AUSTIN (KXAN) — People who are pregnant are more likely to suffer serious illness from COVID-19 than those who are not, and Austin hospitals are seeing that play out front and center.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, alongside other local and national health leaders, say complications can come from developing COVID-19 while pregnant for both the mother and baby. She said here locally they’ve seen pregnant women end up on life support from the virus.

“We’ve actually had some who have had to deliver while sick in ICU,” Walkes said.

The announcement that pregnant women are ending up seriously sick in Austin hospitals is in sharp contrast to floating claims that the COVID-19 vaccine has a negative impact on fertility and a pregnant woman’s unborn baby, which are not based in scientific evidence.

That misinformation is something the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is trying to address by connecting Texans on social media to Mother to Baby, a group that provides evidence-based information about exposures during pregnancy.

The non-profit says of the 100,000 inquiries they take every year, right now most are about COVID-19.

“People are concerned about the safety of the vaccine for the health of their pregnancy as well as for their developing baby,” said Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, a pregnancy specialist with Mother to Baby. “Is there an increased chance of miscarriage if I get the vaccine? Is there long-term data about possible effects on the baby?”

Mother to Baby says there is significant data to show that COVID-19 vaccines do not pose any risks to mother or baby, nor does it have an impact on fertility.

“The mRNA and the mRNA vaccines doesn’t last for very long in the body so it’s not as if the vaccine is going to stay in the body for an extended period of time,” Harris-Sagaribay said. She also points out that when a pregnant person gets a vaccine, it doesn’t result in direct exposure to the unborn baby. What the baby does receive are antibodies produced by the mother.

“That might provide the baby with some protection against the virus after delivery,” Harris-Sagaribay said.

In contrast, there is significant data that shows getting a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy does increase the chance of severe illness compared to people who are not pregnant. It can lead to pregnancy complications.

National health organizations have similar data and recommendations. In May, the CDC added pregnancy to their list of underlying medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They also say that risk extends several weeks beyond pregnancy.

Here’s what you need to know from the CDC:

  • Pregnant people are more likely to face severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people
  • That likelihood of more severe illness extends to at least 42 days after pregnancy
  • Pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and other poor pregnancy outcomes
  • People who are pregnant, were recently pregnant, or live with someone who is needs to take extra steps to protect from COVID-19

Mother to Baby has several ways you can get answers directly from a pregnancy specialist on your unique questions. They offer email, phone call, text and live chat options. They offer those services in Spanish and English.

“It gives women the opportunity to talk about their specific concerns related to the vaccines,” Harris-Sagaribay said.

You can find vaccine clinics, or sign up for an appointment, on the Austin Public Health website.