A Missouri mother and registered nurse urges pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after she lost her own baby to the virus.
Vanessa Alfermann, 33, was 22 weeks pregnant last November when she and her husband both contracted COVID-19 — but while her symptoms were otherwise mild, they did cause a dangerous placental abruption that sent her into early labor.
She soon gave birth to a baby boy named Axel, who died prematurely at 18 weeks almost immediately after his birth.
Alfermann, who was immunized a month later when the vaccine received emergency approval, is now fighting misinformation about the vaccine and warning other pregnant women to get the shot.
“There’s so much misinformation that kills people and it’s frustrating,” she said. “I speak out on this for Axel’s legacy.”
Tragic: Vanessa Alfermann, 33, was 22 weeks pregnant last November when she and her husband both contracted COVID-19
She had mild symptoms such as headache and loss of smell and taste. But after some back pain and cramps, she went into premature labor and gave birth to a baby who didn’t survive.
Alfermann, a registered nurse at Missouri Baptist Sullivan, has a son and stepdaughter and was excitedly awaiting the arrival of another child last fall when she tested positive for the virus.
“My husband had symptoms and he tested positive and the next day I also tested positive,” she said Good morning America.
“I was never short of breath, I was just really tired,” she continued, adding that she also suffered from headaches and loss of taste and smell.
But 10 days after the positive test, she also started having back pain and cramps, and went to the OBGYN to get checked out.
‘The baby was fine’ [in an ultrasound] but my white blood cells were very high and they said I had an infection from COVID and gave me an antibiotic and some muscle relaxants to go home with,” she recalled.
“The next morning at about half past one, I got up and realized I was in labor.”
COVID-19 had caused blood clots in her placenta, leading to dangerous placental abruption, forcing her to deliver prematurely
Alfermann was not vaccinated because it was not available yet, but she has now had the injection
Alfermann was only 22 weeks pregnant, two weeks shy of the 24 weeks in which a fetus is considered viable.
With her husband in isolation, Alfermann’s mother-in-law took her to the hospital, where she soon gave birth to baby Axel, who died almost immediately.
‘Within half an hour from my arrival and getting up at the [labor and delivery] floor, Axel was born. I didn’t even get hold of him. The NICU people held him and he took his breath with him and then he died,” Alfermann said.
She learned that blood clots in her placenta due to COVID had caused placental abruption, a condition in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall before birth.
The condition is dangerous for both mother and baby because the fetus can no longer get oxygen and the mother can also die.
“It was amazing because don’t think you’re getting a blood clot on your placenta,” Alfermann said of possible COVID symptoms.
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‘[You think] you are put on a ventilator because you cannot breathe. I went through all these emotions, but I also thought that if this is what’s coming, what COVID is doing, I was just scared.”
Alfermann got vaccinated in December, said while she was happy to get the shot, she was devastated that she couldn’t have had it sooner
“I could still wait to have my son,” she said. “It’s very bittersweet.”
She is now urging other pregnant women — three out of four of whom in the US are unvaccinated — to get the shot, too.
The CDC has recommended the vaccine for pregnant women, pointing out that COVID-19 could be particularly dangerous for them.
COVID-19 can cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely, and a doctor told GMA her hospital has seen more stillbirths among COVID-positive pregnant patients.