The guidance around the Covid-19 vaccine for pregnant women has continued to confuse, with some mums-to-be even getting misinformation at vaccination centres. That’s despite the latest research showing the vaccine doesn’t affect fertility or lead to worse birth outcomes for those vaccinated.
As medical professionals urge more pregnant women to get their jabs, one mum has spoken frankly about the ordeal of contracting Covid while pregnant.
Mum-of-four Sameera Khan, from London, was put in a coma for two months to protect her unborn baby, who was delivered by C-section while she was under.
Speaking on the 50 Shades of Motherhood podcast with host Carla Lett, Khan recalled the moment that doctors told her this intervention was needed to save her life – and pregnancy.
“I was so unwell in terms of my breathing that I agreed,” she said. “I would have agreed to anything at that point because it’s awful when you can’t breathe. You’re worried and none of the machines are working. It’s a really scary time.
“I started messaging everybody with these really emotional soppy messages, saying, ‘If I don’t wake up, please look after my children.’ Then after I made my phone calls, they took me up to the ICU ward and then that’s where it started. They put me into the coma. And, everything from there on was a blur.”
Khan certainly hadn’t known what to expect when she contracted coronavirus at 27 weeks pregnant. Feeling rundown and struggling with her breath, she was taken to hospital. But this was December 2020 when admissions for Covid were at an all-time high – and Khan was sent home.
A week later, when symptoms persisted, Khan and her husband called an ambulance at 11pm that, due to an emergency surge, arrived at 9am. With powerful machines in hospital unable to bring her oxygen levels back to normal, doctors told Khan they’d induce a coma to give her body a break.
At first, her condition began to improve, then a few days later, her body started to shut down. “My heart stopped, my lung collapsed and my kidneys stopped working,” she recalled.” And at that point, they were trying their best to get everything sorted out and done. They put a stent into my lungs and, put me on dialysis to try and fix my kidneys, but nothing was working.”
This was the moment doctors called her husband. “At that time there was no visiting in hospitals due to Covid-19 and they said... ‘you need to come in.’ My husband said he knew that it was bad news and he couldn’t think straight. All he could think about was: ’why are they letting me come in to visit my wife?′ Doctors then told him there was like a 10% chance I was going to wake up.”
Khan was 29 weeks pregnant when doctors decided to perform the emergency C-section to get her baby out. As soon as she was born, her daughter was put on a breathing machine and after a few days was able to breathe on her own.
Fortunately, the baby tested negative for Covid and her mum’s condition also began to improve, only to worsen again. “They just really couldn’t understand what was going on,” says Khan. “One moment I was fine and then out of nowhere I would completely deteriorate.”
This continued for two months, until Khan was finally brought out of the coma.
“When I woke up, I was fully paralysed. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t lift my arms. I couldn’t move at all. And I was just in this bed just really worried, wondering about the baby. Doctors explained to me that the baby was okay and she was doing really well on the NICU, the neonatal unit. And they just said to me ‘you’ve been asleep for a very long time’. I remember thinking, ‘wait, so I have a two-month old baby?’ It just felt like I was asleep one night and woke up.”
Khan entered a residential unit to help her body recover with physiotherapy, but she then had a small stroke due to Covid and was soon back in hospital. It took her another full month to recover. Three months after the C-section that delivered her baby, she was finally able to meet her daughter.
“When I first met her, it was just surreal. It was really strange, said Khan, who had given birth to her three previous children without a C-section. “I felt like: is this actually my baby? I kind of just went into a coma and woke up with another baby, which was really surreal to be honest,” she said.
Khan – who can now stand but not yet walk – has moved to a wheelchair-accessible home with her family and also has carers to help her. She is now keen to raise more awareness around the risks of catching Covid pregnant.
“I think it’s really important because I saw a lot when I woke up on the ICU, and a lot of pregnant people were in the same situation and unfortunately didn’t make it,” she said.
“It’s really important for me to share this with others so other people can really see that this is serious. It’s not just something we can throw around.”
‘I felt more comfortable getting the vaccine’
Host of 50 Shades of Motherhood and founder of MyBump2Baby, Carla Lett, 34, has lost multiple pregnancies and is now expecting a rainbow baby. She has also seen misinformation about the vaccine being spread.
“I am seeing false information and scare mongering stories about getting the vaccine all over social media,” she said on the episode. “I have also had numerous messages from people I don’t even know begging me not to get the vaccine. I firmly believe that people should choose to do what is right for them and people should stop pushing their beliefs and untrue information on to others.
“As a pregnant mum-of-one, it is important to me that I know the risks attached with getting the vaccine against the risks of not getting the vaccine and, personally, I decided that I felt more comfortable getting the vaccine.
“It is such a tough time for expectant families and if the governments guidelines were the same throughout, I think a lot of us would be more confident in our choices.”