A pregnant woman from Sittingbourne has urged expectant mums to get vaccinated against Covid following her own experience of nearly losing her baby.
Claire Bromley, 33, who was unvaccinated, was hospitalised for almost a month with coronavirus in July this year.
She said she wants fellow expectant mothers to know the serious health risks that not having the Covid-19 vaccine poses to them and their unborn baby.
Her warning comes following new NHS data showing that nearly 20% of the most critically-ill Covid patients currently are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.
Mrs Bromley, from Lower Halstow, said: "I find it incredibly overwhelming and scary how close I came to dying and losing our baby."
A few days after testing positive for Covid on July 7, Mrs Bromley was admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham with difficulty breathing. She was put on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma.
As her condition worsened, she and husband Sam were told to prepare for the possibility of an emergency C-section at just 26 weeks into the pregnancy. Thanks to the skill of the hospital team, she avoided an immediate C-section.
However, with her condition continuing to worsen, she had to be transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where there were further specialist services available should her condition deteriorate.
Finally, on August 4, nearly a month after she was initially admitted to hospital, she was allowed home, where she has since been gradually recovering, with unborn child doing well.
Mrs Bromley is now one of a growing number of expectant mums urging other pregnant women to consider getting the Covid vaccine to significantly reduce their risk of catching coronavirus and having the same experience.
She said: "I completely understand the hesitation not to get vaccinated when you are growing a child inside you, and after two miscarriages myself, the fear of being pregnant again with the worry of Covid was sending my anxiety through the roof.
"But after my recent experience, I can honestly say that the risk of not having the Covid vaccine far outweighs any doubts about having it."
Since July, one in five Covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab.
Pregnant women have been treated with a therapy, called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by Covid that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels.
The new data shows that of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 on ECMO in intensive care, pregnant women make up almost a third (32%) since the start of the pandemic.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have both recommended vaccination as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe Covid-19 infection.
Data from America and the UK shows that more than 200,000 pregnant women have received at least one dose of the vaccine without any safety concerns raised.
Mrs Bromley said: "Truthfully, I'm glad I don't remember much about it.
"But I'm truly astonished that our little one is still here through everything; definitely a fighter.
"I was one of the lucky ones who was able to go home quite quickly after been woken from the ventilator, but I am still very weak, can only walk short distances and I still do not have my voice back properly.
"I know there is still a long way to go, but I must thank the NHS and every single person at both hospitals who has and is helping me on this journey."
Public Health England said that more than 81,000 pregnant women have had their first dose of the Covid jab, and around 65,000 have had their second dose.
'Vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women'
The NHS is encouraging pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, the chief midwifery officer for England, said: “Claire's case is another stark reminder that the Covid-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital.
"You can receive vaccination at any time in pregnancy, but the risks that unvaccinated pregnant women face of becoming severely unwell if they catch Covid-19 show exactly why we advise you to do so as soon as possible."
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We are urgently calling for all pregnant women to come forward for their vaccinations.
"We do understand women’s concerns about having the vaccine in pregnancy, and we want to reassure women that there is no link between having the vaccine and an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth."
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women and I urge everyone to get their vaccines as soon as they can to secure this significant protection."