COVID-19 deaths in pregnant women continue to rise as the total reached 171 maternal deaths from the disease in the United States with 22 in August alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as they urgently recommended vaccination for pregnant women. While that number may not seem significant, but when you consider that the U.S. typically only sees approximately 700 maternal deaths per year, the shift in the number of fatalities can seem immense.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, things take an even darker turn across the pond, where one in five patients receiving lifesaving care is an unvaccinated pregnant woman

Pregnancy may weaken the immune system, rendering it more vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant. The Delta variant now represents more than 99 percent of cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. The CDC has found over 127,000 cases in the pregnant population throughout the pandemic, along with over 22,000 hospitalizations, approximately 97 percent of pregnant people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Vaccine hesitancy in new mothers is understandable as initial trials for the vaccine disqualified pregnant candidates, a common exclusion in research to protect against harm. Nearly 75 percent of drugs approved by the FDA since 2000 were without any data regarding their effect on pregnancy. However, this attempt at protection may have done more harm than good. 

According to the CDC, only 32 percent of pregnant mothers in the U.S. have been fully inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 65 percent of regular Americans over age 12, making expectant mothers one of the most vaccine-hesitant populations.

The CDC and the World Health Organization have endorsed the COVID-19 vaccine for use during pregnancy after several studies showed no increased risk of miscarriage due to the vaccine.

And one study of about 870,000 women found that, compared to those who did not give birth with COVID-19, women who did so had a nearly one-and-a-half-fold increase in preterm births, six times increase in ICU admissions a 14-fold increase in mechanical ventilation, and 15 times increase in death. 

Finally, an additional benefit of vaccination is that babies of vaccinated mothers showed superior levels of protective antibodies against COVID-19, one study finding that 100 percent of the infants had the protective antibodies, a powerful endorsement for the vaccine.

Read more on: Coronavirus Impacts on Pregnancy: COVID-19 Precautions