The Delta variant is dominating cases worldwide and has recently become the predominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently stated that the variant is more transmissible than the common cold and the flu and is as contagious as chicken pox.
We know from previous studies that pregnant people are more likely to become severely ill if infected with COVID-19 and are at increased risk for hospitalization and death.
The outcomes are scary for mom and baby, as there’s also an increased risk for preterm birth (births before 37 weeks) and adverse pregnancy outcomes for pregnant people infected with the virus. The variant is concerning on so many levels as studies indicate that children and people under 50 are 2.5 times more likely to become infected with Delta. It’s truly a “pandemic for the unvaccinated,” but recent reports from the CDC have also shown that breakthrough infections, while rare, can occur, and that fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections can transmit the virus to others. All this has prompted the CDC to recommend reverting to preventive measures we saw lifted earlier this spring.
PALS has been reporting on the effect of COVID-19 on pregnancy throughout this pandemic and after the recent spike in cases of Delta in the U.S. and the CDC’s new guidance, we reached out to Dr. Kristen Sharp once again to get her advice on how to keep our community safe during this uncertain time. Dr. Sharp is an OB specializing in pregnancy after loss and director of the Hope After Loss Clinic in Madison, WI, and is the medical advisor for PALS.
We asked Dr. Sharp how concerned we should be about the Delta variant and what her recommendations are for expecting PALS parents.
Dr. Sharp’s status update for the Delta variant was as follows:
“With the Delta variant, I am very strongly recommending that all pregnant women receive the COVID vaccine. ACOG, SMFM and all the ‘governing bodies’ are recommending this as well. Additionally, we are getting more data as time goes on that indicates the vaccine is safe in pregnancy.
“Additionally, there are a number of ‘breakthrough’ infections happening. Previously, pregnant women felt more “cocooned” if they were not vaccinated but all the members of their household and close contact were. But with these breakthrough infections, unvaccinated women are at risk of becoming infected and their risk of severe infection remains high.
“For vaccinated pregnant women, this is the time to start taking extra precautions again – wearing masks indoors, avoiding crowded spaces. The good news is that with vaccinated folks, the risk of severe infection/hospitalization/death is still overall low. But, given immune system changes, physiologic stress from the pregnancy, etc, pregnant women are still at higher risk for serious/severe infection versus if they were not pregnant.”
The CDC has also recently recommended that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The New York Times reported, “Until now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vaccine could be offered during pregnancy; the recent update in guidance strengthens the official advice, urging pregnant people to be immunized.”
This continues to be an exceptionally hard time to be pregnant after loss. As we continue to cope with COVID-19, see our Five Reminders for Pregnant after Loss Moms as the Pandemic Continues for ways to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
For more information on the Delta variant:
- “5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant” from Yale Medicine
- “Delta Variant: What We Know About the Science” from the CDC
For more information on the Delta variant and Pregnancy:
- “Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People At increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19” from the CDC
- “What you need to know about the Delta variant if you’re pregnant” from CNN Health
Please note that the information in this article is not a substitute for medical advice from your own obstetrician or midwife. Your care provider is most familiar with your personal situation, your region’s response to COVID-19 and the Delta variant, and is best equipped to answer your specific questions and address your concerns. These questions and answers are intended for informational purposes only. Please do not use this article as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.