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Calgary doctor calls for medical equipment to help pregnant women with COVID-19

·3 min read
A pregnant woman receives a vaccine for COVID-19 at a pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania.  (Hannah Beier/File Photo/Reuters - image credit)
A pregnant woman receives a vaccine for COVID-19 at a pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. (Hannah Beier/File Photo/Reuters - image credit)

A Calgary doctor has received an influx of donations following an urgent social media call-out asking for equipment to help monitor pregnant women with COVID-19.

Dr. Stephanie Cooper, a high-risk obstetrician at Foothills Medical Centre, posted a message on Twitter asking for 50 home oxygen monitors for COVID-19 positive pregnant women. She says she issued the call as the equipment is needed quickly, as more pregnant women are being infected with COVID-19 and as the delta variant surges, she says.

"We're seeing women get significantly ill, including a number that have had to be admitted to the ICU," she says. "More in the past six weeks were admitted in Alberta to the ICU than the entire pandemic, or the period of the pandemic prior."

Rising ICU admissions do not represent all pregnant women with COVID-19, Cooper says, as many more COVID positive women may not be admitted to hospital but could become sick quickly at home.

"What we're terrified about now is the sheer volume of patients that are going to need care and the finite resources that exist within the system."

Last week, an unvaccinated pregnant Alberta woman died from a COVID-related infection following admission into intensive care units, sources familiar with the death say.

On Sept. 13, Alberta Health Services sent out a statement urging those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or have recently delivered, to get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends vaccination for pregnant people and says there's no evidence vaccines can cause fertility problems.

'Amazing' outpour of support

Cooper believes she's hit her goal and will have additional oxygen monitors to share with other regions in the province.

"People are like, 'I want to help, is there something I can do?' Because so many people feel helpless watching what's happening," Cooper says.

"[There are] just a lot of people out there who just really want to help. That's amazing."

'They're scared'

Alberta is among the provinces with the lowest vaccination rates in Canada.

There are still a large number of pregnant women who are not vaccinated, due to fear and mistrust, Cooper says.

"It's not because they're anti-vax, it's because they're scared. In pregnancy, women have been told, 'don't drink coffee, don't take this medication, don't dye your hair,'" she says.

Women are often doing all they can to protect their babies, Cooper says, but she wants them to know the vaccine is safe for pregnant women, and can offer babies some protection against the virus too.

A new briefing document from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, notes the risks of getting COVID-19 while pregnant include having a higher chance of needing a C-section or having a preterm birth, according to preliminary evidence.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services says the organization has reached out to see how they can help with the request for equipment.

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