Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended that pregnant individuals be free to make their own decision regarding COVID-19 vaccination
When the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were first given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the decision to get vaccinated or not was left up to each mother to decide, based on her own situation. Many pregnant health care workers did decide to get vaccinated, as health care personnel were the first group able to receive the vaccine.
Medical Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at AdventHealth Medical Group, D. Ashley Hill, MD, and Medical Director of High-Risk Pregnancy, Rachel Humphrey, MD, share what you should know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and trying to decide whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy
In addition to the American Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, many other professional organizations have advocated for pregnant women to have the choice to be vaccinated. This is likely because the data currently available shows symptomatic pregnant patients with COVID-19 have an increased risk of more severe illness compared to nonpregnant people.
No Evidence of Harm to Pregnant Women
“Organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, note that although there are no COVID-19 vaccine studies just of pregnant women, there is no evidence that the vaccine is harmful to women trying to get pregnant, who are now pregnant, or who plan to breastfeed,” says Dr. Hill. As of February 10, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci shared during a White House briefing that 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated against COVID-19 without complications.
Pregnant Women Are in High-Risk Population
When compared to symptomatic women who are not pregnant, pregnant women have an increased risk of ICU admission and the need for ventilation or support. These risk factors have led to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to include pregnancy as part of the high-risk population when it comes to COVID-19 and other illnesses.
“Since pregnant women with COVID-19 infections are at an increased risk of preterm birth, intensive care unit admission or death, pregnant and breastfeeding women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Hill explains.
Factors to Consider for Pregnant Women
Keeping the risks in mind, the CDC advises that those who are pregnant consider the following when deciding whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19:
- Possible damaging health outcomes if you do contract COVID-19
- Risk of acquiring COVID-19 (based on community transmission, occupation, etc.)
- Safety and efficacy data currently available
- Side effects you may experience after receiving the vaccine
Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant, according to the CDC. However, the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to a pregnant woman and her baby are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.
There aren’t known risks to babies, but there is a suggestion that there could be a benefit. “There is some evidence that vaccination may provide some protection for your baby against COVID-19 infection for the first few months of life. This would be similar to what we see for other vaccines used in pregnancy,” says Dr. Humphrey
During the Pfizer vaccine clinical trials, 23 people became pregnant after receiving the vaccine, and according to current data, there have not been any reported adverse effects.
COVID-19 Vaccine While Breastfeeding
The CDC indicated that there is not currently any data available on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women, or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on the infant or on milk production. From what we know about mRNA, vaccines containing this material are not thought to be a risk to an infant who is breastfeeding.
Dr. Humphrey agrees, saying, “There is no biologic mechanism for a vaccine to decrease breast milk production or the quality of the breast milk.”
If you are breastfeeding and considering getting a COVID-19 vaccine that contains mRNA, understanding the scientific process may help you decide what’s best for you and your baby.
Once the vaccine has been injected into your arm, your body either makes “spike proteins” or it rapidly breaks down the small amount of mRNA that’s remaining. Experts say it’s unlikely that any mRNA would get into the breast milk.
If you have questions, we encourage you to talk to your provider directly so they can offer personalized advice and guidance.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
Ultimately, if you are pregnant and the COVID-19 vaccine is available to you or will soon be available to you, talking to your doctor about your medical history along with the risks and benefits of the vaccine will help you make the most educated and informed decision for you and your baby.
If you’ve already been vaccinated, it’s important to note that the CDC says women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Hill says that reports of COVID-19 vaccines causing infertility are false. “The vaccine has never been linked to infertility and there is no reason why it should cause any problems for women who want to have children.”
Sign Up for Coronavirus Vaccine Alerts
We are following the current vaccine distribution guidelines from the CDC and state governments. When the coronavirus vaccine is available to you, you’ll be able to schedule an appointment. For more information about when the vaccine will be available for you, we encourage you to sign up for email alerts at www.CoronavirusVaccineAlerts.com.