Photo/Illutration Nurses respond to a patient in an intensive care unit at Chiba University Hospital in Chiba on July 30. (Hiromi Kumai)

A Chiba hospital has designated beds to accept pregnant COVID-19 patients following the death of a newborn after a novel coronavirus patient was unable to find a hospital that would admit her and gave birth at home.  

Chiba University Hospital will secure some of six beds in its maternal fetal intensive care unit at the perinatal medical center for expectant mothers with COVID-19.

The MFICU is a treatment facility where patients at high risk can be hospitalized during their pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. It treats such patients and pre-born and newborn children around the clock.

According to the hospital, after the COVID-19 patient’s baby died, doctors talked about the clinic’s examination system and the hospital’s procurement of beds at an online meeting on Aug. 18.

The hospital decided to create the beds because its emergency system accepts critical pregnant women without any preconditions.

“All the beds for COVID-19 patients have already been occupied, and there is no room for accepting pregnant COVID-19 patients," said Makio Shozu, a professor at Chiba University’s Graduate School of Medicine, who specializes in reproductive medicine. "Our hospital ward, therefore, has to accept them."

“It is very difficult to respond to a childbirth while we prevent the virus from spreading, but we have to do this to allow such a patient to safely give birth,” he added.


As more pregnant women have been infected with the novel coronavirus in the Tokyo metropolitan area, there are not enough hospital beds to accommodate them.

“It takes longer to coordinate the childbirth of pregnant COVID-19 patients,” said Kei Kawana, a chief professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Nihon University Itabashi Hospital in Tokyo. “Please talk to your primary care doctors as early as possible.”

He said that his hospital has 50 beds or more for COVID-19 patients and has been accepting such patients who were pregnant and were refused by other medical institutions, but that it is getting more difficult to accept them.

“The perinatal care system has started to collapse in some areas,” Kawana said.

The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other groups asked medical institutions across Japan to boost their medical capacity for such patients on Aug. 10.

A health ministry study team recently surveyed 144 pregnant COVID-19 patients in Japan and found that they tended to be at higher risk of developing serious symptoms after their 25th week of pregnancy.

When the uterus expands, it puts pressure on the diaphragm, making it harder for the expectant mother to breathe. If pregnant women get infected with the novel coronavirus, their breathing condition could worsen quickly.

The JSOG released a statement on Aug. 14 urging pregnant women to get a COVID-19 vaccination regardless of their pregnancy stage to prevent them from developing serious symptoms.

“We have not found any evidence as of now that the vaccine could cause a miscarriage or affect a fetus,” said Toshibumi Taniguchi, an instructor of infectious diseases at Chiba University. “Even if you are pregnant, please get vaccinated when it is your turn.”

(This article was written by Noriyuki Shigemasa, Mirei Jinguji and Kazuya Goto.)