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Aggressive variant Concern as pregnant women make up 'disproportionate number' of intensive care Covid patients

Pregnant women are being urged to seek “evidence-based information” on Covid-19 jabs

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Dr Peter McKenna, HSE clinical director of women and infants health

Dr Peter McKenna, HSE clinical director of women and infants health

Dr Peter McKenna, HSE clinical director of women and infants health

Pregnant women are being urged to seek “evidence-based information” on Covid-19 jabs due to concerns about expectant mothers being admitted to intensive care.

Dr Peter McKenna, HSE clinical director of women and infants health, said the Delta variant was “more aggressive” when it came to dealing with pregnant women.

He also revealed pregnant women made up a “disproportionate number” of those being treated in intensive care units in recent weeks.

His comments come as health officials in Northern Ireland confirmed there had been an increased number of pregnant patients requiring hospital treatment.

A statement from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said its services had treated 12 pregnant patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week.

While maternity hospitals in the Republic say they have had very few positive cases among pregnant patients, there are concerns about women in their third trimester contracting the virus.

Professor Shane Higgins, the master of the National Maternity Hospital, told the Irish Independent: “Mothers who are infected with the virus in the third trimester have a more severe course of illness than similar, non-pregnant patients. The illness can have a significant impact on mothers in the third trimester, and we would certainly be recommending patients take the vaccine.”

Professor Higgins said vaccine uptake among patients at Holles Street had been “very strong”, while infection rates had been relatively low.

“We’ve had over 100 patients during the pandemic that have presented to us shortly after diagnosis of positivity. Probably between 110 and 120.”

He said the majority of these cases occurred before vaccines were being administered to pregnant women.

Other maternity hospitals have seen similar trends.

Professor Michael O’Connell, master of the Coombe hospital in Dublin, said their infrastructure had been adapted to care for women – both vaccinated and unvaccinated with symptoms of Covid or who are diagnosed with Covid, as well as those who were Covid-free and needed to be protected from transmission.

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He urged anyone with concerns about the vaccine to contact their GP or specialist.

“There is no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine will harm your baby. Evidence shows Covid-19 vaccines are safe for mother and baby to protect them from becoming very unwell. We are recommending women to get the vaccine if pregnant, trying for a baby or might get pregnant in the future, or if they are breastfeeding, as it greatly reduces the chance of becoming unwell.”

Dr McKenna of the HSE warned about the dangers of Covid placentitis, a condition when the placenta becomes infected with Covid, which can affect the placenta’s ability to pass oxygen and nutrients to the baby.

“We’ve had six stillbirths, one late miscarriage and four near misses. This means that the baby would have died had it not been delivered as an emergency,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He also confirmed a number of pregnant women had been treated in ICU recently.

“A few weeks ago when we had numbers in intensive care in their teens, a disproportionate number of these were pregnant women.”

The Belfast Trust said unvaccinated pregnant women were “more likely to get Covid and if they become infected, they are more likely to become unwell.” A spokesperson said pregnant women were requiring ventilation, “with the majority being hospitalised in their third trimester, over 26 weeks”.

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