CENTRAL TEXAS — Vaccination rates among pregnant women continue to run low and doctors are hoping to turn the tide in order to protect mothers and their children.
The first strain of the COVID virus didn't make much noise among pregnancies, but the delta variant changed the stakes.
"With this new delta variant, it seems like it's more infectious and affecting our pregnant women to a much greater extent," said Paula Smith, maternal-fetal medicine specialist with Baylor Scott and White.
Smith said there has been a definite rise in cases among pregnant women, and the cases are often more severe than the original strain. Because of the nature of the virus, the health of the mother and the baby are both at risk.
"The baby needs the mom for oxygen, and to survive. And how COVID works, is it affects the oxygenation," said Smith. "And so if mom's not able to get the oxygen, then we have a problem for baby."
Unfortunately, Smith has observed not only a rise in maternal deaths but stillborn deaths as well. A few fetal deaths have already occurred in McLennan County. Seeing the alarming numbers, doctors are pushing hard for their expecting patients to get the vaccine.
61 percent of women nationwide between the ages of 18 and 49 have received at least one dose of the vaccine. However, the numbers for pregnant women are more worrisome. Only 25 percent in that same age group have received a shot. Online misinformation may be partially to blame, but Smith thinks a lot of the hesitancy has to do with personal health concerns.
"A lot of them are just worried about their risks to their pregnancy and their unborn child. That's the main thing. And so we try to re-assure them that we do have some good data out there," said Smith.
That data shows that there is very minimal risk involved with a mother getting vaccinated against the Coronavirus, and their baby may actually reap the benefits, like receiving antibodies from the mother. It's understandable that people would have questions about how the vaccine might affect them.
Kelly Craine of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District says she encourages those with questions about the vaccine to seek out answers from their healthcare providers.
"If you have your own personal health concerns or questions, start with your doctor," said Craine. "Ask your doctor who you trust with all of your medical care. Ask them about the vaccine."
As case counts among pregnant women continue to climb, doctors are doing their best to spread the word: the vaccine is a safe and effective method of countering the virus.
"I just want to make sure that every pregnant mother knows that it is safe to get the vaccine. And even if you're contemplating pregnancy within the next few months, years, you should get the vaccine," said Smith.
Women's health experts want you to know that one reason they're so dedicated in pushing for the vaccine is that they are ultimately caring for two patients: the mother and the unborn child.