In ‘devastating’ first for Hawaii, pregnant woman hospitalized with COVID dies after giving birth

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 5:25 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:32 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Doctors have confirmed a pregnant woman in the islands who was severely ill and hospitalized with COVID recently died after giving birth, in a tragic first for Hawaii.

In the wake of the fatality, health officials are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“We have been notified of a maternal death ― so a mother who died postpartum after giving birth,” said Dr. Stacy Tsai, chair of Hawaii State Maternal Mortality Review Committee. “The baby was delivered and is doing fine. The mother unfortunately had very severe disease from COVID.”

Due to medical privacy, Tsai says she can’t publicly share many details about the case or the mother’s vaccination status. But she did say the loss impacts everyone.

“It is very devastating. It’s an infant or newborn who will never really know its mother and will never experience the love of a mother,” said Tsai.

“Me and my team, we grieve every day when we have a bad outcome,” she added.

The CDC says pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.

“We are seeing women getting COVID during pregnancy and becoming so sick that we are having to deliver pre-term or premature in order to help them breathe, unfortunately, better,” said Tsai.

On the Papa Ola Lokahi Facebook page recently, Native Hawaiian physicians held a webinar about wahine health, pregnancy and vaccine safety.

The recent death was part of the discussion.

“All of the women who have been hospitalized during pregnancy have been unvaccinated,” said Dr. Reni Soon, OB/GYN at University Health Partners and a JABSOM associate professor.

“I’ve been an OBGYN for 20 years here in Hawaii. I’ve seen more pregnant women intubated and on ventilators in the last two months than all the rest of my years,”

Leading medical organizations agree the vaccine is safe for pregnant women. “Get vaccinated if you are pregnant,” Tsai said. Get vaccinated if you are around people who are pregnant.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has a Q&A on its website about the vaccine and pregnancy. You can also find more information on the CDC’s website.

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