Family Birthing Center

Pregnancy and the vaccine

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues its strongest guidance to date urging pregnant women to be vaccinated against COVID-19, what should those who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant know about the vaccines available?

Here's the latest guidance from health officials, doctors and other experts surrounding pregnancy and the COVID vaccines:

Is it Recommended That Pregnant Women Receive the COVID Vaccine?

The CDC last Wednesdayissued an alert recommending "urgent action" to increase vaccinations among "people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future."

"CDC strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks," the alert stated.

Pregnant women are at risk for pregnancy complications from the coronavirus, with some evidence indicating the virus might increase the chances of stillbirth. They also face a higher chance of requiring intensive care or mechanical ventilation, according to data from the CDC.

New guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says pregnant women can and should get vaccinated against coronavirus.

In late April, the CDC announced it was recommending shots for pregnant women after preliminary data showed that Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines were safe for women as well as their babies. The guidance indicated studies found "no obvious safety signals" surrounding vaccination in pregnant women.

What Should Pregnant Women Consider Before Getting the Vaccine?

The CDC recommends expectant women who may be hesitant to contact their health care provider. Key considerations to discuss might include:

  • The unknown risks of developing a severe allergic reaction
  • The benefits of vaccination

The CDC also said all women under the age of 50 "should be aware of the rare risk of TTS [Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome]" after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This risk was no seen with the Moderna of Pfizer mRNA vaccines, officials said.

Pregnant women should also consider their risks of contracting COVID-19 as the potential for severe illness is increased, experts said.

Are Pregnant Women at a Higher Risk for COVID-19 Infections?

The CDC stated that pregnant people who contract COVID-19 "have an increased risk of severe illness," including the risk of an infection that could lead to ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and possibly death. Pregnant people with COVID-19 could also face an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, the agency added.

According to preliminary findings of a study from the National Institutes of Health, pregnant women who experienced severe symptoms of COVID-19 had a higher risk of complications during and after pregnancy.

More than a quarter million cases of COVID in pregnant women have been reported, 22,000 of whom were hospitalized, according to the CDC.

A total of 161 pregnant women have died of COVID, the CDC said, with 22 deaths in August alone. Yet, less than a third of pregnant women have been vaccinated, the agency reported.

What About Vaccine Side Effects?

Pregnant women are not expected to experience different or more severe side effects from the vaccines, experts said.According to the CDC, some people who receive the vaccine could experience a fever, particularly after their second dose.

Pregnant people should also talk to their doctors if they have a history of allergic reactions to any other vaccines or injectable therapy.

What About Women Who Are Breastfeeding?

The CDC reported there is currently "limited data" for breastfeeding women, but said early reports have shown that antibodies in breastmilk could help protect babies.

According to the CDC, there is limited data on:

  • Safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are breastfeeding
  • Effects of vaccination on the breastfed baby
  • Effects on milk production or excretion

"However, we do not yet have any data on this point and it should be clarified in future studies," the health care group noted.