a mask when they’re out in public so that it’s not accidentally being brought back home.”

If you begin to develop COVID-19 symptoms or have had exposure to the virus and are pregnant, Clark said to contact your OB/GYN immediately.

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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