A woman gave birth to a healthy son, but died of COVID-19 before getting to hold him

Pregnant woman

  • Erika Becerra, 33, delivered her son on November 15, and was on a ventilator for 18 days with COVID-19 before she died. 
  • Becerra had no underlying health conditions, and leaves behind an infant and one-year-old.
  • Although most pregnant women with COVID-19 will not have complications, pregnancy increases the risk for serious symptoms of the virus and even death.
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The joy of welcoming a new baby turned to heartbreak for one Detroit family after a woman delivered a healthy baby boy, but died from COVID-19 before ever being able to hold him.

Erika Becerra, of Detroit, contracted the coronavirus when she was eight months pregnant. She almost immediately had severe symptoms and was hospitalized. As her symptoms got worse, the doctors realized that they needed to deliver her baby early, her brother told KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.

"The weekend came along and the doctor saw she wasn't getting any better. They had to think about the baby," Michael Avilez told KCBS.

After being induced, Becerra gave birth to Diego Antonio Becerra, who was healthy. However, her health continued to decline, despite the fact that she had no preexisting conditions, Avilez said. 

Becerra had recently moved to Detroit from Los Angeles. When it became clear how sick she was, her family made the trip to Michigan to be with her as she died. Becerra was on a ventilator for 18 days before her death.

"Towards the last moments, she was tearing up. I know she heard us as we prayed for her, we talked to her, we comforted her in the last moments," Avilez told KCBS. Becerra died on December 3rd.

"Erika Becerra, 33, is survived by a beautiful one year baby girl, and a newborn baby boy who was whisked away due to the onset of complications from the virus shortly after giving birth," the family wrote in a Go Fund Me set up to help cover funeral and other expenses.

Pregnancy increases risk for COVID-19 complications

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that pregnant women have an increased risk for severe complications from the coronavirus. A study published in October found that pregnant women are more likely to need intensive care and to die from the virus than people who are not pregnant. 

The CDC also says that the virus increases the risk for pregnancy complications, including premature birth. However, a November study indicated that COVID infection did not increase the risk for "adverse pregnancy outcomes." The study found that 95% of pregnant women who get the virus did not have adverse outcomes. 

There's still a lot that scientists don't understand about the virus and pregnancy. However, doctors say that it makes sense that a respiratory infection would be more difficult on pregnant women. 

"When you think about a growing uterus pressing on the diaphragm and lifting it upward, in general, it's harder to breathe when you're pregnant. Adding a respiratory disease just makes it more challenging," Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, an obstetrician at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told The New York Times.

Becerra's godmother, Claudia Garcia, told the New York Times that the family is reeling. 

Becerra's widower, Diego, has been taking care of both children, she said. The children and Becerra's husband all tested negative for the virus. 

The family is dealing with the heartbreak of losing Becerra, and adjusting to a life that will look very different to what they had planned. 

"She was so excited," Garcia told the New York Times. "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.'"

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