Natalie Crandall, a nurse practitioner at Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City, is thankful she got the COVID-19 vaccine while she was pregnant.
Her newborn, Jonathan, tested positive for the virus in early January, but Crandall said she feels lucky because he only experienced a few mild symptoms.
Crandall, 33, of Hillsboro said she believes the vaccine she received while pregnant with her son helped him when he got COVID-19.
She also encourages others to get the vaccine.
“I would recommend the vaccine to pregnant people, people planning to get pregnant, people who are not pregnant nor planning to get pregnant; I would enthusiastically encourage a vaccine (for everyone),” she said.
Dr. Catherine Hutz, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Mercy Jefferson, said she, too, highly recommends pregnant women get the vaccine.
Unfortunately, she said, only about 25 percent of her pregnant patients have been vaccinated.
She said pregnant women and their babies are at a higher risk for serious outcomes if they contract COVID-19, so she urges them to get vaccinated, which can help protect them against those outcomes.
“Being in the ICU, being intubated, being ventilated, there is an increased risk of dying (for pregnant women), and as far as their babies are concerned, they are at increased risk of things like pre-term birth and unfortunately significant increase in stillbirth as well,” she said. “Now I’ve personally seen that (increased stillbirths) in (Mercy Jefferson).
“I have delivered multiple stillborn babies to COVID positive mothers.”
Hutz, 41, of Imperial, who also got vaccinated while she was pregnant, said the booster dose also is safe for any vaccinated woman who becomes pregnant.
She said vaccinated mothers not only protect themselves and their babies by getting the vaccine, but also they will help their babies by passing antibodies through breast milk.
Crandall said she and her husband, Steven, also have a 3-year-old son, Samuel.
“With him, we had to go through fertility to have a successful pregnancy,” she said.
With some more fertility assistance, Crandall found out she was pregnant with Jonathan in December 2020, around the same time the COVID-19 vaccines received emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Crandall said she did as much research as she could and spoke with many of her co-workers and doctors at Mercy Jefferson about getting vaccinated while pregnant.
“At that time, I was having direct exposure with COVID patients. I was going into COVID rooms,” she said. “So we definitely felt that the benefits were outweighing the risks of the vaccine at that time with the little evidence that was available,” she said.
Crandall received her first Pfizer vaccination when she was about seven weeks pregnant.
“I had no side effects from it whatsoever, maybe a little bit of a sore arm,” she said.
Crandall received the second dose at about 10 weeks into her pregnancy.
She said she had a normal pregnancy until Jonathan was born about four weeks early, on Aug. 12, 2021.
“I had some low amniotic fluid, which I think has nothing to do with the vaccine,” she said. “I got induced and he was born and he has been super healthy.”
Crandall said in early January, she, her husband, and Jonathan all tested positive for COVID-19.
“Jonathan was actually the first one to show symptoms and so we were actually recommended by our pediatrician to get him tested as well as our 3-year-old because of direct exposure,” she said.
Samuel was the only one to test negative.
Crandall said she lost daycare for her two children when the Wee Care Learning Center in Festus closed, so they hired an in-home babysitter, who came down with COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, (the babysitter) got it, probably just out in public somewhere, and she’s actually vaccinated herself,” Crandall said.
She said she was “super anxious” when Jonathan contracted the virus and developed a cough, runny nose and low-grade fever.
“It was very scary knowing my poor precious 4-month-old baby had COVID,” she said.
However, one thing helped ease Crandall’s mind – knowing Jonathan had antibodies against COVID-19 because she had been vaccinated while pregnant.
“That was actually a huge kind of relief and some burden off my shoulders as well as (a relief for) my family – my husband, my parents – knowing that I was vaccinated during pregnancy and that he was protected with some antibodies,” Crandall said.
She said her husband had mild symptoms for a few hours and then felt better.
Crandall said she experienced mild symptoms, too.
“Just a slight headache, burning in my sinuses, a little bit of chest tightness and a dry cough,” she said. “Those subsided and then I started getting a little bit of a metallic taste and then a little bit of sinus drainage.”
Crandall said she was worried Samuel would get COVID-19 so they kept the brothers apart during the quarantine.
She also said Samuel will be vaccinated once a COVID-19 vaccination is available for his age group.
Trusting the vaccine
Crandall recommends every woman research the COVID-19 vaccine, and she highly suggests they use the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as sources.
“Do your research, make sure it’s the right research, reach out to your doctor, your primary care doctor,” she said. “If you’re pregnant or want to get pregnant, collaborate with your OB-GYN doctor,” she said.
Hutz, who has 5-month-old twins, said she got vaccinated while she was pregnant because of her experiences in the hospital. She said she already had received her first dose when she found out she was pregnant and waited to receive her second dose so she could do some research.
“I was due for my second dose the day I had my positive pregnancy test,” she said. “I was too weary at that time, because I felt like I didn’t know enough about it.”
But then on July 30, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated, so on July 31, Hutz got her second dose. “The earlier you get it, the higher the benefit to the baby, so I do wish I had gone ahead and gotten it earlier,” she said.