COVID-19, Vaccines and Pregnancy: Battling Misinformation
Doctors often recommend lifestyle changes for women who become pregnant, like taking prenatal vitamins, altering diets or changing up exercise routines. But being pregnant during a global pandemic produces an entirely new set of recommendations. One of those is getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in pregnant women,” says Thu Tran, MD, OB-GYN at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. “Side effects have been very rare, and there are so many benefits.”
Why should I get vaccinated before or during pregnancy?
“COVID-19 presents a number of risks to pregnant women that can then carry over to their babies,” Dr. Tran says.
For example, high fevers, a symptom of COVID-19, can be extremely dangerous for babies in utero and can even cause neurological issues. Moms who contract COVID-19 may also be at risk for delivering prematurely.
“The vaccines are highly effective. In published studies, women who get COVID pneumonia have a much higher risk for preterm labor,” says Andrew Catanzaro, MD, infectious disease specialist with Adventist HealthCare.
Luckily, though, studies show that pregnant women who receive vaccination against COVID-19 are at a lower risk of having serious illness or needing hospitalization if they do contract the disease. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control, vaccine antibodies have been found in umbilical cord blood. This means vaccinated moms transfer some immunity to their babies.
For mothers who considering breastfeeding, there is even more of a reason to get vaccinated: There is evidence that antibodies are present in breastmilk.
“If you are vaccinated and are a nursing mother, you can pass on some of that protection directly to your baby,” Dr. Tran says.
Does the vaccine cause fertility issues?
One of the common myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and women is that it causes infertility.
“There is simply no evidence that the vaccines cause fertility issues, particularly the mRNA vaccines,” Dr. Tran says. “These vaccines do not cross the nucleus of the cell.”
When it comes to her own unvaccinated patients who are considering becoming pregnant, Dr. Tran says she encourages them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Not only is the chance of having severe illness much less for those who are vaccinated, but the more of the population who becomes fully vaccinated, the less chance there is for the virus to spread.
“The more people who get vaccinated, the less hosts the virus has to attach to and to mutate,” Dr. Tran says. “So the less opportunity there will be for more variants to develop.”