ST. LOUIS — Seven-week-old Sadie Swihart is every bit the sweetheart her mom, Meg, hoped for.
“She’s super,” Swihart said over a Zoom call with the stirring baby in her arms.
Swihart and her husband are both teachers, and Sadie is their first child. Amid all of the usual excitement and preparations that come with preparing for a new baby, pandemic pregnancies also involve a big decision: whether or not to get a COVID-19 shot.
“I was a little nervous to get the vaccine. Of course, as most pregnant women are,” she said. “So as my doctor, Dr. Chitwood always said, without a healthy mom, there is no healthy baby.”
“I have always said to that I wouldn't recommend something that I wouldn't do myself,” Dr. Abby Chitwood, OBGYN with BJC HealthCare, told 5 On Your Side. She herself was vaccinated early in pregnancy with her now 5-week-old baby, Mae.
“We do actually have a lot of information. We have a lot of numbers and a lot of information,” she said. “My whole goal is to keep women safe and healthy and getting vaccinated does that.”
The CDC recently issued an urgent advisory for pregnant women to get their shots. It's their strongest guidance yet, after more than 125,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in pregnant women, and at least 161 deaths from the virus.
Health experts warn: symptomatic COVID-19 cases in pregnant people are twice as likely to require admission to the ICU and face a 70% higher risk of death. A COVID-19 infection is also more likely to cause preterm birth, stillbirth and other pregnancy complications.
“I will tell you the most likely thing that's going to happen to you with the vaccine is like an injection site soreness. That's the most common side effect,” said Dr. Chitwood.
However, Dr. Chitwood understands that for many people, the decision has already been made to not get vaccinated — and that the most important thing is for patients to trust their doctors and not feel forced to do something.
“I can say till the cows come home that I recommend this, and I will,” she said. “At the end of the day, I just want you to be careful and healthy and safe and take care of yourself, you know, so [I’d recommend] masking and avoiding inside large groups that aren't masked and all of the same precautions we've been taking.”
Dr. Chitwood also stressed what leading OBGYN and pediatric doctors groups have been saying for months: there is absolutely no reason to be concerned about a vaccine's impact on your fertility.
Medical experts advise anyone trying to get pregnant now, or hoping to have a baby in the future: get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Swiharts got their shots — as they try to make the world a little safer for little Sadie.
“I'm going to do whatever I can in order to protect myself and my little girl and our family,” said Meg. “It was the right decision for us.”