AUSTIN (KXAN) — Emergency C-sections and pre-term births — local doctors tell KXAN that’s what some pregnant women are facing right now who haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19. The concern is even greater now with the delta variant driving a surge in new cases.

One Leander mother is sharing her vaccine journey during her pregnancy. This week, Maria Garza gave birth to her new son without her husband, Jason, by her side.

“It was so bittersweet. Feeling his presence there was special,” Garza said.

On Feb. 5, he tested positive for COVID-19. Garza had COVID last year, so she expected her husband’s case to be mild like hers.

“A couple days later, he started having trouble breathing, especially at night. About a week later, he was sent to the hospital, because he really couldn’t catch his breath. He couldn’t walk. A week after that he was put on a ventilator. So it was a very, very fast progression of disease there,” Garza explained.

She ended up getting her vaccine during her first trimester, while watching her husband on a ventilator. Garza says doctors tried everything.

“We were even given the opportunity to go to Florida for a lung transplant, but he was so unstable that that couldn’t happen,” Garza explained. “So ultimately, he did not make it. When he tested positive, I was already five months pregnant with our son, and it was going to be his second son. I don’t wish this on anybody.”

Her husband passed away in May.

“He should have had a short disease, and he didn’t. Any pregnant woman out there, as a mom, what you want to do first and foremost is to protect your children, and I was able to do that with the COVID vaccine,” Garza said.

  • Maria Garza's husband, Jason
  • Maria Garza and her husband Jason

Many local doctors are encouraging pregnant women to get the vaccine as cases rise. They are now seeing vaccine hesitancy among some pregnant women and say those women face severe COVID symptoms and become critically ill in their second and third trimesters.

“They’re forced to have emergency C-sections and have their child taken and force the child to be a NICU baby and an ICU baby, just to save mom. It’s traumatic,” said Dr. Natasha Kathuria, emergency room physician and global health specialist.

Dr. John Thoppil is at River Place OB/GYN and is the president of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He delivered Garza’s baby.

“Currently, we have at least two patients admitted to the ICU who are pregnant with COVID. We know that COVID doubles the risk of intubation, hospitalization, severe morbidity. So pregnant women are certainly at a very high risk of getting sick, sicker than the general population if they contract COVID,” Thoppil said.

He says researchers are looking at data from tens of thousands of pregnant women who have been vaccinated, and they are not seeing complications for mom or baby.

“There are now actually new trials looking specifically at pregnant women, but we have that data retrospectively looking back at who got vaccinated, and we’re seeing no change in outcome, meaning that there is no increased risk of complications. No evidence of harm, and we’re also showing antibodies passing across to the baby,” Thoppil explained.

He says the new trials for pregnant women are addressing other variants.

“We have some pretty compelling data that the vaccine is 80% effective in the Israeli trials for the delta variant, but more importantly the people who got it had very mild disease,” said Thoppil.