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Covid, Masks, Pregnancy, and Vaccines

The saga continues...

Well, the news from the CDC wasn't super awesome this week. Defiantly not what any of us wanted to hear. Covid case in Texas, and across most of the United States, are on the rise again. Currently, Texas is averaging 8,903 new cases per day, and the numbers continue to rise. Eh gads, here we go again, do you want the good news first or the bad news?

Let's start with the not so awesome parts. This surge in Covid seems to be largely related to the delta variant. This variant is the same one that swept through India a couple months ago and is highly contagious, more than twice rate of the first know version of the virus. It replicates really fast and those that are infected have higher viral loads - meaning a person can get sicker faster, and spread it around even more.

Some good news. The current vaccines available are still quiet effective. 97% of persons hospitalized with Covid are not vaccinated. Vaccinated people, who test positive for Covid, are more likely to have only mild symptoms, or none at all. Pretty good, huh? Well yes, except, new CDC data found that vaccinated folk, even with no symptoms, also have very high viral loads. Meaning, they don't know they are sick and are able to spread the virus to others. No bueno!

The delta variant's higher contagion rate combined with the new knowledge that vaccinated folk can spread it around, even when they have no symptoms, lead the CDC to take a step back on masking recommendations. Everyone, regardless of vaccine status, is recommended to wear masks inside public spaces. So yes, masks again are required at the birth center during appointments and classes. Laboring mothers will not be required to mask, however, the midwives and other staff will be wearing masks.

I know, not what any of us wanted, but we also understand that pregnancy increases risk of hospitalization and complications from Covid infection. Everyday the midwives and staff at Heart of Houston do our best to keep all pregnant persons, their babies, and their families healthy. We wash and sanitize our hands, wear gloves, monitor blood pressures, listen to fetal heart beats, dip urine, etc all to make sure your pregnancy is keeping on track. Wearing a mask is just another way to keep everyone healthy.

Vaccines - here is a landmine of a topic. Parenting (yes, even when you are just pregnant, you are still parenting) is being put in the position of having to make decisions, often on the fly, with only half the information, in a game in which the rules keep changing. Awesome! So, let's start with the assumption that everyone of us is doing our best. Taking a Tylenol can be a hard pill to swallow (haha pun intended) for a pregnant person, let alone being asked to receive an "experimental" vaccine.

What it comes down to, what all decisions usually come down to, is a risk vs benefit analysis. Here is what we know about Covid and Vaccines in pregnancy.

  • Covid positive pregnant persons are have higher rates of serious illness. Pregnancy is not as big of a risk factor as obesity or old age, but if you get it while pregnant you have a higher chance of getting really sick, and even dying. The risk is small, but it is it there.

  • Covid doesn't seem to pass through the placenta infecting unborn babies. However, babies can indirectly be effected by the mother's infection leading to poor growth, preterm birth, placental abnormalities, and stillbirth. However, the majority of pregnant persons with Covid have normal pregnancy. The sicker the mother, the more indirect risks to the baby.

  • Covid vaccines haven't been shown to have any increased risks of poor outcomes in pregnancy. There isn't an increase in miscarriage rates, preterm births, birth defects, stillbirths in vaccinated pregnant folks over the usual rates.

  • Maternal antibodies, created in response to the vaccines, cross the placenta. This means newborns have a level of protection against Covid that is passed on from their mother. Antibodies are also passed through breast milk as well. Pretty awesome huh?!

So there you have it. Risk vs benefits. While each person gets to choose whether or not they will get the vaccine, we don't always get to choose who is breathing near by us. So, for the time being, we will all be masking up at the birth center because we don't want you to get sick, and we don't want to get sick either. Let's all just keep doing our best.

Take care everyone,

Mary Love & the Heart of Houston Crew

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