Vaccines are safe and maximise protection

For Dr Alexandra German and Dr Catherine O’Hare, being infected with COVID-19 was all the more frightening because they were pregnant.

RANZCOG

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

As members of obstetrics teams themselves, for Dr Alexandra German and Dr Catherine O’Hare, being infected with COVID-19 was all the more frightening because they were pregnant.

Despite both recovering and their babies unharmed, Alex and Catherine say their experiences highlight the importance for the College and all health practitioners to continue to support pregnant women in getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr Alexandra German

Alex tested positive to the Delta variant in December 2021 and was admitted to hospital on Christmas Day.

Thirty-one weeks pregnant at the time and double vaccinated, Alex was to have received her booster on the day she was infected with COVID-19. Along with her treatment, Alex was prepped for delivery in case her status worsened.

I deteriorated and was admitted to ICU,” Alex recalls. She was in ICU for 12 days.

“I was admitted to the hospital that I worked at (Alex is a Pre-Vocational Obstetrics & Gynaecology doctor at Gold Coast Hospital University), I had my colleagues working on me. I am incredibly grateful, they saved my life.”

“It was definitely isolating; my partner could not visit me. You are pretty much locked in a room by yourself.”

“After hospital, I had constant anxiety. I lost significant weight.”

I was taking all the precautions; I didn’t think it would happen to me.”

During her infection and hospitalisation, it was revealed that the growth of Alex’s baby slowed. As a result, Alex is due to give birth “slightly earlier” in 3 weeks.

Dr Catherine O’Hare

Third year FRANZCOG trainee Catherine, who is based in Brisbane, caught COVID-19 in March 2020, when returning from overseas. It was just before Australia’s borders closed and the nation went into lockdown.

Catherine was monitored using the Hospital in the Home service, which provides hospital level care for patients in their home environment. “At that time, no one knew the implications for pregnant women or for the baby.”

“It was a very anxious time, and because I was unwell and infectious, this led to delays in being able to receive routine antenatal care.”

Grateful for the nurses and infectious disease experts in helping her recover, Catherine has since given birth to a beautiful healthy little girl.

Catherine is now fully vaccinated; receiving both doses and the booster whilst breastfeeding. “With the information we now know and with vaccines available, I would encourage women to speak to their midwife or doctor and not defer their vaccination.”

With Australia’s borders opened and 90% of the eligible Queensland population fully vaccinated, Catherine’s daughter will soon be meeting her grandparents for the first time.

Get vaccinated

RANZCOG President Dr Benjamin Bopp thanked Alex and Catherine for telling their stories, wishing them and their children the best for the future. He also thanked the nurses and doctors involved in their specific cases, as well as the work and dedication of all the health professionals across Australia and New Zealand over the course of the pandemic.

RANZCOG released a statement in December 2021 saying mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 are recommended for all people trying to conceive (either spontaneously, or through IVF), pregnant, or breastfeeding. This advice is based on robust data supporting safety in these circumstances.

Specifically:

There is no evidence of negative impact on fertility

There is no evidence of an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth or other adverse pregnancy outcomes

There is no evidence of negative impacts on the health of the breastfed infant

Conversely, infection with COVID-19 is associated with an increased risk of severe disease, hospitalisation, admission to intensive care, mechanical ventilation, and death, in pregnant women, and an increased risk of prematurity and stillbirth.

Vaccines are safe and maximise protection from COVID-19, which is incredibly important for pregnant women and their babies” says RANZCOG President, Dr Ben Bopp.


For the public 13 July 2022
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