Pregnancy & Covid Vaccines: Everything You Need to Know
Being pregnant in this era of covid can feel a little scary – there’s still so much we don’t know about the virus and the vaccines. But I’d like to share with you what we do know as of this moment that affects women who are pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy in the near future.
If You Are Already Pregnant
We do know that pregnant women who get sick with covid are at increased risk for being severely ill than are non-pregnant women (1). What is more, there is concern that pregnant women with covid might be at risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth (2). For these reasons, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that pregnant women consider getting a covid vaccine.
On the other hand, there isn’t a lot of data yet about the safety of covid vaccines for women who are pregnant; and clinical trials that include pregnant women have not yet begun. It is encouraging, though, that mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines, and they do not interact with a person’s DNA. Therefore, based on how these vaccines work, they do not cause genetic changes, and experts believe they are unlikely to pose any specific risk for pregnant women (3).
Whether or not you choose to get a covid vaccine during pregnancy is entirely up to you. But whatever you choose, please continue to practice habits that are certain to help prevent covid to you and others and that have zero risk to you, your baby, or anyone else: wear a mask, physically distance, and wash your hands.
What About Breastfeeding?
Currently, little is known about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for breastfeeding women or their babies. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant (4). Since breast milk provides protection against so many illnesses (5), the CDC does recommend that breastfeeding women consider getting vaccinated. Even women with covid or who have recently had covid can probably breastfeed safely:“current evidence suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread the virus to babies” (6). However, it’s still important to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of covid or other infections that by respiratory droplets.
If You Are Planning a Pregnancy
Please do get a covid vaccine if you are planning a pregnancy. You don’t even have to delay conception if you get vaccinated. If you get pregnant after the first dose, the CDC recommends getting the second dose on schedule.
A Final Word
As you can tell, our knowledge is limited, and the data keeps coming in. I do recommend that you check in periodically with the CDC website and discuss your options with your doctor.
- CDC Vaccination Considerations for People who are Pregnant or Breastfeeding https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html
- Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html
(1)Zambrano LD et al CDC COVID-19 Response Pregnancy and Infant Linked Outcomes Team. Update: Characteristics of Symptomatic Women of Reproductive Age with Laboratory-Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection by Pregnancy Status – United States, January 22-October 3, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Nov 6;69(44):1641-7. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6944e3. PMID: 33151921; PMCID: PMC7643892.
(2) Papapanou M, Papaioannou M, Petta A, Routsi E, Farmaki M, Vlahos N, Siristatidis C. Maternal and Neonatal Characteristics and Outcomes of COVID-19 in Pregnancy: An Overview of Systematic Reviews. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 12;18(2):E596. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020596. PMID: 33445657.