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Hawaii doctors see sharp increase in COVID hospitalizations among pregnant women

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 5:40 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 8:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii maternity doctors say they’re seeing a sharp increase in pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19, and are urging patients to get vaccinated.

“When I see a patient who’s pregnant with COVID-19 and they are looking at me with a mask on. I have my mask on. I see the fear in their eyes. I see the fear in their families,” said Dr. Stacy Tsai, a high-risk pregnancy physician in Honolulu.

Added Dr. Men-Jean Lee, also a high-risk pregnancy doctor:

“We are trying to sound the alarms right now that pregnant women are getting hit particularly hard in this next wave and they were all unvaccinated.”

As overall hospitalizations have risen into the triple digits, Lee says about 3 to 5% of the hospitalizations are pregnant women.

“They were all a lot sicker than what we had seen during the first few waves of the COVID pandemic here in Hawaii and we were caught off guard,” said Lee, of University Health Partners of Hawaii.

On Friday, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, announced they are recommending the vaccine for pregnant women.

Some pregnant women and those of childbearing age have been hesitant about the COVID vaccine because of concerns and misinformation about infertility and the vaccine’s impact.

“I’m a mother myself and I understand that women are scared of the possibility of doing anything to your baby when you are pregnant, but the reality is it is way worse for you, your family and your baby to get COVID-19,” said Tsai.

CDC data this month showed only 16.3% percent of pregnant women nationally have been vaccinated.

“That is the biggest reason why we are seeing increased hospitalizations,” said Tsai.

Hawaii doctors say the vaccine helps the mom make the antibodies that can indirectly protect her baby through breastfeeding or the umbilical cord blood.

“There have been some larger studies now that have been published recently over the past month showing that the COVID vaccine does not affect the placenta or the afterbirth so the vaccine doesn’t get across to the baby,” said Lee.

“It is very safe. There are no concerns of a miscarriage, still birth or having birth defects,” said Tsai.

Medical literature shows coronavirus hits pregnant women harder than someone who’s not pregnant. They’re getting less oxygen and that’s going to impact the baby.

Doctors say they’ve seen no Hawaii cases where an infected mother passed the virus to her newborn child. They say hospitals don’t separate mother and child and that sick mothers can wear a mask while breastfeeding and keep the bassinet 6 feet away from their bed.

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