FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Healthcare officials have an urgent message for pregnant women as COVID-19 cases surge in South Florida.

Doctors at Broward Health Medical Center said they have seen young, healthy people with no preexisting conditions come into the hospital seriously ill after contracting COVID-19 and the same situation is now happening to pregnant women.

“I’ve seen them deteriorate in the hospital,” Dr. Mary Beatrice Squire, an OBGYN at Broward Health Coral Springs, said. “I’ve seen them diagnosed with pneumonia. I’ve seen them diagnosed with respiratory failure. Seeing an expectant woman who is expecting a healthy baby to be unable to breathe and require ventilator support and ICU admission is something I’ve never seen at this frequency. Frankly, it’s very frightening.”

Officials said in the past six to eight weeks, the number of pregnant women who have contracted the virus has skyrocketed. They added 70% of pregnant women are not vaccinated, and they hope their message will help change those numbers.

Lucia Pizano-Urbina, who is 37 weeks pregnant, received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine months before she became pregnant. Unsure if she should get the second dose, she said she spoke to her doctor.

“I was worried, obviously, but I talked to my doctor, and he told me, ‘Absolutely you should get the second shot,'” Pizano-Urbina said. “I’ve done all the testing. I’ve done multiple ultrasounds. The baby is good. He’s great, so I would recommend that pregnant moms get the vaccine.”

More pregnant women contracting COVID are delivering prematurely, and some are dying or ending up on ventilators.

Many pregnant women have been hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying they were fearful and uncertain as to how it would affect their pregnancy. Doctors said the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.

“Well, I can’t imagine having a baby and not being able to see him,” Pizano-Urbina said. “It’s devastating. I want to be as healthy as possible for my 6-year-old, for my husband and even for my baby.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women are 15 times more likely to die of COVID-19, 14 times more likely to be intubated and 22 times more likely to have their baby prematurely than those unaffected by the virus.

“It’s a problem when somebody has COVID and is so low in oxygen because that fetus is fighting for oxygen, just like the mother is, just like her whole body is,” Dr. Adolfo Gonzalez-Garcia, an OBGYN at Broward Health Medical Center, said. “Her heart, her lungs, her brain, and by removing the fetus, you potentially improve that, but at the same token, if you have a baby who is super small, you don’t want to do that because you end up with a very premature kid that’s going to end up with 1,000 complications from being born prematurely.”

Studies on pregnant women began in February and evidence shows there is no increased risk of miscarriage from the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have seen, unfortunately, many pregnant women so far in our critical care unit, and we’ve been dealing with it,” said Broward Health Medical Center ICU Dr. Sunil Kumar. “Some of them are, unfortunately, not fortunate enough to leave the hospital, and the worst part is, they deteriorate right after they have the baby and [are] not able to hold that baby, not able to see that baby for days and weeks. It’s really unfortunate, and this is preventable.”

The vaccine, however, has proved to be helpful to the baby, even after birth.

“We have today data that supports that if the mom is vaccinated, that antibodies can be transmitted even to the baby, so if for no other reason, if you love that baby, please go get vaccinated,” said Kumar.

According to doctors, babies do not contract the virus from their mothers, but these women, whose immune systems have been compromised, are getting very sick quickly.

“All pregnant women should get vaccinated because we don’t want women to die,” Gonzalez-Garcia said. “We recently had a maternal death, and that’s awful. It devastates, I mean, it’s awful for that family. It’s awful for everybody. This baby will never know his mother, and this woman never saw her child, and that’s so, so sad.”

Some treatments used for COVID require the patient to lay on their stomach, which becomes more difficult with pregnant women.

Healthcare workers urge those who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help save their and their baby’s life.

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