PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Doctors at UnityPoint Health are stepping up mitigation measures for pregnant patients with COVID-19 by improving vaccine confidence, making early diagnoses, and providing a safe environment for its patients.

A recent study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that COVID-19 directly contributed to 20-25% of maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth complications.

“In order to have a healthy pregnancy, you have to have a healthy mother,” said Dr. Steven Ambrose, maternal fetal medicine specialist at UnityPoint.

Ambrose said just a few patients had COVID-19 during the initial and delta surges. But with the omicron variant, half of all pregnant patients have COVID-19 and the disease can be passed on to the baby.

“The placenta, which is the organ that’s responsible for the baby getting its nutrition and its oxygen… that can have dysfunction or be damaged by the COVID virus so that we have to worry about long term complications in the pregnancy,” he said.

Ambrose said getting a booster shot is the best way to ensure a safe pregnancy and “to have the best chance of a healthy baby.”

“People do have kind of the fatalistic attitude that they’re going to get it anyway, but it really does seem that if you have been vaccinated, you’re going to have a much less severe disease, and particularly for unborn children, it’s much better for the mother to be vaccinated instead of having complications from an actual COVID infection,” said Dr. Ambrose.

Learn more about the updated booster shot at the CDC’s website.