Preeclampsia almost doubled for women who had COVID-19 while pregnant, new study shows

Doctors trying to figure out connection, urging women not to skip prenatal appointments

SAN ANTONIO – Maria Montoya and Oscar Ferreiro are already so in love with their new son Felix who was born just five days ago.

“He’s the sweetest boy! He was a sweet boy ever since he was in my belly,” Montoya said while cradling Felix.

“I feel that I’ve known him for years, and it’s only been five days,” Ferreiro beamed.

Montoya got COVID-19 during her pregnancy but felt fine after delivery.

“I had the healthiest pregnancy ever. Like no complications. It was a pretty simple delivery, as much as it can be,” Montoya said.

However, days after getting home, she got a splitting headache and was re-admitted to University Hospital.

She was quickly diagnosed with preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure condition in pregnancy or postpartum.

“Mom can develop severe blood pressure. It can lead to stroke and cause a need for ICU care. With babies it can lead to premature separation of the placenta, early delivery, small babies,” said Dr. Patrick Ramsey, Maternal Medical Director at University Health and UT Health San Antonio.

A large new study was just released from a multi-national study consortium called Intercovid.

The study found pregnant women who got COVID-19 had an almost two-fold higher risk of preeclampsia, as well as other severe outcomes, including maternal mortality, severe infection, and preterm birth.

It has left doctors nationwide on high alert, and searching for the reason behind the spike.

“Is it the COVID that’s causing it? Or is it just that maybe mom didn’t come in for care or has had lapses in her care, and now she comes in with more significant disease than she would had she had regular care?” Ramsey said.

He also said stress from being pregnant during a pandemic could possibly add to the problem.

“Stress is known to be a major factor for many pregnancy complications, preterm delivery, blood pressure, complications. So anything a mom can do to take down the level of stress is good overall for her and her baby,” Ramsey said.

Whatever the cause of this recent spike, Ramsey is keeping his guard up for his patients who have had COVID.

Ramsey wants families to know it’s crucial to make your prenatal appointments.

“We have done fetal monitoring in patients have had COVID, just because we don’t know if there’s a risk to the fetus for sure or not. Baby aspirin is used to reduce risk for preeclampsia in some institutions,” he said.

Montoya was under surveillance for 24 hours and with much improvement was released from the hospital Wednesday.

She said she will definitely be making it to all of her checkups. She has a precious new reason to stay healthy.

As for other women who are concerned, Ramsey said pregnancy itself isn’t a risk factor for COVID-19 but if getting COVID while pregnant raises the risk of severe disease.

That’s why his number one recommendation is for women to get the vaccine.

“The study that showed maybe an increasing rate of preeclampsia in women who had COVID were women who had severe COVID. And we know that the vaccine reduces the risk for severe COVID. So that’s super important to think about. If you’re pregnant, you should get whatever vaccine you can get access to,” Ramsey said.

For information on University Health System’s vaccine availability, head to the COVID vaccine section of their website.

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About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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