SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Dr. Estrella Chavez at Community Health Centers has her hands full these days.
The obstetrics and gynecology specialist not only treats pregnant women, she also had a baby during the pandemic.
"At first it was very scary … because the whole thing had hit … I was still in my first trimester … I just found out that I was pregnant," said Chavez.
Just as she got the big news she was expecting, Chavez started seeing more pregnant patients with COVID-19.
"That was very concerning … especially because we knew very little about the virus at that time ... and we were being exposed to it day after day," said Chavez.
Dr. Larry Shields treats pregnant women at Marian Regional Medical Center.
He's keeping a close eye on nationwide trends showing less than a quarter of pregnant women have even one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"There is a large uptick in the number of pregnant women … and you know the data out of Los Angeles County suggested … it might be the number one cause of maternal mortality," said Shields.
Some doctors estimate locally as many as 90 percent of pregnant women are unvaccinated.
"Especially with this surge ... pregnant moms getting sicker … it feels like last year we had a lot of positive patients that did not even know they had COVID-19 … but this year they’re showing up with symptoms … in respiratory distress and difficulty breathing," said Chavez.
Dr. Chavez and Dr. Shields both tell their patients, not only is the vaccine safe for the mother, it also protects the baby.
"In the last month you’ve had … the CDC … the American College of OB/GYN … Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine … and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine … all came out and recommended … to pregnant women ... post pardon women … and women thinking of getting pregnant … to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," said Shields.
Since getting the vaccine, Chavez says she and her baby are doing great.
She hopes all pregnant women will also get the shot.
"Just get a vaccine … you’re protecting your babies … you’re protecting yourself ... and you're protecting those around you," said Chavez.
Pregnant women locally can get their vaccinations while visiting their doctor at Marian Regional Medical Center and Community Health Centers.