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Sharp rise in pregnant women contracting the coronavirus prompts new warnings

A nurse uses a nasal swab to conduct a coronavirus test on a pregnant woman.
A nurse uses a nasal swab to conduct a coronavirus test on a woman who is 31 weeks pregnant in July 2020.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Officials are warning about increasing numbers of pregnant women becoming infected with the coronavirus and being hospitalized.

Los Angeles County reported 81 cases of coronavirus infections among pregnant women for the week that ended July 25, triple the rate from the last full week of June.

And at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, doctors are now seeing a higher proportion of pregnant women among their COVID-19 patients, including five who required admission to the intensive care unit, said Dr. Marlon Mills, the director of maternal fetal medicine at Hoag.

Pregnant women are at increased risk of having respiratory illness so severe they need to be sedated and require the insertion of a breathing tube into the mouth and into their windpipe, Mills said.

There’s also an increased risk of premature birth and a complication called preeclampsia, which can be caused from a COVID-induced inflammation of the placenta.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends pregnant women get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Very little is known about the impact of COVID-19 on women and the babies they carry.

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Pregnant women have a far higher risk of serious complications, hospitalization, needing ICU care and dying because of COVID-19 compared with women who are not pregnant, Mills said.

Less than one-quarter of pregnant women are at least partially vaccinated. More than 11,000 pregnant women in the county have tested positive.

“Although rare, women infected during their pregnancy can pass on the virus to their newborn. Among the 10,998 births where there was testing information, 55 infants tested positive for COVID-19. Twelve pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 have tragically passed away,” Los Angeles County public health officials said in a statement Monday.


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