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Why are pregnant women at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

Expectant mothers need to proceed with caution when it comes to the vaccine.

ATLANTA — Expectant mothers are proceeding cautiously when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine while at the same time facing the risk of more severe illness if they encounter the coronavirus.

The good news is that pregnant women do not face a higher risk of catching COVID-19. However, during pregnancy, a woman’s body does undergo changes that involve the immune system.

“Your immune system is suppressed and that’s on purpose because your body has this baby inside,” said Dr. Sujatha Reddy, an OB/GYN who is 11Alive’s Medical Correspondent.

Dr. Reddy explained that any respiratory illness can be harder on a woman expecting a child.

“Your heart and lungs change and are actually working harder because you’re not only pumping blood and breathing oxygen for yourself you’re now doing it for your child,” Dr. Reddy stated.

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Avoiding the virus with masks and social distancing are especially important for pregnant women.

As for the vaccine, Dr. Reddy said expectant moms need to check with their doctor.

“Pregnant women were not enrolled in the vaccine trials, so we don’t have enough data on pregnant women to say if it’s appropriate or not,” said Dr. Reddy.

There is conflicting information coming from organizations providing guidance.

“It depends on how pregnant you are, what you do for a living, what are your risks and exposures.”

Dr. Reddy said it’s best to weigh the benefits and risks with the guidance of an expert.

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