Erika Becerra was eight months pregnant when she learned that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. Almost immediately after receiving the result, her body started to ache, developed a fever, and felt tight in her chest. When she was having difficulty breathing, her husband called for an ambulance.
Three days later, on November 15, she gave birth to a healthy boy, Diego, in a Detroit hospital. She was never allowed to hold him, her brother told KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.
Ms. Becerra's health deteriorated so quickly that doctors put her on a ventilator, which she stayed on for 18 days. Ms. Becerra, 33, who had no health problems prior to her illness, died Thursday surrounded by her parents and brother, who, according to her godmother, Claudia Garcia, had come from East Los Angeles.
"It was a complete shock – she was fine," said Ms. Garcia. "I'm speechless. I'm still trying to wake up from this nightmare."
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added pregnancy to the list of conditions that put people with Covid-19 at increased risk of serious illness, including an increased risk of death.
The agency added pregnancy to the list after a study looked at the health outcomes of 409,462 symptomatic women aged 15 to 44 who tested positive for the coronavirus, of whom 23,434 were pregnant.
The study found that pregnant women were at a 70 percent increased risk of death compared to non-pregnant women who were symptomatic.
Pregnant women were significantly more likely than non-pregnant women to require intensive care, to be connected to a special cardiopulmonary bypass machine, and to require mechanical ventilation.
"When you think of a growing uterus pushing on the diaphragm and lifting it up, it's generally harder to breathe when you're pregnant," said Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, obstetrician at New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "Adding a respiratory disease only makes it harder."
Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman said Ms. Becerra's death was a reminder of the importance of keeping social distance to pregnant women, wearing masks and minimizing time outside their homes.
However, she said doctors still need more data to get a better sense of the risks to pregnant women contracting the virus. The absolute risk of death for pregnant women who contracted the coronavirus was, according to C.D.C. still lower than for women who were infected with the H1N1 virus during pregnancy. Study.
A November 19 study published on JAMA Network Open also found that 95 percent of pregnant women who tested positive for the coronavirus had no adverse results.
"The vast majority of pregnant women with Covid are doing very well," said Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman.
Ms. Garcia said the family did not know how Ms. Becerra contracted the virus. Relatives speculated that she must have contracted the infection late in pregnancy during her many doctor visits in early November when she started having mild contractions. She learned that she was infected with the virus on November 7th.
Ms. Becerra's husband, Diego, a landscaper, took care of his young son and the couple's 1 year old daughter, Erika. All three have tested negative for Covid-19, Ms. Garcia said.
Ms. Garcia said her goddaughter was thrilled to learn she had a boy.
"She was so excited," said Ms. Garcia. "She would say," I'm going to have my boy and I'm going to have my girl and they're going to grow up together. "
Roni Caryn Rabin contributed to the coverage.