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‘Extremely fortunate in Ireland that no pregnant women have died of Covid’ – head of HSE women’s programme issues stark warning

Fifteen pregnant women with Covid-19 have been admitted to ICU here, while more than 30 expectant mothers have died from the virus in the England

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Ronan Glynn

Ronan Glynn

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A senior doctor has said the country is very lucky that no pregnant women have died from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The head of the HSE’s National Women and Infants Health Programme, Dr Peter McKenna, said the dangers which the virus presents to pregnant women are clear, as more than 30 expectant mothers have died from Covid-19 in England to date.

He confirmed 15 pregnant women with Covid-19 have been admitted to ICU in acute hospitals across Ireland since the start of September.

According to Dr McKenna, none of these patients were fully vaccinated and two were partially vaccinated.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, he said a recent survey of 750 new mothers and expectant mothers, across 19 hospitals, found that 58pc were fully vaccinated and 74pc of their partners were also fully vaccinated.

Dr McKenna said the 58pc figure is “gratifying” because it is coming from a very “low base”.

“I think that we may now have reached a tipping point where the message is absolutely clear and unequivocal, that all pregnant women, for their safety and the safety of their baby, should be vaccinated,” he said.

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Dr McKenna said the advice on vaccinations for pregnant women has evolved since the start of the vaccine roll-out but added that there is now no doubt and pregnant women should get the inoculation.

He said the vaccine has been administered to “hundreds of thousands” of pregnant women throughout the world and there “has been no pattern noted of any adverse outcomes”.

According to Dr McKenna, it has been proven that pregnant women are at a “particular risk” from Covid-19.

“We have been extremely fortunate in Ireland that no pregnant women have died of Covid to date. This contrasts to England where in excess of 30 pregnant women have died from Covid since the start of the pandemic.”

“It can be a very serious illness if you get it when you’re pregnant,” he added.

Dr McKenna said the virus is highly dangerous during the last three months of pregnancy, when breathing is naturally more difficult because of the size of the uterus.

He added that the lungs are “particularly liable to be injured during pregnancy”.

Some 20pc of all patients who needed the most severe form of lung treatment in UK hospitals were pregnant women, Dr McKenna said.

“To arrive at that figure is a very clear indication that if you’re pregnant and if you get Covid, you can become extremely unwell,” he added.

It comes as the country’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer has also encouraged pregnant women who have not yet received a vaccine to get one, in order to fully protect themselves and their families.

Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn pointed out that pregnant women with Covid-19 are at higher risk of issues including preterm birth, high blood pressure, postpartum haemorrhage and stillbirth than those who are not infected with the virus.

He added that “some pregnant women with Covid-19 will become severely unwell”.

In a thread posted on Twitter this morning, Dr Glynn said: “There is growing evidence that pregnant women may be at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 compared with non-pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester.”

According to the Deputy CMO, from June to October one in three women aged 25-44 years admitted to ICU were pregnant.

He confirmed that none of these women had been fully vaccinated, 10 out of 12 of them were in their third trimester, six required mechanical ventilation and five more women were admitted to ICU in the six weeks after pregnancy.

Data from Oxford University shows that from February to September this year, 98pc of women admitted to hospitals in the UK with Covid-19 during pregnancy were unvaccinated.

Of 235 women admitted to ICU, only three had received a single dose of vaccine, and none had received both doses according to the study.

Dr Glynn has also encouraged pregnant women who have already recovered from the virus to still get a vaccine to ensure maximum protection.

“If you have had laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 in the previous six months, you will only need one dose of vaccine. Covid-19 vaccines can be given at any time in pregnancy. Breastfeeding women can receive a Covid-19 vaccine without having to stop breastfeeding,” he added.

Dr Glynn also sought to dispel the belief among some people that vaccines can affect fertility.

He said: “There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility. Women planning a pregnancy or fertility treatment can receive a Covid-19 vaccine and do not need to delay conception.”

Dr Glynn said that there is now a growing body of evidence that clearly indicates that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any known or potential risks of Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy.

He added that along with the Covid-19 vaccine, “women who are pregnant should also get vaccinated against - Pertussis (Whooping cough) - during each pregnancy, between weeks 16 and 36 of pregnancy.

“Vaccines save lives and getting the Covid-19, pertussis and flu vaccines can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital,” he said.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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