PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- According to the CDC, only 31 percent of pregnant women nationwide have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Locally, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital says its percentage is currently falling behind the national average. A local expecting mother is now speaking out, urging other pregnant women to get the shot based on her experience.
Megan Denk, 30, found out she had COVID-19 at the beginning of September.
"It was really scary being that I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. It was after my brother's wedding. I started to have a really dry cough but felt completely fine," said Denk.
But when the symptoms kept getting worse, Denk decided it was time to go to the hospital.
"My respirations were really high. My heart rate was speeding. I could barely breathe to have a conversation. You hear these stories of pregnant women that end up on a ventilator and then can't get off. I was terrified," said Denk.
She ended up staying in the hospital for just one night after receiving a monoclonal antibody treatment. And she credits her quick recovery to getting the Pfizer vaccine in January.
That's why doctors are pushing pregnant women to get the vaccine since they're more likely to develop a severe case of the virus.
"Nearly every case that's critical illness, severe disease is in an unvaccinated individual. The vaccine does reduce the risk that someone acquires COVID-19. But even if that does happen, it makes it so much less likely the mother would get really sick or that baby has issues or that she gets hospitalized," said Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, a maternal medicine physician at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.
Rob Bauer, a nurse practitioner with the Critical Care Medicine Team at Magee, says he's seen some of the most critically ill patients first-hand in the Intensive Care Unit.
"Recently, we have lost women that were pregnant, delivered their baby, and because they were so critically ill we did lose them," said Bauer.
He says some women ask to be on a ventilator, but he says that's a support and not a fix.
Bauer added, "You can see how scared they are in their eyes because they know. They don't want to give up."
Megan Denk is now 31 weeks pregnant, and is due to give birth to a healthy baby girl in December.
"I'm seven weeks post COVID and I feel closer to myself. I still have a lot of fatigue, but I associate some of that with just being in my third trimester," said Denk.
After everything she's been through, she has this message to women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant: "It was so scary and I was vaccinated. I can't imagine what it would have been like if it wasn't."
That's why she's encouraging women like her to get the shot, now.
As for other local major birthing centers, like West Penn Hospital, doctors there say they're currently falling around the national average when it comes to the percentage of pregnant women getting the vaccine.
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