Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Pregnancy can be a time of excitement and joy for you and your family. But being pregnant amid a global pandemic has created a whole new layer of concern and a whole new bevy of questions for expectant mothers across the world.
The proliferation of the COVID-19 vaccines have allowed some to breathe a sigh of relief. After a year of uncertainty, for many there was finally hope that a return to normalcy was on the horizon. Many who are expecting, however, have been vocal in expressing their concern over the safety of the vaccine for them and their baby.
There is quite a bit of peer-reviewed literature (and far more unsubstantiated message-board conjecture) about the COVID-19 vaccine out there. In this article, we will put some rumors to bed and talk about the vaccine, its efficacy, and its safety to help answer any questions you may have about pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Risks of Contracting COVID-19 While Pregnant
There are risks associated with both the mother and her unborn child when a pregnant woman contracts COVID-19. If you are a high-risk pregnancy to begin with, the risk is even greater that you will experience severe illness or pregnancy complications if you contract COVID-19.
Risks to the Mother
- Five times greater risk of needing to be admitted to the hospital
- 2-3 times greater risk of needing to be admitted to an intensive care unit
- Three times greater risk of requiring invasive ventilation
Risks to the Baby
- 1.5 times greater risk of a premature birth (before 37 weeks)
- Three times greater risk of needing to be admitted to a newborn care unit
Why the Recommendations for Pregnant Women Have Changed
The first clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines did not include pregnant women. Therefore, when the vaccines were first released, there was not conclusive evidence that the vaccines were safe to use during pregnancy.
Over time, evidence gathered from other countries showed that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, such as the Comirnaty (also known as Pfizer), are safe to use during pregnancy. Research has also indicated that pregnant women have similar responses to mRNA vaccines compared to non-pregnant women, and therefore would have similar protection from COVID-19. As of April 23, 2021, the CDC has updated their guidance, recommending “that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Information About the Vaccine
Which Vaccine Is Right for Me?
The two vaccine options available are Comirnaty and AstraZeneca. Comirnaty is the preferred vaccine for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or may become pregnant.
There has not been enough research to determine whether the AstraZeneca vaccine is unsafe during pregnancy. However, if you do not have access to the Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine, AstraZeneca may be an option. Consult with your doctor to see if the benefits outweigh the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine for you and your baby.
When Should I Get Vaccinated?
There is no indication that the time at which you get vaccinated has any effect on your pregnancy. The current Comirnaty vaccine can be given at any time during pregnancy, so as soon as you can receive a vaccine, it is recommended that you get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As with any vaccine, you may experience mild-to-moderate side effects after receiving your COVID-19 vaccination. Some of these side effects include:
- Injection site pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Fever or chills
As in any situation, if you experience severe symptoms, or feel that something isn’t right, contact your doctor immediately.
How Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine While Pregnant Benefits Your Baby
Studies have shown that the beneficial antibodies created by the COVID-19 vaccine can pass to your baby through the placenta. This benefit is especially true if you get vaccinated early and have both doses before delivery. While further case studies are ongoing, it is believed that the antibodies passed through the umbilical cord may protect your newborn against COVID-19.
Why Some Pregnant Women Have Had Difficulty Getting the Vaccine
Despite being in phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, some pregnant women have found that they have a hard time getting an appointment to get vaccinated. And some are even getting different answers from different doctors at the same hospital regarding their eligibility. The confusion could stem from the different priorities given to pregnant women between federal and state health departments in some countries.
In a report published by news outlet ABC News, though the federal health department stated that pregnant women 16 and older were a priority and were immediately eligible for the Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine, some states are not considering pregnant women as a priority (as of early August, 2021), refusing to schedule them for vaccines.
While research has been developing rapidly, and guidance has been changing month-by-month, there are obviously still some mixed messages between government entities and health providers that will need to be ironed out before the end of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Could Benefit Both You and Your Unborn Baby
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to be vaccinated lies in your hands. Listening to your healthcare provider’s recommendations, seeking answers from reputable, evidence-based scientific sources, and taking the CDC’s recommended precautions against contracting COVID-19 is the best way to make sure you are making the decision that is best for you and your family.
Even after you are vaccinated, make sure to continue following the most recent COVID-19 safety guidelines put forth by health experts, such as social distancing in public, wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth in shared spaces, staying away from people who aren’t feeling well, and washing your hands regularly.
Always remember that if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach out to your healthcare provider. They are there to ensure that you have the information you need to stay safe and healthy during your pregnancy and into motherhood.
Experience Matters With Pregnancy Care
With 20-years of experience with providing pregnancy care, at Rob Buist Obstetrics, we can look after women from their early life stages until their families are complete. Our office provides 30-minute to 1hr bookings to ensure we have adequate time to assess your pregnancy and discuss your needs.
Patients are given a mobile number and 24/7 access for personal care should any questions or emergencies arise. We only manage 15 pregnancies a month, so contact us today to schedule an appointment.