Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to main content

National COVID-19 Day

I think most of us agree that COVID-19 deeply affected our lives in 2020 and 2021. If we made a list of the ways it altered our lives, I’m sure a lot of items would align. It may have caused your job to pause or become remote, caused your children to attend school at home or stay home from daycare, or canceled important trips or events. With most things reopened and back in person in the year 2024, it can sometimes feel like COVID-19 is “over.” What I didn’t expect was the ways that the virus would still be changing my life even now.

In December of 2022, I was six months pregnant with my son and lost my grandmother to dementia. She lived in Chicago, and I was given the green light by my doctor to travel to her funeral. Being so pregnant, it was a tough and exhausting trip, but I was so glad I was able to say goodbye to someone who had been such a big part of my life. However, a few days later, I got sick. At the time, I thought I was just tired, congested, and sore due to my pregnancy, but in retrospect, I’m fairly certain I had COVID-19, which I likely contracted by traveling during the busy holiday season. Why do I think I had COVID-19? Because I got it again the following summer (that time I tested positive) and had all the same symptoms and felt exactly the same. Also, for the reasons I’m going to elaborate on next.

When I gave birth to my son in February 2023, he was born five weeks early. Luckily his birth went smoothly, but afterwards, as the doctor tried to remove the placenta, there were issues. It took a very long time and there were concerns that a portion may not have been removed, an issue that would continue to be of concerns for months and would cause me to be briefly re-hospitalized. The first question from the doctors and nurses was, “Did you have COVID-19 while you were pregnant?” I told them I didn’t think so. They told me that they were seeing more issues like this with women who were pregnant and contracted COVID-19. While having any sickness during my pregnancy would have worried me, this is not a potential side effect I would have ever previously considered.

In addition, I already mentioned that my son was born five weeks early. Often, a baby is born early due to some complication, but my water spontaneously broke. Being born premature caused issues early on in my son’s life. Although his delivery went very well, he was in the NICU for three weeks because he was not ready to eat on his own yet. He also had to be given a small amount of oxygen while he was in the NICU, because his lungs had not fully developed and in the Colorado altitude, this is especially difficult for a premature baby. In fact, he was taken off the oxygen before he came home, but ended up back at Children’s Hospital for several days in March 2023 after it was discovered during a pediatrician’s office visit that his oxygen saturation level was consistently under 80%. When he left Children’s Hospital, we had to keep him on oxygen at home for several weeks. It was difficult and scary having him at home with an oxygen tank, but it was better than having him in the hospital again. All of this stemmed from, again, the fact that he was born early.

Even before these two issues arose, I had been diagnosed with a pregnancy condition called preeclampsia. It’s a potentially dangerous, even deadly, condition that is characterized by high blood pressure, kidney damage, and/or other signs of organ damage. During a routine doctor’s visit in January 2023, my physician noticed my blood pressure was abnormally high. A blood test determined I was experiencing some early organ damage also. After a visit to a specialist, more tests, and lots of turmoil, I was diagnosed with the condition officially. I was stressed and concerned for my baby’s health, and for my own. I purchased an at-home blood pressure cuff and monitored it twice a day, every day in the meantime. Coincidentally, my water broke the night after the specialist officially diagnosed me with preeclampsia but had that not happened it would have likely gone one of two ways: my blood pressure would have skyrocketed causing me to rush to the emergency room and give birth immediately, or I would have been induced at 37 weeks pregnant. I thought it was very odd my water broke so early, and I asked the doctors why this would have happened. Did it have to do with the preeclampsia? They said no, but sometimes an infection can cause your water to break early. They ended up ruling that out with some tests. So, in the end I had no explanation. And it always bothered me. While I never got an answer, I found out some facts that could possibly explain it.

First off, my doctor had found it a little odd that I developed preeclampsia in the first place. While I did meet a few risk factors for it, there was no history in my family, and this is generally a big indicator. After doing a little reading on the topic, I discovered a study of pregnant individuals in 18 countries, done in October 2020, found that those with COVID-19 had an almost two-fold higher risk of preeclampsia, as well as other adverse conditions, than those without COVID-19. It also found that pregnant individuals with COVID-19 had a higher instance of preterm birth.

While I can never be sure why I had these issues during my pregnancy, it was jarring to think that even years after the initial outbreak, pandemic, and lockdown- this virus may have been the root of quite a bit of hospital time, worry, stress, uncertainty, and health problems for me and my baby in the year 2023. It was a rude awakening that this virus may not be altering the world in the profound way it did in 2020, but it is still with us, still dangerous, and still wreaking havoc on our society. We can’t let our guard completely down, even if we have resumed the majority of our normal activities. It’s a good reminder to continue to do the responsible things we can all do to try to keep us safe from COVID-19. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to protect yourself and others:

  • Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick
  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Stay home if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Take a COVID-19 test if you think you could have the virus