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Idaho doctors urge vaccinations for pregnant people as more patients see COVID-19 complications

A mom's hand touches a newborn's fingers
Aditya Romansa

Idaho doctors are renewing calls for pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as they report increasing cases of unvaccinated and infected pregnant patients who are having complications.

Dr. Lauren Miller oversees labor and delivery at St. Luke’s in Boise. She said that unit has seen an uptick in COVID admissions among expectant mothers. Some are staying in the ICU for four to five weeks.

“We’ve had losses of babies, we’ve had losses of moms and that is really, truly devastating,” Miller said during a call with reporters Wednesday.

In line with international scientific data, Miller has also started to see cases of stillbirths that have no known cause, except that the mother had a COVID infection.

“That is very scary,” she said. “We certainly see that with other infections in pregnancy, but not to this extent.”

Miller said lots of the sick pregnant patients are young and generally healthy.

“They’re runners, they’re active, they have multiple children at home,” she said.

There’s also been an uptick in babies born prematurely because of their mothers’ complications with COVID, said Dr. Nikolai Shalygin, a neonatologist at Mountain States Neonatology and Saint Alphonsus NICU.

He said the Saint Alphonsus NICU is currently caring for seven of those babies.

“They had to be delivered for, usually, respiratory declining status of the mother,” said Shalygin.

The babies themselves haven’t been testing positive, but they have complications from prematurity, some are sicker than Shalygin would expect and they’re staying in the NICU for longer. And if the mother or other family members are still infected with COVID, they can’t be reunited right away with the baby.

The doctors emphasized all available data show the vaccine is safe during pregnancy and postpartum.

The CDC also released an urgent recommendation Wednesday, encouraging people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future, to get vaccinated.

Symptomatic pregnant people are two times more likely than non-pregnant people to require ICU care and are at a 70% increased risk of death due to COVID, according to the CDC.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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