Recorded Sept. 16, 2021; broadcast on Sept. 23, 2021.
Dr. Laura Vricella is an OB-GYN and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.
She spoke about how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted her and her staff, and about some of the ways that COVID-19 infections seem to be impacting expectant mothers and their babies.
**Note: This piece does discuss infant loss and could be disturbing to some listeners.
Region: St. Louis County
OB-GYN & Maternal/Fetal Medicine Specialist, Mercy Hospital St. Louis
Dr. Laura Vricella: So, this has been really devastating for the healthcare teams because the vast majority of the patients for whom we have cared in this past weeks to months since things have really gotten bad, they have all been unvaccinated.
And when we talk to those women about their reasons for choosing to not receive the vaccine, the majority of our women who are pregnant really did it because they were confused about the safety of the vaccines and pregnancy.
They had been told by possibly healthcare providers, possibly families and friends that it might be better to wait until after pregnancy. But ultimately, they find themselves in this very dangerous situation.
We've delivered babies who were a pound, which is exceedingly small, which really sets those babies up for a lifetime of complications related to prematurity. It's been really devastating to see – especially since the more we learn about the COVID vaccine and its effects on pregnancy – all evidence points to it being safe, not causing birth defects, not causing infertility.
What we're seeing now in this past, you know, four to six weeks is that we have seen stillbirths in COVID women, and we can't 100 percent know why that is, but we're seeing it much more frequently, and we are worried it could be because of COVID.
Furthermore, it does not seem to be isolated to women who are critically ill, which is even more terrifying. If mother is on a ventilator, and she is, you know, requiring all the hospitals resources to keep her alive – that makes intuitive sense that that fetus is going to be in more danger.
But the terrifying part, especially for those of us who are seeing a large amount of pregnant women who do have COVID and don't need to be in the hospital – we are struggling to figure out how best to identify if women are at risk for stillbirth and how we can avoid it.
That's why those of us who've chosen this profession, that's why we went into it, you know, we want to help moms have healthy babies and have the joy of bringing their baby home.
And we always know that stillbirth is always a possibility for anyone, but when we see something that's so clearly preventable by a vaccine that is safe – it really breaks our hearts.
We've had a – one woman, in particular, who I remember – and I'm going to speak in generalities to protect her identity – but she was really very mildly ill. She did have COVID infection but was doing okay with it, staying at home, you know, watching her oxygen levels.
Baby was looking fine on the monitor, and she comes back a week and a half later and the baby had died, and just to hear her cries as she was delivering that baby is something that will always stay with me.
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