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St. Luke's sees increase in COVID-related stillbirths systemwide

September was a record month for pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19 in St. Luke's Health System.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — On Wednesday, October 7, medical professionals took to the stand at Kootenai Health in North Idaho, painting a grim picture of what the inside of their hospital looks like. Among the many concerns was the rise of hospitalizations among pregnant women.

“We have definitely seen more pregnant hospitalization in the ICU,” said Robert Scoggins, Kootenai Health's ICU medical director. “You are really taking care of two people and I think that's a really difficult situation, makes us all very nervous but so far we have been lucky.”

But not all of Idaho’s hospitals are so lucky. St. Luke’s Magic Valley is reporting more stillbirths across the health system.

“We are seeing more stillbirths, unexplained stillbirths and towards the end of the pregnancy,” said Dr. Stacy Seyb, who specializes in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. “We lost a baby a little too early, and this was in the intensive care unit. I wasn't here that night but the colleagues that were there said the entire staff was blown away and the morale was just drained, you know. It’s just kind of like, well, this felt like something good we could do.”

Dr. Seyb said in April there were 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pregnant women across all St. Luke’s locations. September was a record month for the St. Luke's system -- with 150 confirmed COVID cases in pregnant women. The risks for pregnant women with COVID are unsettling.

“If you are pregnant, you are three to five times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to succumb to the process and die,” Dr. Seyb said. “The thing about COVID is it causes issues with blood clotting and placentas are very vulnerable to blood clots and I think we can see smaller babies that aren't growing well as well and so those are the types of things we see overall.”

According to Dr. Seyb, 97 percent of pregnant women who are hospitalized with COVID are not vaccinated.

“I think everybody is getting tired, and when you see it happen to younger and younger people or things that are affecting families so directly, it’s very demeaning," Dr. Seyb said. "It’s like where are we going, and the question is why?”

He urged all pregnant women to get vaccinated, stating that the risks with COVID for a pregnant woman are much higher than any potential side effects from the vaccine.

“I really appreciate moms being concerned about what they are putting in their bodies and how it's going to affect the babies," Dr. Seyb said. "Theoretically, it doesn't really cross the placenta as the mRNA part of the vaccine, but it does create antibodies that cross the placenta, and help protect the newborn babies.”

Dr. Seyb added that he is concerned the COVID situation will get worse in the coming winter months, he urged everyone to get vaccinated.

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