UAB hospital is seeing record numbers of pregnant women hospitalized for COVID-19 as the delta variant spreads rapidly in Alabama.

“Truly, we’ve never had this number of pregnant women in my ICU,” said Dr. Steve Stigler, director of UAB Hospital’s Medical Intensive Care Unit in a statement Friday.

There were 39 unvaccinated pregnant women admitted to UAB hospital in August. Currently 10 of those women are in the intensive care unit and seven are on ventilators. Two pregnant women have died from COVID-19.

The women in the ICU and some of the others in the hospital had to have their babies delivered prematurely, as early as at week 26 of pregnancy, eleven weeks before full term.

“Nearly all of these women are delivering pre-term — not because they are laboring pre-term, but because we are effecting a pre-term birth because the virus is doing so much damage to these women,” said Akila Subramaniam, M.D., associate professor in UAB’s Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

A recent study found pregnant women infected with COVID-19 are more likely to have pre-term births.

“If a mom is not oxygenating her body well, she is not oxygenating the baby well either,” added Audra Williams, M.D., assistant professor in UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“That’s what may lead us to deliver the baby. And there are lots of risks associated with prematurity, long-term neurological or gastrointestinal complications, among others. It’s not just the acute risk of the COVID infection these babies are facing, but long-term, lifetime risk.”

With the delta variant surging, the CDC is strongly encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated, but many have been reluctant to do so.

This spring, Alabama doctors reported some of their pregnant patients and staff were influenced by viral misinformation on social media about vaccines and pregnancy.

Nationally, only 23 percent of pregnant women have been vaccinated, according to the CDC.

The rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations among pregnant women are tied to the spread of the delta variant, which now makes up 95 percent of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

“It is alarming. In a typical month, we may have one or two pregnant women who require our care in a medical intensive care unit; but those are very rare circumstances,” said Dr. Stigler.

None of the pregnant women currently in UAB’s ICU are vaccinated.

“The good news is that we have a vaccine that has been tested on more humans than any other vaccine in history,” Subramaniam said. “The vaccine is safe for pregnant women regardless of the trimester they are in, and it is safe for breastfeeding moms. The data is convincing in this.”

This content was originally published here.