Mowbray Maternity Hospital launched the Mowbray Maternity Hospital vaccination site on Tuesday. The launch signifies the start of the vaccination rollout of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers admitted to Mowbray Maternity Hospital. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.
Mowbray Maternity Hospital launched the Mowbray Maternity Hospital vaccination site on Tuesday. The launch signifies the start of the vaccination rollout of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers admitted to Mowbray Maternity Hospital. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.

Unvaccinated pregnant moms at greater risk of severe illness when contracting Covid-19

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Oct 20, 2021

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Cape Town - The Mowbray Maternity Hospital officially launched its vaccination site for pregnant and lactating women.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, hospital staff and expectant and breastfeeding mothers, who shared their personal accounts, attended the launch.

Breastfeeding mother Inge Nieder-Heitmann received her dose in February while still breastfeeding her 13-month-old daughter. Both experienced side-effects following her vaccination.

“I was quite ill for about a day or two, and a day thereafter my daughter started showing symptoms and she had a mild fever.

“She had a bit of nausea and she was just not herself, which to me is proof that the antibodies were transmitted through the breastmilk to her because she was showing that her body was fighting this infection,” said Nieder-Heitmann.

Her family contracted Covid-19 in June and had recovered speedily with only mild symptoms present.

“Had she not received the antibodies through the vaccine, she would’ve gotten much sicker,” said Nieder-Heitmann.

Dr Chantal Stewart, an obstetrician with more than 30 years experience, said the hospital has had numerous admissions to the ICU.

“There is now very good data that has come out from South Africa, which shows that if you’re pregnant and you get Covid-19, your chance of dying is 6%, six out of 100. Whereas if you do not have Covid-19 your chances of dying during pregnancy are 1 in a few hundred thousand.”

Should the mother be sick, ventilated and with a high temperature, the unborn baby will not receive adequate oxygen.

“Even in mothers who are not in ICU, there is a much higher risk of pre-term labour, with delivery of very small babies, and along with that, the risk of those babies needing admissions to the neonatal ICU with all of the complications of prematurity; breathing problems, nutrition, infections, bleeds into the brain, etc. So Covid-19 is very bad news in pregnancy.”

Immunity in pregnancy is much lower in order for pregnancy to proceed, said Dr Stewart.

Dr Stewart said the Covid-19 vaccines did not cause any abnormalities in infants, nor cause miscarriages, preterm labour or poor growth of the baby.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said unvaccinated pregnant or lactating women ran the risk of contracting severe illness and death after contracting Covid-19.

“Vaccinations don't cause infertility (or) termination of pregnancy. When you are pregnant and you have Covid-19, you’ve got higher chances of pre-term labour,” said Mbombo.

Mbombo said pregnant women can get their Covid-19 vaccine at any trimester, however, some obstetricians have advised that it be done after 14 weeks of gestation.

The risk of having a miscarriage exists for unvaccinated mothers who contract Covid-19, said Mbombo.

Mowbray Maternity Hospital chief executive Janine Joemat said: “The last few months have been hard for us in health and we haven't had many reasons to celebrate, but the vaccination programme has given us a reason to celebrate, to feel joyful.”

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Cape Argus

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