Updated: July 21, 2020 02:52 PM
Created: July 20, 2020 06:43 PM
Several pregnant women have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Twin Cities, according to the Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis.
"Recent information suggests that pregnant women may be at an increased risk of complications compared to non-pregnant women," said Dr. Heidi Thorson, medical director of obstetrics at the Mother Baby Center, which is a partnership between Allina Health and Children's Minnesota. "Overall, the risk is low, but we are still gathering more information about how mom's illness could affect the pregnancy itself."
Thorson estimates about a dozen COVID-positive pregnant women have been admitted to Allina hospitals. She has personally cared for several in the intensive care unit
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with an expectant mother in the southeast metro who recently tested positive for COVID-19.
"I found out I was pregnant and had COVID basically within the same week," said Brooke Smith, of Rosemount.
Smith said she was diagnosed with COVID-19 on July 10, following a Fourth of July gathering with family members. She had not known she was pregnant prior to the gathering. One of her family members had unknowingly contracted the virus during an outbreak at a bar in St. Cloud and infected other family members before testing positive.
"Ten of our family members ended up getting it and almost every person had completely different symptoms," Smith said. "For me, it started with a sore throat and then I started getting nasal congestion and a little bit of a cough and consistent headache and just a ton of exhaustion. I was doing really well all of last week and then Thursday, I just got hit again with a second wave of symptoms that were worse than the first."
Smith said her husband ended up getting very sick, with severe body aches and a high fever. Her 10-month-old daughter also became ill, with a runny nose and raspy cough. None of them had to be hospitalized.
Smith said her concerns are now with her unborn baby.
"I feel like I'm on edge every single day, waiting for a sign that everything's okay or that something's not okay," Smith said. "It's scary because everyone keeps telling you're 'high risk', but no one really tells you what that means or if there's anything you should do differently."
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,056 pregnant women in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with at least 3,381 needing to be hospitalized. CDC data shows 35 pregnant women have died after contracting COVID-19.
"I've asked questions about, 'Does this mean my baby will be born with it? Does this mean my baby will be born immune to it?' I just don't know what it means," Smith said.
Thorson said the obstetrics community across the country is actively researching through a large-scale national database of COVID-19 cases involving pregnant women.
Thorson said the initial onset of COVID-19 in pregnant women tends to be similar to the rest of the population, with symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat.
"Your fluid volume, your blood counts, just the physiology of pregnancy that occurs in a woman will make her respond to the infection potentially differently," Thorson said. "Where we get concerned with pregnant women is, will they become too fluid overloaded? Will that become an issue for their breathing? And overall, we've been able to treat that very well."
She said there are still questions as to whether the virus affects a baby in utero.
"We do have reports that we can see the virus within the placenta," Thorson said. "We monitor those pregnancies a little bit differently, if mom has had COVID earlier on in the pregnancy, just to make sure we don't notice any changes or anything concerning with the baby's health and development. Right now, we're not seeing any major abnormalities with babies or major development issues with babies."
Thorson recommends pregnant women take extra precautions since the information surrounding COVID-19 and pregnancy is constantly evolving.
"If you can avoid some of the high-risk environments, avoid those environments," Thorson said. "It is best to keep you safe during your pregnancy."
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