Pregnant ER worker addresses critics: ‘No women should feel ashamed’

By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Taylor Poynter, a physician assistant in Illinois, did not expect to find herself working in the emergency room at 33 weeks pregnant during a global pandemic, but here she is.

The 27-year-old, who is expecting her first child, has been working in the ER throughout her pregnancy, including treating patients with COVID-19.

 “There’s no right or wrong decision when it comes to working during your pregnancy, especially during a pandemic,” Poynter told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “No women should feel ashamed for choices that she’s making for her family.”

Poynter posted a photo of herself on Instagram earlier this month wearing her personal protective equipment (PPE) and holding her pregnant belly. The photo, she said, was intended as a celebration of her entering her third trimester, but the physician assistant also received comments questioning her decision to continue working during the pandemic.

“All of a sudden that picture just kind of blew up and I started to feel like, wow, I really need to stand up for working pregnant women right now,” said Poynter. “Because it is important that I’m here and it is important that other pregnant women who are still working feel like they can still work and not be shamed for that.”

Poynter posted a second photo of herself at work along with a caption meant to “clarify how most of us pregnant mommas feel right now.”

“There are a lot of reasons pregnant women are still working, but none of us are doing it because we want to put our child in harms way,” she wrote, in part. “Praying peace and against all fear in my fellow soon to be mommas.”

Poynter is an emergency room provider so she did not have an option to move to a different department in the hospital. She said her employer did give her the option to take leave through the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) or to take unpaid leave, but those options were not viable for Poynter.

“I did choose to continue working because I can’t afford to take that time off right now,” she said. “There are a lot of factors that play into why a lot of pregnant women are still working.”

Because COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is new, there are few scientific reports on whether pregnant women are more susceptible than the general population. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does point out though that pregnant women do have weakened immune systems and may be more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

Poynter said she has felt healthy and strong throughout her pregnancy and has been working anywhere from two to four or five shifts per week. Her due date is June 9 and she is still deciding when she will stop working, taking into account things like whether she will need to self-isolate for two weeks and whether COVID-19 patients continue to be a presence in the hospital where she works.

Poynter has continued to post photos of herself as she nears her due date and continues to work. She said she felt inspired by the messages she’s received from other pregnant women working on the front lines during the pandemic.

“Just knowing there’s other women out there, even if you are the only person maybe at your hospital or site that’s pregnant and working, it’s comforting to know that other women are in the same boat and feeling the same things that you’re feeling,” she said. “Every situation is different and you should never feel ashamed of your choices.”

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