BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dr. Sarah Berga, professor and chair of the Department of OBGYN at University at Buffalo, says you really don't want to get COVID-19 if you're pregnant and unvaccinated.
"You have a 15-fold increased risk of dying,” Dr. Berga said. “That's huge. And you have a markedly increased risk in having your baby early, in needing life support particularly respiratory support, you know, intubation.”
That's comparing data regarding pregnant women without COVID-19 and pregnant women who contracted the alpha variant, the first strain of COVID-19 to spread across the globe.
Dr. Berga says it's because a pregnant woman needs more oxygen because she is breathing for two. COVID-19 can cause oxygen levels to decrease, raising the risk for intubation, needing to go to the ICU and going into pre-term labor. Dr. Berga says contracting COVID-19 is also bad for the baby, too.
"Babies born prematurely do less well,” Dr. Berga said. “So the earlier they're born, the less well they do.”
That's why doctors are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against the virus.
"When you vaccinate a mom, you vaccinate a baby,” Dr. Berga said. “And the antibodies are so important for baby as well as for mom, so not only is mom healthier, baby is healthier.”
Doctors say after birth, those antibodies can pass on through breast milk, protecting a baby for longer.
"Babies can't actually be vaccinated because their immune system can't respond,” Dr. Berga said. “So this is really the only way.”
Doctors say it is possible for a baby in the womb to contract COVID-19 if its mother has the virus, but stress it is not common and it not the biggest risk. They say the biggest risk is that the baby will be born early and fare poorly because of that.