UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, reported on Friday it had admitted 39 pregnant women who were unvaccinated from COVID-19 in August. Ten of those women are currently in the hospital’s intensive care unit and seven are on ventilators.
According to UAB, two COVID-positive women died while pregnant at the hospital. Another six women with COVID lost their babies during their second trimester, and three more lost their babies during their third trimester.
Like all hospitals in the state, UAB Hospital has been seen a huge surge in new admissions due to the Delta variant spreading rapidly through the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant accounts for more than 93 percent of COVID-19 cases nationwide.
UAB Hospital released a statement on Friday regarding its COVID cases, noting that it is currently seeing a record number of pregnant women hospitalized for COVID-19.
“Truly, we’ve never had this number of pregnant women in my ICU,” Dr. Steve Stigler, director of UAB Hospital’s Medical Intensive Care Unit, said.
“It is alarming,” Stigler continued. “In a typical month, we may have one or two pregnant women who require our care in a medical intensive care unit; but those are very rare circumstances.”
UAB Hospital also recently hosted a virtual conversation with a few of the doctors from the facility that the hospital posted on YouTube on August 18. During the talk, the doctors discussed pregnancy and vaccinations, noting that pregnant women are now recommended to get the COVID shots if they had not done so prior to their pregnancies.
The healthcare workers also discussed how they have been forced to induce labor in certain instances. Some women in the ICU have had to deliver babies as early as week 26 of pregnancies, which is eleven weeks before they are considered to have reached full term.
“Nearly all of these women are delivering pre-term—not because they are laboring pre-term, but because we are effecting a pre-term birth because the virus is doing so much damage to these women,” Dr. Akila Subramaniam, associate professor in UAB’s Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, said during the virtual discussion.
“If a mom is not oxygenating her body well, she is not oxygenating the baby well either. That’s what may lead us to deliver the baby,” said Dr. Audra Williams, assistant professor in UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “And there are lots of risks associated with prematurity—long-term neurological or gastrointestinal complications, among others. It’s not just the acute risk of the COVID infection these babies are facing, but long-term, lifetime risk.”
The CDC reports that only 23 percent of pregnant women in the nation have been vaccinated. None of the pregnant women currently in UAB Hospital’s ICU are vaccinated.
“The vaccine is safe for pregnant women regardless of the trimester they are in, and it is safe for breastfeeding moms,” Subramaniam stressed. “We can definitively say, yes, these vaccines are safe for women and their babies.”
Alabama currently has the lowest vaccination rate in the U.S., with approximately 45 percent of its population fully inoculated.