NEW ORLEANS — Expecting a child can be exciting, but in the midst of a pandemic, it can be worrisome. There are decisions families are having to make, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. Health professionals say while they understand the concern, the benefits far outweigh the risk.
"We're seeing patients come in from exposure of immediate family," said Tulane's Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist, Cecilia Gambala.
Coronavirus numbers are surging, and Gambala says serious cases involving pregnant women are happening.
"Pregnant women are more at risk because of the physiologic changes that occur," she said. "I think most people can understand as the uterus increases in size and presses against their diaphragm and you know when you think about how the lungs perform and function," she said.
If suffering from infection, expectant mothers have a higher risk of needing respiratory support, ending up in an ICU, intubation or even death. There's also a greater possibility of pre-term birth.
"I'm worried about them catching it prior to delivery and maybe not surviving" she said. "And deep down for me that's the scariest part of the conversation, that I can't help them understand that this is the best thing for you and your baby."
She's talking about the vaccines, which nationally the number of expectant mothers getting one could be better. According to the CDC, at least 23 percent of pregnant women are fully vaccinated. It's why maternal specialists like Gambala, are encouraging mothers to get the shot.
"There have been women who were vaccinated and then had a mild symptom and didn't even think it could possibly be COVID but they did the right thing, they decided to check and were positive and stayed home, and recovered and had a full-term baby," she said.
Families understandably have questions about the vaccine. However, Gambala says data coming in shows minimal complications and healthy outcomes, which she says makes it a win-win for all.
"I would like all pregnant women and women about to conceive to know that this is the right thing to do for their own health and future health of their baby and community," she said. "That this will save so many lives and it'll long-term be the best outcome for everybody."
Again, women planning on getting pregnant and those currently pregnant can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Gambala says expectant mothers can get vaccinated at any point during the pregnancy.