Pregnant Claire, 33, who was rushed to London’s St Thomas’ Hospital with coronavirus in July this year, wants fellow expectant mothers to know the serious health risks that not having the COVID-19 vaccine poses to them and their unborn baby, with new data showing nearly 20% of the most critically ill Covid patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.
“I find it incredibly overwhelming and scary how close I came to dying and losing our baby from covid”, said Claire, from Sittingbourne, Kent.
A few days after testing positive for covid on 7th July, Claire was admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital with difficulty breathing, where she was then put on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma.
As her condition worsened, she and husband Sam were told to prepare for the possibility of an emergency c-section at just 26 weeks pregnant.
Thanks to the skill of the hospital team, Claire avoided an immediate c-section. However, with her condition continuing to worsen, Claire was transferred to London’s St Thomas’ Hospital where there were further specialist services available should her condition deteriorate.
Finally, on 4th August, nearly a month after she was initially admitted to hospital – Claire was allowed home to Kent, where she now gradually recovers with husband Sam, their unborn child doing well.
Claire is now urging other pregnant women to consider getting the covid vaccine to significantly reduce their risk of catching coronavirus and having the same experience. She said:
“I completely understand the hesitation not to get vaccinated when you are growing a child inside you, and after two miscarriages myself, the fear of being pregnant again with the worry of covid was sending my anxiety through the roof.
“But after my recent experience, I can honestly say that the risk of not having the covid vaccine far outweighs any doubts about having it.”
Since July, one in five Covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab.
Pregnant women have been treated with a therapy, called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by Covid that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.
The new data shows that of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 on ECMO in intensive care, pregnant women make up almost a third (32 percent) since the start of the pandemic.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have both recommended vaccination as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe COVID-19 infection, while data from America and the UK shows that over 200,000 pregnant women have received at least one dose of the vaccine without any safety concerns raised.
Reflecting on her experience in hospital, Claire added:
“Truthfully, I’m glad I don’t remember much, but I find it incredibly overwhelming and scary how close I came to dying and losing our baby.
“I was truly astonished that the little one was still here through everything; definitely a fighter.
“I was one of the lucky ones who was able to go home quite quickly after been woken from the ventilator, but I am still very weak, can only walk short distances and I still do not have my voice back properly.
“I know there is still a long way to go, but I must thank the NHS and every single person at both hospitals who has and is helping me on this journey.”
Data from Public Health England showed that over 81,000 pregnant women have received the first dose of the life-saving Covid jab, and around 65,000 have received their second dose.
London’s Health chiefs are now calling on all expectant mums to get vaccinated to protect them and their baby against coronavirus.
Kate Brintworth, Chief Midwife for the NHS in London, said:
“Covid-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby, and have been shown to reduce the risk of premature birth. Vaccines save lives, and Claire’s story is a reminder that getting vaccinated against covid-19 is the most important way to keep you, your baby and your loved ones safe and out of hospital.
“Thanks to the planning, skill and dedication of hard-working London NHS staff, over 11 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered so far in the capital, including to pregnant women. But we need everyone to come forward and take up the offer, which is why we are calling on pregnant women to take action to protect themselves and their babies by getting the jab, and speaking to their midwife if they have any questions.”
Since April 2021, pregnant women have been offered the vaccine as part of the standard age based rollout of the vaccination programme. The NHS has arranged for the vaccine to be expectant mums at a number of convenient local locations, including at some antenatal clinics, and pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their GP or midwife if they have questions about getting the jab.