Austin-area unvaccinated pregnant women increasingly hospitalized with delta variant, maternal death risk high

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Unvaccinated pregnant women in the Austin-Travis County area are being hospitalized with COVID-19 at increasing rates.

“Much of our admitted patients who are very, very sick and pregnant are sick with COVID pneumonia,” Dr. Allison Cahill, of Dell Medical School at University of Texas Austin said during an Austin Public Health conference Monday morning.

APH officials and other medical experts discussed the COVID-19 delta variant’s effect on unvaccinated pregnant women Monday morning — as area cases and hospitalizations surge.

“Unlike the original COVID that we were seeing 18 months ago, this new delta variant is affecting our pregnant moms more severely. We’re seeing that moms who are getting affected — particularly with delta — are more likely to end up hospitalized. They’re more likely to end up with severe disease and end up in the ICU. More likely to need higher-grade respiratory support… and unfortunately we’re also seeing an increased risk of maternal death.”

Dr. Jessica Ehrig, Baylor Scott and White Medical Center Temple

The delta variant is causing pregnancy complications for women in all trimesters and even putting some women on life support, APH says. Some complications being seen include pre-term births, increased risk of preeclampsia and increased risk of stillbirth, explained Dr. Jessica Ehrig, of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple.

While the doctors couldn’t give numbers of how many women have been hospitalized or suffered severe symptoms, Dr. Kimberly DeStefano, of St. David’s North Austin Medical Center said it’s a significant rise since before delta became the dominant strain in Texas.

The doctors urged all people, in particular pregnant women, to be vaccinated and wear masks while in public spaces. Delta, they explained, is both more infectious than the original strain of COVID-19 and as infectious as chicken pox.

It’s recommended that even pregnant people who’ve already had COVID-19 still get vaccinated. This includes women who are breastfeeding.

After data was reported Friday to Travis County’s COVID-19 dashboard, the seven-day rolling average of new hospitalizations was at 50, the threshold to trigger Stage 5 recommendations, and there aren’t signs the average could go down anytime soon.

On Friday, 54 new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 were reported.

“While no one thing is a magic bullet, we have come to know that the vaccines are highly effective,” said Dr. Cahill. “And they’re now safe in pregnant people — so we can’t stress enough the importance of trying to protect yourself the best you can.”

We will stream the 10:30 a.m. video conference in this story, on KXAN.com, on the official KXAN News Facebook page, and in the KXAN app.

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