‘This was one thing I could do right’: Raleigh mom vaccinated during pregnancy sees protection passed to baby

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported this month that just a quarter of pregnant people are vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC, along with some OBGYNs, are urging expecting parents to get their shot.

A research study published this month, followed 869, 079 women.

It found those with COVID-19 during pregnancy were 14 times more likely to need a mechanical ventilator and 15 times more likely to die.

Mechanical ventilation is assisted ventilation or intermittent mandatory ventilation and is the medical term for artificial ventilation. It assists or replaces spontaneous breathing.

Those odds were too high for Raleigh mom Melissa Barr.

“My worst fear is that I would get COVID, be on a ventilator and my husband would be asked- who do you want to live? Your baby or your wife?” Barr said.

It’s after research and consulting with a family member, who happens to be a physician, she made the choice to get vaccinated in her third trimester. Her side effects were the same as most people.

“I got a slight fever. I had body aches, but being pregnant is already uncomfortable,” Barr said.

After some research, she decided the risk of COVID-19 far outweighed any risk from the vaccine.

“If I were to get COVID when I was pregnant, I might not get to meet this little guy,” Barr said. “I might not be here for my 4-year-old.”

She was hopeful protection for herself meant protection for her baby, too.

“On the off-chance that it protected my unborn baby, that would have just been the icing on the cake,” she said.

The CDC has cited studies showing the COVID-19 vaccines have the ability to pass protective antibodies through the umbilical cord and through breast milk. Barr learned it’s true firsthand.

Two months after her son was born, her pediatrician asked if she wanted him checked for antibodies. She agreed and the results came back in 10 minutes.

“It showed positive and I cried because something went right,” Barr said. “There’s so much going on and you don’t know if (you’re) going to make the right choice. To see that he has antibodies and see that he has some kind of protection, it was the best feeling.”

She posted a photo of his antibody-positive test on social media and heard from a lot of unsure moms-to-be.

“I got a lot of questions from them. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but after I talk to them and they realized hey, I got the vaccine, I had a perfectly healthy baby, he has antibodies, that is enough hope,” she said. “I find a lot of them are like, okay I feel better about it now.”

The CDC also reports it doesn’t know how long that protection lasts or if it’s enough to protect babies from infection yet. It’s why her family is still careful when leaving the house, especially with her 4-year-old daughter.

“I don’t want my daughter to get sick and she has zero protection right now,” Barr said.

Barr says as soon as vaccines are approved for younger children, she’ll be getting her 4-year-old vaccinated. She has already tried getting her into trials.

If you are still undecided on the vaccines, Barr suggested you just ask questions.

“Don’t take advice from a random person on Facebook. Ask the right people,” she said. “Ask your physicians and see where that takes you.”

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and pregnancy

Below are answers to frequently asked questions listed on the World Health Organizations website:

Click here for questions about COVID-19 and breastfeeding.

Can COVID-19 be passed from a woman to her unborn or newborn baby?

We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. To date, the active virus has not been found in samples of fluid around the baby in the womb or breastmilk.

Do pregnant women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 need to give birth by cesarean section?

No. WHO advice is that cesarean sections should only be performed when medically justified.

The mode of birth should be individualized and based on a woman’s preferences alongside obstetric indications.

Can I touch and hold my newborn baby if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding helps a baby to thrive. You should be supported to

  • Breastfeed safely, with good respiratory hygiene;
  • Hold your newborn skin-to-skin, and
  • Share a room with your baby

You should wash your hands before and after touching your baby and keep all surfaces clean. Mothers with symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to wear a medical mask, during any contact with the baby.

Can pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes, pregnant women can be vaccinated against COVID-19, in consultation with their healthcare provider.   

Limited data are currently available to assess the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy. However, based on what we know about the kinds of vaccines being used, there is no specific reason for concern. None of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized to date use live viruses, which are more likely to pose risks during pregnancy.    

Before getting vaccinated, pregnant women should discuss with their healthcare provider whether the benefits of vaccination outweigh the potential risks.  

The benefits may be greatest for pregnant women at the highest risk from COVID-19, such as frontline health workers, people living in areas of high transmission, and those with health conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes that add to their risk of severe disease.   

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