Some 383 pregnant women have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began; however, 68 of these infections came within the last week, according to the Ministry of Health’s Director of Women’s Health Dr Adesh Sirjusingh, who described the occurrence as “very alarming”.
Noting the sensitive nature of the information, Dr Sirjusingh indicated that there are several pregnant women currently warded in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He added that of all the pregnant women admitted to hospital for COVID-19 treatment, approximately three per cent have ended up in the ICU or High Dependency Unit (HDU).
To date, there has been one maternal death recorded in a pregnant woman. He said COVID-19 increases the risk of complications in pregnancy.
“Most of these would have been in the latter stages of pregnancy,” he said.
With only 172 pregnant women being inoculated to date since vaccinations began for this category on Wednesday 25th August, Dr Sirjusingh is appealing for more women to come forward.
“COVID-19 is serious in pregnancy. It’s not to be taken likely,” he said.
He indicated that over 300,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated globally in countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Europe and to date, there have not been any reports of adverse reactions in this category.
“When you take the vaccine, it protects your unborn baby as well. There are no different side effects other than those we’ve already stated when you compare a pregnant woman with the general population,” he said.
“We have not seen any adverse pregnancy-related outcomes worldwide nor here in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Citing international studies, he said the vaccine poses no threat to the unborn child.
“The vaccine does not cross the placenta. If you’re breastfeeding the vaccine does not go into the breast milk. The antibodies, however, cross the placenta and antibodies are excreted in the breast milk and give your baby some level of protection,” he explained.
Dr Sirjusingh said the Ministry of Health is currently exploring the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine in breastfeeding mothers.
For those concerned about any long-term effects of the vaccine on the unborn baby, ICU specialist Dr Farah Sulaman said there is nothing to worry about.
“This vaccine is a non-live vaccine and generally non-live vaccines do not cause long-term effects and it’s broken down quickly like Dr Sirjusingh said after injection, and what remains are the antibodies to help you fight infection,” she said.
Dr Sulaman is also eight months pregnant and received her dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week without issue.