A Brooklyn mother has issued an alarming warning about the risk catching the coronavirus can have on giving birth.
Lauren Phillips told how she suffered from preeclampsia after having her baby and linked it to going down with the virus earlier in her pregnancy.
The 32-year-old attorney said she was rushed back into hospital with dangerously high blood pressure just days after having her son.
She urged would-be parents to avoid coronavirus during pregnancy and seek immediate medical advice because she says it saved her life.
It comes as experts fear catching Covid could cause deadly complications with childbirth and even lead to stillbirths.
A swathe of studies during the pandemic found women had a 60 percent greater risk of having preeclampsia if they had suffered from the virus.
Researchers linked catching coronavirus to a destroyed placenta that was scarred and a tan color rather than the usual dark shade that caused complications.
Lauren Smith, a 32-year-old New York mom, sailed through an easy pregnancy aside from becoming infected with COVID in her second trimester. A few days after her baby was born, she was rushed to the hospital with high blood pressure and diagnosed with preeclampsia. Doctors think the condition was linked to her COVID infection
While a normal placenta is spongy and dark reddish hue (top) the ones she was studying from mothers who lost their babies, were firm, discolored, scarred, and more of a tan color
What is preeclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, which can be deadly for both a woman and her unborn baby if untreated.
It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure is typically normal.
The most effective treatment is an early delivery; usually via C-section.
However, this may not be best for the baby if it is early on in the pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia affects about 25,000 women in England and Wales each year, and four per cent of pregnancies in the US.
It can have no symptoms if it develops gradually rather than coming on suddenly.
A blood pressure reading above 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) on two occasions is usually the first sign.
Other symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches
- Blurred vision, temporary loss of sight or light sensitivity
- Upper abdominal pain, particularly under the ribs on the right side
Sudden weight gain, and swelling in the face and hands, are also symptoms, however, these can occur during normal pregnancies.
Pre-eclampsia is thought to begin in the placenta when its blood vessels narrow and do not react to hormones properly.
This reduces the amount of blood that flows through them. Its underlying cause may be genetic, due to a problem with a woman’s immune system or existing blood vessel damage.
A woman is more at risk if she, or a member of her family, suffered from pre-eclampsia before. The risk is also highest during the first pregnancy, and if a woman is over 40; obese; black; having a multiple birth, like twins; or conceived via IVF.
Existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines and kidney disease also raise the risk. If untreated, pre-eclampsia can restrict a baby’s growth or cause it to be delivered early.
The placenta can also separate from the uterus wall, which can lead to severe bleeding. A woman may also suffer seizures, organ damage and even heart disease as a result of untreated pre-eclampsia.
There is no clear advice on how to prevent pre-eclampsia, however, research suggests taking a low-dose of aspirin and calcium supplements may help.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Phillips sailed through an easy pregnancy aside from becoming infected with COVID in her second trimester, which she described in her blog as a ‘mild cold.’
But a few days after her baby son Arthur was born in April, the Brooklyn-based attorney was rushed to the emergency room as her blood pressure hit 160/116.
Phillips, who was up to date with her vaccinations and was careful with masking, found she had preeclampsia doctors believe was linked to a February Omicron infection.
She wrote: ‘In the last hours of labor before the c section my blood pressure started to rise, but after delivery it came down enough that I was discharged on day 3 post delivery.
‘On day 5, I experienced a severe dizzy spell. I was sitting down at the time. It felt like a sudden pulse or pressure wave, making the room spin. I’d never experienced anything like it, it felt bizarre, and it frightened me.
‘I called my doctor and she told me to call back if it happened again. A few hours later, it did.
‘My husband ran out to Rite Aid and bought a blood pressure cuff, which indicated my pressure was up to 140/90.
‘I also noticed that my ankles were starting to swell and had become much more swollen than they had even been during pregnancy. I called the doctor and she had me come to the emergency room.
‘I was brought back to the labor and delivery ward for observation, where over the course of a few hours my pressure spiked to 160/116.
‘Once it hit that level, the medical team started me on a magnesium drip and admitted me for severe preeclampsia.
‘I stayed in the hospital for two days before the doctors had me stable on blood pressure-reducing medication (nifidipene).
‘Happily, my hospital allowed my spouse and son to stay in the hospital with me for those two days, so I could give him a steady supply of milk and hold or breastfeed him when I was stable enough to do so.’
She added: ‘After discharge with instructions to take my pressure 4 times per day at home, my pressure spiked again less than 24 hours later, necessitating a return to the hospital.
‘There they gave me a high dose of blood pressure medication (labetelol) intravenously.
‘I was able to return home the same day on two drugs which kept my pressure out of the danger zone.
‘About 5 weeks later, after steady drops in my pressure week by week, I was able to come off both drugs.
‘Now 3 months postpartum, my blood pressure has returned to the healthy levels I had pre-labor.’
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that results in 70,000 maternal and 500,000 fetal deaths worldwide each year, the Seattle Times reported, and the number of cases jumped during the pandemic.
The illness is just one part of a slew of information scientists are studying to learn more about how Covid affects pregnancy.
Experts say women who contracted Covid-19 during their pregnancy also face an elevated risk of stillbirths.
But they believe vaccination can help prevent these cases, with statistics showing unvaccinated women at higher risk of complications.
Earlier on in the pandemic, many thought the coronavirus didn’t affect unborn fetuses because few babies were born with the infection.
But in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology study published in September, it was revealed that the infection damages the placenta’s immune response to further infections.
‘What we’re seeing now is that the placenta is vulnerable to COVID-19, and the infection changes the way the placenta works, and that in turn is likely to impact the development of the fetus,’ Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf said.
Expectant mothers were 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized and 13.6 times more likely to die than non-pregnant residents of Washington state who were in their 20s and 30s (above)
Researchers looked at 240 pregnant women with COVID-19 in Washington state between March 1 and June 30, 2020. Pictured: Nurse Janil Wise (left) inserts a nasal swap during a COVID-19 test for patient Sarah Bodle, who is 31 weeks pregnant, at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, Calfiornia, July 2020
Scientists also believed Covid to be a virus that mainly affected the respiratory system – but it has now been proven to wreak havoc with the circulatory system too.
Doctors also fear a Covid infection may ‘unmask’ health conditions that a pregnant woman’s immune system would otherwise be able to shield her from.
The placenta, an organ that attaches to the womb during pregnancy, connects with the umbilical cord and provides oxygen and nourishment from the mother’s bloodstream to the baby.
In the fall and winter of 2021, Amy Heerema McKenney, a Cleveland Clinic pathologist whose job involves figuring out why some babies die, began receiving eerily similar reports of stillbirths, The Times reported.
She recalled feeling ‘pretty panicked’ as she began to look into the cases, which happened in quick succession.
While a normal placenta is spongy and dark reddish hue, which shows the nourishing blood flowing through it, the ones she was studying from mothers who lost their babies were like nothing she’d ever seen.
They were firm, discolored, scarred, and more of a tan color. ‘The degree of devastation was unique,’ she said.