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‘Complicated pregnancy scenarios’ a reality at Toronto’s Sinai Health amid COVID-19 3rd wave

Click to play video: 'Toronto’s Sinai Health managing COVID-19 pregnancies, more complications' Toronto’s Sinai Health managing COVID-19 pregnancies, more complications
WATCH ABOVE: This third wave of the pandemic has been especially concerning for pregnant individuals. Sinai Health in Toronto is used to helping families navigate high-risk pregnancies, but the challenges presented by COVID-19 have been unprecedented. Caryn Lieberman shows us how the medical team is managing and just in time for Mother's Day, brings us a new mom’s story of hope. – May 7, 2021

More than two-thirds of all pregnancies seen at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital are high-risk, but few have been more complex than during this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the best of times, it’s busy and complicated and requires a lot of different physicians and nurses to provide care for people who have really significant issues in their pregnancies,” said Dr. Cindy Maxwell, division head of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Program.

“COVID-19 has really added to that environment and certainly increased the number of pregnant people that we’re seeing with severe forms of illness, particularly in the third wave,” she added.

Home to the busiest labour and delivery ward in Canada, Sinai Health welcomes 7,000 babies every year.

Read more: Pregnant women in B.C. now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

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The pandemic, in particular the third wave, has brought new challenges and fears for the medical team and pregnant patients.

“It’s been a wake-up call. So for sure, we are seeing levels of illness that are of great concern. We’re having to think through protocols for how pregnant people are treated in the ICU, how they’re provided oxygen. What type of position do you use if you want to flip someone on their tummy? How do you do that in third trimester of pregnancy?” noted Maxwell.

The doctors and nurses, Maxwell pointed out, are mindful that care must be provided to the pregnant individual and the baby still inside.

“We have definitely seen some of the most complicated pregnancy scenarios I think, that we would have faced in our careers during this third wave in particular,” she added.

Read more: ‘This situation is urgent.’ Why pregnant women are flooding Canadian ICUs

“Right now, we are seeing those scenarios where people are potentially at the brink of a moment in their health, where it could be a life or death scenario … we don’t know what the long-term consequences will be of having COVID-19 in pregnancy so what a person’s lung function will be or how their heart function will be, or how a future pregnancy might unfold but we’re optimistic that the recovery should be good and that they can go on to have future pregnancies,” she said.

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In time for Mother’s Day, Sinai Health Foundation is celebrating motherhood and its team of women’s and infants’ health specialists in its latest public campaign.

Commissioned by Sinai Health Foundation, “Care for the Strongest” features mini-documentaries highlighting the power of motherhood, while showcasing Sinai Health’s renowned high-risk pregnancy program that treats some of the most complicated pregnancies in Canada.

Read more: COVID-19: Pregnant women eligible for vaccine as Ontario moves them to ‘highest risk’ category

New mother Jennie Jennings delivered her baby in March, after spending a month living in the Antenatal Unit at Mount Sinai, due to a rare pregnancy condition that needed to be monitored closely.

“I was diagnosed with a rare condition called Vasa Previa where the blood vessels are exposed and if you try to deliver naturally the baby could bleed out,” she explained.

Jennings’ journey to motherhood had already been long and difficult.

She spent eight years trying to conceive and suffered five miscarriages.

Read more: Doctors say COVID-19 variants put pregnant women at greater risk, cite ‘urgent’ need for vaccines

Being in hospital, despite the pandemic, gave her hope and comfort that the baby would be delivered safely.

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“You can only have one visitor at a time … They would routinely ask if you had any symptoms and they would be checking your vitals twice a day anyways and then you’d see the nurses sanitizing their hands and wearing masks and everyone was doing their due diligence so I felt quite safe there,” she said.

Jennings delivered her daughter Mallory via caesarean section just past 37 weeks.

“It’s been amazing. It’s been outstanding. She is just a lovely little girl and has brought a lot of joy into our house and I feel like this is what I had been looking forward to for a long time,” she said.

At Sinai Health, where the baby deliveries don’t stop, Maxwell wants pregnant people to know, “it is safe to give birth during the pandemic and it’s possible to have a normal and positive birth experience.”

Read more: Quiet grief: Albertans open up about stigma and suffering after pregnancy loss

“There will be precautions taken. There will be mask wearing. It’ll feel a little bit different. And obviously the number of family members and support people that can come to the hospital most likely will be limited,” she said.

“That being said, of course, please take your precautions, stay vigilant. This is the third wave of a pretty severe pandemic.”

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