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Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine

May 28, 2021

“Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?” That’s the question I get asked most these days from my pregnant patients, those who have recently given birth and those who are thinking about getting pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and professional organizations including the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine (SMFM) all concur pregnant women should have access to COVID-19 vaccines to protect themselves and potentially their babies from the virus. However, discussion with a physician before getting vaccinated, can be extremely helpful because each woman and each pregnancy is unique.

According to the CDC, pregnant women and those who’ve recently given birth are considered at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with those who are not pregnant. We now know that severe illness can require hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, and can result in death. Additionally, having COVID-19 during pregnancy puts a woman at increased risk of preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes compared with pregnant women who do not have COVID-19.

There is limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women but, with extensive and expanding knowledge of how the vaccines work in the human body, experts believe they are extremely unlikely to pose a risk during pregnancy. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have shown to be  effective in preventing coronavirus infection.  These vaccines do not contain live virus.  Both use messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology that has been well known for many years. mRNA vaccines do not interact with a person’s DNA or cause genetic changes because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where DNA is kept.

The CDC and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have safety monitoring systems in place to gather information about COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy and they are keeping close watch on that information. Data from these systems are preliminary but extremely reassuring. There have been no safety issues for women who are pregnant, those who have given birth, or their babies.

According to a study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pregnant and lactating women who received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were found to be highly effective in producing antibodies. The study also found that vaccine-generated antibodies were transferred to newborns through the placenta and breastmilk after maternal vaccination.

Adults and children who have received COVID-19 vaccination have experienced mild side effects such as muscle pain, fatigue, a low-grade temperature and/or headaches within the first few hours or days after they get their shot. If you are pregnant, when you speak with your doctor about getting vaccinated, ask about Tylenol (acetaminophen) which is generally safe in pregnancy and helps alleviate these side effects should you experience them.

The choice to get vaccinated is ultimately a personal decision. Take the time to consult with your doctor about your personal risk profile during your stage of pregnancy, among other factors. It is important to remember that no general medical advice supersedes what your own physician recommends for you as they know you best.

Key Considerations to Review with Your Healthcare Provider:

  • Are you currently pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or post-partum? If you are currently pregnant, how many weeks?
  • Are you currently or do you intend to breastfeed?
  • Risks of COVID-19 specific to you and the potential risks to your fetus or infant
    • How likely are you to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus?
    • Do you live with children who are unvaccinated or an adult who is not vaccinated?
    • What is your individual risk for moderate or severe disease? (any underlying pre-existing health conditions – such as diabetes, obesity, increasing age, and cardiovascular disease)

As the guidance related to COVID-19 and the vaccines are continually evolving, CareMount Medical continues to encourage all patients to refer to the CDC for the most up to date information.

Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM), American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)