CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A new study is highlighting just how dangerous COVID-19 can be for pregnant women who are not vaccinated.

Researchers found that the virus can in rare cases damage the mother’s placenta and cause a stillbirth.

“In the initial first year of COVID, things were questionable as to what kind of impact it was having on pregnancies. And we had some data that suggested that it was affecting pregnancy outcomes. But, the most severe effects we saw were with the Delta wave, so not really until the second year of the pandemic did we see really the most tragic outcomes with COVID and pregnancy,” explained Amy McKenney, pathologist for Cleveland Clinic and one of the authors on the study.

Dr. McKenney said they are not sure why the Delta variant seemed to be the most severe.

However, they suspect the high levels of virus in the mother’s blood made it more likely to infect and damage the placenta in some women. There is no way to repair the placenta in that situation, the only option would be to do an early delivery and that’s if the fetus were old enough.

Dr. McKenney said given all the unknowns of this virus and the complications it can cause, it’s vital for pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“I can say that we have never seen these complications in a fully vaccinated woman. These have only occurred in women who are unvaccinated – the severe complications, meaning the virus infects the placenta and causes the baby to die in utero or after delivery,” she said.

Dr. McKenney said it’s difficult to get an exact number of how many pregnant women have suffered stillbirths due to COVID-19 since that information isn’t kept in any kind of database.

In addition, some hospitals don’t have the resources necessary to test the placenta.