COVID-19 vaccine: What you need to know if you’re pregnant or nursing
The COVID-19 vaccine is now available, but what should you do if you are pregnant, considering pregnancy or nursing? Kacey Eichelberger, MD, offered advice.
Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?
“Here is what we know. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist and the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine strongly encourage the inclusion of pregnant and lactating women in vaccine rollout plans and testing for the vaccines,” said Dr. Eichelberger.
In the initial trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pregnant women were not included. “That is not uncommon. It was not based on a fear specific to the vaccine and pregnancy. It is based on a long history of pregnant women frequently being excluded from U.S. Food and Drug Administration medication and vaccine research,” she said. Because pregnant women were not included in the vaccine trials, there is no specific data regarding pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccines. However, of the pregnant individuals who have been vaccinated so far, there have been no adverse effects reported.
While pregnant women were not included in the vaccine trials, Moderna has tested their vaccine in pregnant lab mice, which is not uncommon, and no detrimental effects were shown in their babies.
How does the vaccine affect a pregnant mom’s baby?
Data is showing that when a pregnant mom gets the COVID-19 vaccine, the baby may receive protection from the virus through passive immunization. Researchers are finding high levels of antibodies in moms and babies among women who receive the vaccine more than three weeks prior to delivery. These antibodies are what protect against the COVID-19 virus. “We believe it is better to vaccinate earlier in pregnancy to load the baby up with all the good antibodies this vaccine has to offer, just like we recommend other vaccines during pregnancy for protection,” said Dr. Eichelberger.
What is known about other vaccines and pregnancy?
“It is important to remember that vaccination is a common practice in pregnancy,” said Dr. Eichelberger. Pregnant women are encouraged to get the Tdap (whooping cough) and flu vaccine while pregnant, and most women choose to receive them. “These vaccines are given to benefit both mom and baby,” said Dr. Eichelberger.
What do we know about the mRNA vaccine technology and pregnancy?
Dr. Eichelberger said the mRNA technology used in the COVID-19 vaccines is a very exciting option for pregnant women. Your body’s response to the vaccine is fast and the mRNA degrades so quickly. There is no known plausible risk to the fetus. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the vaccine passes meaningful immunity along to the baby if received during pregnancy, so good hand hygiene, masking and infection prevention procedures will still be needed to protect your newborn.
“This is a time of high anxiety and questions for us all, but we are heading in the right direction with a vaccine now available and being given in a phased approach. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant, nursing or considering pregnancy to strongly consider the COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
Of course, women who have questions or concerns should reach out to their OB/GYN for more information.
Get updates on the COVID-19 vaccine
Prisma Health’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline, distribution updates and other frequently asked questions can be found on our website. Please check back often for updates, which will be posted as they become available.