Stillbirths in unvaccinated pregnant women have doubled in states with low vaccination rates, and most of the cases might be concentrated in the southern regions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mississippi had 72 stillbirths during the pandemic, doubling the state's expected cases for the same period in the previous years. Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi's health officer, said that nearly all cases involved unvaccinated moms.
The Magnolia State has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country at 9 per 1,000 births. Mississippi's current vaccination rate is still at 39 percent fully vaccinated.
However, doctors in Alabama, Mississippi's neighbor to the east, have also noticed a three to six percent increase in stillbirth cases for unvaccinated pregnant women at the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine of the University of Alabama. The rate is higher than stillbirth cases pre-pandemic, which was at one percent.
Dr. Akila Subramaniam said that these reports are still anecdotal, and there are no firm numbers to support the observations. Doctors may also be seeing a rise in cases because there are more pregnant moms with COVID-19.
Higher Risks for Pregnant Moms
Studies have shown that pregnant mothers could develop severe COVID-19 symptoms and may require hospitalization or the use of ventilators in the intensive care unit if they are infected. The CDC came out with an advisory for mothers to undergo vaccination as soon as possible to reduce their risks.
However, only 24 percent of pregnant moms have had at least one COVID-19 jab despite assurances of its safety from the CDC, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The guidelines from these medical institutions were not published until August 2021, which may have triggered vaccine hesitancy among pregnant mothers.
For ethical reasons, early vaccine trials did not include tests on pregnant women; thus, data about its safety and efficacy came out late. Scientists usually put this demographic last on the lists of tests, along with children, to ensure their protection. Unfortunately, this allowed false claims about the vaccines' effect on pregnant women to emerge online amid the lack of clarity about safety.
Pregnant Moms Share Their Experience
Some mothers, such as Kelly Lawler, a journalist from USA Today, made their own choices to get vaccinated. After discussing her options with her doctor, Lawler had her first Pfizer shot in March, followed up with her second jab in April, well before the guidelines were released.
The mom said that the side effects she experienced were not far from the usually reported side effects. She also participated in the V-Safe Program for the CDC, which tracks the safety of vaccines weeks after the jabs.
"I was hopeful that my experience with vaccination while pregnant could contribute to better data," Lawler wrote.
Kacie Liwosz, a teacher, also sought the help of her OBGYN and her children's pediatrician before getting vaccinated. She checked the "ingredient list" of Pfizer and Moderna from trusted resources before making her final decision. On the 26th week of her fourth pregnancy, she got her first shot of Pfizer, and then the second shot came three weeks later.
The mom said that the recent findings of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines affirmed her decision. She felt her baby kicking "all the time" weeks after she became fully vaccinated.
"He was giving me a little confidence boost that he was OK in there," Liwosz said.
Related Article: Breast Milk of Vaccinated Moms Have High COVID-19 Antibodies: Study
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