Pregnant SC mother gives birth while suffering from near-fatal case of COVID

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 7:25 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:32 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A South Carolina woman and her newborn baby boy are finally home after she nearly died in the hospital from COVID-19.

Prem Koonkhuntod is a now mom of three who lives in Myrtle Beach but is originally from Thailand.

In early August, she said she tested positive for COVID-19 while she was seven months pregnant. Koonkhuntod said she was not vaccinated, but still took precautions to keep herself safe.

The young mother said she was admitted to an area hospital near her home and soon after was transferred to MUSC Health. As her conditioned worsened, she was placed on an ECMO machine which MUSC doctors said is only used as a last resort. Koonkhuntod said the last thing she remembers is being taken into the ICU.

She wasn’t awake when she gave birth and said her husband told her she had a C-section.

“After that I asked my husband, ‘How’s the baby?’ What’s going on?’” Koonkhuntod said.

Fortunately, she and her baby, Alex, are doing much better.

According to MUSC doctors, only 23% of pregnant women in the United States are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Eleanor Oakman is the Director of Women Services for Roper St. Francis. She said pregnant women are at a much higher risk for severe COVID-19 infections. The doctor said they’ve seen a lot more pregnant patients hospitalized with this latest surge.

“Pregnancy is one that respiratory illnesses can be extremely severe in. So, for example flu is also particularly bad in pregnancy, and we’re seeing the same thing in COVID, which is what we expected,” Dr. Oakman said.

Dr. Oakman said pregnant patients experience a lot of shortness of breathe and have a higher need for oxygen compared to non-pregnant people who are the same age and health status.

She said it is safe for women to get vaccinated during pregnancy and post-partum.

As for expecting mothers who are hoping for the COVID-19 vaccine to be FDA approved for pregnant women, Dr. Oakman said it is not likely to happen. But that’s normal.

“Most of the vaccines we use are not going to be approved in pregnancy because we don’t test that patient population specifically,” Oakman explained. “But, we know over long time studies of, for example, flu vaccines or Tdap vaccines, that they are extremely safe in pregnancy.”

Dr. Oakman said anyone looking to get vaccinated can do so at any of the Roper Express Cares. They are taking walk-ins.

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