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Doctors see serious COVID-19 complications in unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies

An obstetrician at Presbyterian St. Luke's says the most important message for pregnant patients to prevent serious illness or death, is to consider vaccination.

DENVER — Two months after having a baby, Kristi Brennan is focused on the decisions that keep life going for little Carter. 

“I don’t know when he’s going to eat next, and take naps, and what can I do to get him to sleep through the night," said Brennan. 

But a few months into her pregnancy, Kristi, a spouse of a 9NEWS employee, had a bigger decision to make. 

“The complications from getting COVID while pregnant to both me and Carter seemed far riskier than the decision to not get vaccinated," she said. 

Dr. Bronwen Kahn agrees, and she sees the impacts of the low vaccination rate among pregnant women firsthand. 

Dr. Kahn is a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists at Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center and Obstetrix Medical Group of Colorado. 

That means she treats women with complicated pregnancies, and the women she sees with COVID-19 complications are unvaccinated. 

Dr. Kahn points to a recent study out of Washington that she said showed reproductive aged women who were not pregnant had a 2.8% risk of having complications from COVID-19. 

“As compared with a pregnant population whose risk of illness severe enough to require hospitalization was about 10 percent, so more than three times higher," she said. 

More recently, Dr. Kahn says she's had four unvaccinated patients in the last 4-5 weeks whose complications have changed. 

“Women who are relatively mildly ill themselves but they notice their babies are not moving and they come to labor and delivery and we find that their babies are looking extremely ill," she said. 

But Dr. Kahn does not want to instill fear, but rather comfort for pregnant women that the vaccine is safe. She and her colleagues say the most important message for pregnant women "that is most likely to prevent severe illness or even death of their baby or themselves is to consider vaccination."

She points to this website created by obstetricians at the University of Washington to help mothers feel confident in their choice. 

"The vaccination does not seem to be causing any higher rates of any kinds of complications...during pregnancy that we’ve seen in those data," she said. 

Dr. Kahn said even late in pregnancy, it's not too late to get the vaccine. 

Brennan is comforted by her decision that she says kept her and Carter safe. 

“And nothing happened," said Brennan.  "And Carter is very healthy as well so I still feel great about that decision, and got my booster today. I'm feeling good."

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