Is It Safe to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine If You’re Pregnant?
With the increased risk of COVID-19 complications in pregnant women, many are wondering about the risks and benefits of receiving the coronavirus vaccine. An ob/gyn weighs in on the topic.
COVID-19 is potentially dangerous to all people, but studies show that pregnant women who develop symptomatic COVID-19 are at increased risk for getting very sick.
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The CDC says pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the ICU and more likely to be put on a ventilator than women who are not pregnant. Pregnant women have increased risk of complications due to changes in their respiratory and immune systems during pregnancy.
With all of these increased risks, many pregnant women are wondering if they should get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to them. Ob/gyn Oluwatosin Goje, MD, discusses what pregnant and breastfeeding women need to know about coronavirus vaccination.
Historically, public health agencies have been slow to endorse vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is because of the potential risk and rigorous safety precautions needed to evaluate the vaccine in these groups. Often times, trials involving this population don’t often begin until the vaccine is approved for use in the general population.
Although pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in the initial COVID-19 vaccine trials, existing safety data provide reassurance regarding their safety. Because the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the live virus (instead it’s an mRNA vaccine), they are not thought to cause increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, still birth or congenital anomalies. Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is a risk to a breastfeeding baby. The vaccines do not enter our DNA or change the genetic make up.
Dr. Goje says that with the increased risk associated with COVID-19 and pregnancy, vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant or breastfeeding women who desire the vaccine when it’s available to them.
“Pregnant and breastfeeding women should talk with their healthcare provider about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Goje. “Together you can discuss the spread of the virus in your community, the potential effectiveness of the vaccine and any risks, especially if the women herself has risk factors for severe complications of COVID-19.”
Vaccines should also not be withheld from women or couples who are trying to conceive. Women who conceive in the window between the first and second dose of the vaccine should be offered the second dose of the vaccine at the appropriate time, she continues. Data from the vaccine trials show that side effects are more common after the second dose. Pregnant women should take acetaminophen for any fever or pain at the injection site and stay hydrated.
It’s OK to turn down the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and aren’t comfortable getting vaccinated yet. We know that the COVID-19 vaccine has many potential benefits for pregnant women, but it also raises some unanswered questions. More vaccine studies are underway and more results especially in pregnancy will be published in the future that may help you make a decision.
Receiving the vaccine is a deeply personal decision and availability varies state by state. The vaccine might not even be available to you during your pregnancy or you might just choose to get the vaccine after you have given birth.
Your healthcare provider can answer any additional questions you may have and will likely reiterate other ways to protect you and your baby, including wearing a face mask, frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer and social and physical distancing.