Now that COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding have many questions around risks and benefits of receiving the vaccine. At first, many of those receiving vaccines in US will be healthcare workers—like our own staff and physicians!
However, with a more widespread roll out expected within the next few months, we wanted to address some of the most common questions.
The information below was compiled and presented by The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What are the known risks of getting the COVID‐19 vaccines during pregnancy?
- It’s important to note neither of the two currently approved vaccines were tested in pregnant women. Although major women’s healthcare societies have pushed for testing in pregnancy for years, pregnant women were not allowed to participate in the trials. However, a few women who received the vaccine did get pregnant, and there have been no current reports of any problems in those pregnancies.
- Going forward, as pregnant women get vaccinated, the FDA will gather information about their safety and effectiveness during pregnancy. Groups of pregnant healthcare workers have been getting the coronavirus vaccines and sharing their experiences (https://nypost.com/2021/01/13/these-pregnant-healthcare-pros-got-the-covid-vaccine/). The CDC along with other federal partners, will monitor the vaccines for serious side effects using existing vaccine safety monitoring systems. You can participate in this effort by enrolling in V‐Safe After Vaccination Health Checker.
- Side effects may occur in the first 3 days after receiving the vaccine. These include mild to moderate fever, headache, and muscle aches. Side effects may be worse after the second dose. Experts recommend that pregnant people receiving the vaccine who develop fever take acetaminophen (Tylenol). This medication is safe to use during pregnancy and does not affect how the vaccine works.
What are the benefits of getting the COVID‐19 vaccine?
- The vaccines can help protect you from getting COVID‐ You must get both doses of the vaccine to be maximally effective. It’s not yet known whether vaccination completely prevents passing the virus to others if you do get COVID‐19 or how long protection lasts. At this time, vaccinated people still need to wear masks and practice social distancing. Nonetheless, there is a discussion in some circles of eventual loosening of restriction for those individuals who have been vaccinated.
- Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is a safer way to help build protection for yourself and the community.
- Widespread COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic.
Is it safe?
- Neither of the two approved vaccines are live vaccines, which means there is only a very small chance that they cross the placenta, so it’s unlikely that they even reach the fetus, although we don’t know this for sure. There is no evidence at this time that the vaccines affect future fertility.
- The efficacy of both vaccines is 95% or greater, this is a very high effectiveness for a vaccine.
- In the United States, 75% of healthcare workers are women, and the CDC estimates that 330,000 healthcare workers are pregnant or have recently given birth. The approved vaccines are available to pregnant and lactating people.
“There is no data to suggest that vaccination impacts future fertility,” said Hugh Taylor, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. “Because the approved COVID-19 vaccines do not use a live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first- or second-trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital abnormalities.”
Should I get the vaccine?
Pregnant women should discuss the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccination with their healthcare provider. Pregnant women do appear to have an increased risk of severe infection in comparison to the general population. Additionally, within our practice, we have observed that pregnant individuals that are hospitalized usually have multiple other risk factors (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, history of pulmonary disease, etc.) and we have discussed as a group that patients with 2 other risk factors in addition to pregnancy may need to more strongly consider vaccination. If you choose to get vaccinated, the CDC is committed to making sure that it is safe for all individuals. Your health professional will give you information about enrolling in the V‐Safe After Vaccination Health Checker. This program lets your healthcare professional check in daily for 1 week following your vaccination. You can also report any side effects or concerns you might have – all through your smartphone!
You can read additional information provided by SMFM and the CDC by clicking the buttons below:
No matter what you decide, it is important that you continue to follow COVID‐19 prevention steps such as wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, and maintaining social distancing.