Angela Primachenko and Yanira Soriano gave birth under medically-induced comas after developing severe coronavirus symptoms.

By Renee Cherry
April 17, 2020
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When Angela Primachenko recently woke up from a coma, she was a newly-minted mom of two. The 27-year-old from Vancouver, Washington had been placed under a medically-induced coma after becoming infected with COVID-19, she shared in an interview with Today. Her doctors delivered her baby while she was still in the coma, unbeknownst to her when she woke up, she told the morning show.

"After all the medication and everything I just woke up and all of a sudden I didn't have my belly anymore," Primachenko explained on Today. "It was just extremely mind-blowing." (Related: Some Hospitals Aren't Allowing Partners and Supporters In Childbirth Delivery Rooms Due to COVID-19 Concerns)

Because her coronavirus symptoms had quickly grown worse after an initial cough and fever, Primachenko had made a decision with her doctors days earlier to be intubated, according to CNN. She was placed under a medically-induced coma, which is standard practice with COVID-19 patients who are put on a ventilator. After Primachenko's family talked through their options, her doctors decided the best course of action would be to induce labor and deliver the baby vaginally, and they moved forward with Primachenko's husband's permission, CNN reports.

During her Today interview, Primachenko described feeling blindsided by her coronavirus diagnosis. "I work as a respiratory therapist so I'm aware that, you know, it existed," she said. "And so I was taking precautions and I didn't go to work because I was like, I'm pregnant, you know? I don't know where I caught it, I don't know what happened, but somehow I just ended up coming to the hospital and getting sicker and sicker and ended up intubated."

At the time of the interview, Primachenko said she still hadn't met her new daughter, Ava, and that she wouldn't be able to until she'd tested negative for COVID-19 twice. But she's since announced on Instagram that she's finally met her daughter. "Ava is doing amazing and gaining weight every day like a champ!" she captioned a photo of herself holding her newborn. "Another week or so and we will be able to take her HOME!!"

Similarly, 36-year-old Yanira Soriano gave birth while in a coma after becoming infected with the coronavirus. In early April, at 34 weeks pregnant, Soriano was admitted to Northwell Health, Southside Hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia and was immediately put on a ventilator under a medically-induced coma, Benjamin Schwartz, M.D., chairman of the department of ob-gyn at Northwell Southside Hospital (where Yanira was admitted), tells Shape. A day after being hospitalized, Soriano delivered her son Walter via caesarian-section, explains Dr. Schwartz. "The plan initially was to induce her labor and to allow her to have a vaginal delivery," he says. But she "deteriorated so quickly" that her doctors thought the best option would be to intubate her and deliver her baby via C-section, he explains. (Related: What an ER Doc Wants You to Know About Going to a Hospital for Coronavirus RN)

While Yanira's delivery went smoothly for Walter, she was in critical condition after giving birth, shares Dr. Schwartz. After her C-section, Yanira spent 11 more days on a ventilator and various medications before her doctors decided she was ready to wake up and come off the ventilator, he explains. "At the time, the overwhelming majority of patients that ended up on a ventilator for COVID-19 pneumonia did not survive," says Dr. Schwartz. "I think we all were terrified and expected the mother would not survive."

Once Yanira was well enough, she was wheeled out of the hospital to a standing ovation from hospital staff members, and she met her son for the first time at the entrance.

Northwell Health

Stories like Primachenko's and Soriano's are the exception among expectant mothers who have COVID-19—not everyone experiences such severe complications. "It's important to remember that the overall majority of patients with COVID-19 who are pregnant do incredibly well," says Dr. Schwartz. In many cases, the mother is asymptomatic and the virus won't have a real impact on her delivery experience, he notes. "In terms of the fear that I think many people have—that having a COVID-19 infection means you're going to get very, very sick, and end up on a ventilator—that's not what we typically expect in most pregnant patients who get the virus." (Related: 7 Moms Share What It's Really Like to Have a C-Section)

Generally speaking, giving birth while under a medically-induced coma is "not a rare thing," but it's also "not the norm," says Dr. Schwartz. "The medically-induced coma is basically general anesthesia," he explains. (General anesthesia is a reversible, drug-induced coma that renders someone unconscious.) "Caesarian sections are usually done with either an epidural or a spinal anesthetic so that the patient is usually awake and hears the doctors and hears the baby when it's born." That said, a C-section requires special precautions when the mother is in a coma, adds Dr. Schwartz. "Sometimes the medications that are used to sedate the mother can get to the baby; they can cross the placenta," he explains. "A special pediatric team is present in case the baby is sedated and can't breathe well on its own."

The birth process, in general, is incredible. But the idea that someone would wake up from a coma to find out they'd successfully given birth amid severe coronavirus symptoms? As Primachenko put it, extremely mind-blowing.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it’s possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.

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