Triad health expert stresses importance of pregnant women getting vaccinated against COVID-19

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — As an OBGYN with Novant Health WomanCare, Dr. Haley Landwehr interacts with a lot of moms and moms-to-be. And they often discuss COVID-19.

“A lot of our patients have had COVID or have known family members who have been severely ill,” Landwehr said. “We’ve had patients who have lost family members and it has been hard to watch our patients suffer.”

This wave of COVID-19 — specifically the delta variant — is hitting pregnant women and their unborn babies hard. According to Landwehr, that’s likely because women’s bodies are under a lot of stress during pregnancy and go through changes in lung and heart function.

“Oftentimes women who are pregnant get much more ill with the flu and it’s why we encourage flu vaccines in pregnancy,” Landwehr said. “We’re starting to see that kind of mirror with the COVID virus.”

According to her, even for healthy individuals with no other complications, pregnancy itself is now considered a high-risk factor for COVID-19 complications.

“Pregnant women are twice as likely to need ICU-level care or need a ventilator and they are 70 percent more likely to die than someone their age and health status who’s not pregnant,” Landwehr said.

The CDC estimates only 31 percent of pregnant women in the US are vaccinated against COVID. The agency issued an urgent health warning last week, urging expectant moms to get vaccinated now.

“We’ve seen some of our patients get very ill with COVID in the last couple of months, and we want healthy moms,” Landwehr said. “We know that a healthy pregnancy requires a healthy mama.”

Health experts have linked COVID-19 to higher rates of complications including stillbirth, preeclampsia, and preterm delivery. That is why Landwehr encourages her patients to get vaccinated. The CDC says COVID vaccines during pregnancy are safe and beneficial for both mom and baby.

“Not only does it help prevent against severe illness, but we are seeing that antibodies are passed through the placenta and can help protect baby for those first couple of months after the baby is born,” Landwehr said.

When in doubt, Landwehr hopes people will turn to their physicians for factual information about COVID and vaccinations.

“It’s hard to overcome a lot of misinformation and we’re getting tired because we want people to be healthy and happy,” Landwehr said. “It’s getting hard to watch people suffer when they don’t need to get sick.”

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