A mother whose baby died with coronavirus has said she does not regret refusing the vaccine.
Ivy-Rose Court was just nine days old when she died last month having tested positive for COVID-19.
She was born 14 weeks premature, weighing only 2lb 3oz. Ivy-Rose tested positive for coronavirus about a week after she was born and also suffered complications due to her premature birth, including a brain haemorrhage.
Her mother, Katie Leeming, 22, was so sick after catching coronavirus she had to give birth at just 26 weeks.
Ms Leeming, who has two other children, said she didn’t have a vaccine after reading “horror stories” on online pregnancy forums.
Official health guidance advises pregnant women to have a COVID-19 vaccine.
Ms Leeming, a Greggs baking assistant from Blackpool, Lancashire, said: "I had read about the COVID-19 vaccination on pregnancy groups.
"One lady said she had received the vaccination and that her baby was stillborn the week after.
Watch: NHS plead with pregnant women to get COVID jab
“There obviously could have been other reasons for this, and the vaccine might not have caused it, but it scared me and put me off.
“Just hearing the horror stories about women having miscarriages made me not want to take the risk.”
Asked if she regretted her decision to not have a vaccine, she said: "I don't know if it would have made a difference or not.
“I had thoughts in my mind about it - what if I'd had it? Would she still be here today? What if it's my fault?
“But my midwife told me I can't afford to think like that. I could have still caught COVID-19 after the vaccination, or worse, if I did have it and something happened anyway, I would have blamed the vaccine."
She said she believed there had been “too little” research into the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines on pregnancies, and said her partner, Lee Court, had caught coronavirus despite being double-jabbed.
Ms Leeming experienced cold-like symptoms in early October and a PCR test confirmed she had coronavirus.
She said she contacted the hospital when she didn’t feel her baby moving.
“It was there they said that the baby's heart rate wasn't as it should have been, and they had to deliver her there and then,” she said.
"I have had two other premature children, so I knew what I was expecting, and what the risks were.
“But I was trying to be as positive as I could, knowing how my other children survived. It wasn't until five days later, when she caught COVID, that she started deteriorating.
"On 21 October, she started going down quickly. They told us to go in and be with her, because they weren't sure she was going to make it through the night."
Ms Leeming has two sons - Alfie, four, and Charlie, three.
She said she was “shocked” by Ivy-Rose's rapid decline, as her daughter had appeared “stable” just 24 hours previously.
Doctors at the Royal Preston Hospital neonatal unit, where Ivy-Rose was transferred after being born at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said her heart rate and oxygen levels had severely declined.
The decision was made to switch off her life support in the early hours of 22 October.
"By 11pm, they said too much damage had been done, and the kindest thing to do would be to let her go,” said Ms Leeming.
"But they gave us a few hours to hold her and be with her.”
Ivy-Rose’s death certificate stated her causes of death as severe respiratory distress syndrome, extreme prematurity at 26 weeks, maternal COVID positive and baby COVID positive, and intraventricular haemorrhage.
Asked about how she is coping with her daughter’s death, Ms Leeming said: “Every hour is different. I have been through all the stages of grief and back again.
“I've gone from feeling completely numb, feeling as if nothing has happened and expecting to feel the baby's movements - because I should still be pregnant with her - to completely heartbroken about how it all happened. I'm devastated."
Her friend, Simone Threlfall, 25, has set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs that has passed its £2,000 goal.
Ms Threlfall said : “You don't expect to have to pay for your child's funeral. There's nothing that anyone can do to prepare for such a terrible thing.”
A spokesman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are deeply saddened about the death of Ivy-Rose and all our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly sad time.”
Are pregnant women more likely to catch COVID?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says: “Studies from the UK show that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19 than other healthy adults, but they are at slightly increased risk of becoming severely unwell if they do catch COVID-19, and are more likely to have pregnancy complications like preterm birth or stillbirth.”
It said about two-thirds of pregnant women with COVID-19 have no symptoms at all, and most of those who do have symptoms experience mild cold or flu-like symptoms.
The RCOG said: “Pregnant women who catch COVID-19 are at slightly increased risk of becoming severely unwell compared to non-pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester.”
Last month, NHS England reported that one in six of the most critically ill COVID patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.
What is the advice to pregnant women?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says: “COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in pregnancy.
“Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby.
“You should not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Women trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination and there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility.
In April, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that all pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population in line with age rollout.
The government says the overall risk from COVID-19 disease in pregnant women and their new babies is low, but that in later pregnancy some women may become seriously unwell and require hospital treatment.
Pregnant women should have either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
The NHS says this is because these vaccines have been used widely during pregnancy in other countries and no safety concerns have been identified.
The NHS says you can have a COVID-19 vaccine if you are pregnant or think you might be; if you are breastfeeding, or if you are trying for a baby or might get pregnant in the future.
Watch: Unvaccinated pregnant women warned of COVID danger