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COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

As some rare cases of severe allergic reactions have been reported, pregnant women may wonder what it means for them. Torrance Memorial Physician Network OB-GYN physicians Dr. Ricardo Huete and Dr. Joseph Roofeh answer questions about what pregnant women need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Pregnancy and COVID-19 Vaccine

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine while I am pregnant?

Dr. Roofeh: The COVID-19 vaccine is a new type of vaccine that does not contain any viral particles. Since there are no viral particles in the vaccine, there should be no risk to the pregnancy. Our OBGYN Societies advocate pregnant women consider getting the vaccine because pregnant women are considered high risk. Getting COVID-19 during pregnancy can be more severe and life threatening. Pregnant women are not included in the vaccine trials so no concrete recommendation can be made. Each patient and situation are different, so I advise each patient to discuss this with their health care provider to see if the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

Dr. Huete: Yes, these vaccines are safe in pregnancy, both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are NOT live viruses and so they don’t enter the nucleus of the cells, and therefore do not alter the DNA and cannot cause any genetic changes.

The indication, at least so far, is depending of the criteria of priority groups specified by the ACIP/CDC, meaning if the pregnant patient is within the groups considered high risk for exposure, she should get vaccinated. As January 20, 2021, the CDC had documented over 15,000 pregnancies post-vaccination safety in order to inform future recommendations of the vaccine in pregnancy.

Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?

Dr. Roofeh: For the same reasons that it is safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant, it is safe to get the vaccine while breastfeeding. Since there are no viral particles, the baby will not get infected with COVID-19.

Dr. Huete: It is safe to breast feed and it is NOT transmitted via breast milk, for the same reasons as listed above.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect my fertility?

Dr. Roofeh: There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility.

Dr. Huete: No, fertility is not affected. There are no genetic changes produced and the vaccine should in no way affect fertility or ovarian function.

Can COVID-19 be severe in pregnant women?

Dr. Roofeh: Yes, COVID-19 can be more severe in pregnant women than their non- pregnant counterparts.

Dr. Huete: The CDC considers pregnancy to be a high risk condition for COVID-19. The chances for a pregnant patient getting COVID-19 infection to develop into more serious complications is higher due to pregnancy.

Will vaccinating a pregnant woman against COVID-19 pass antibodies on to the baby?

Dr. Roofeh: It is unclear whether the baby will passively receive antibodies in pregnant women who get vaccinated. But theoretically, like the TDAP vaccine, antibodies can be passed on to the baby through the placenta.

Dr. Huete: It’s anticipated that when patients develop immunity from the vaccine, they would pass those antibodies to their babies when breast feeding and in that way providing some protection to the newborn.

Will I be monitored if I am pregnant and get the vaccine?

Dr. Roofeh: Yes, you will be monitored if you are pregnant and get the vaccine.

Dr. Huete: Of course, however considering our information about the technology used in the development of the vaccine we feel it is safe and should not have any effect in the fetal/embryonal development and growth.

How can I protect myself and my baby from getting COVID-19?

Dr. Roofeh: By following the guidelines of wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands regularly.

Dr. Huete: The best way to protect against COVID-19 is taking preventive action and following the CDC guidelines. During pregnancy continue with vitamins, proper exercise, diet and sleep, all of which increase and maintain a good and strong immune system. Breast feeding becomes essential for a newborn due to the known multiple benefits and natural defenses.

What side effects should I expect?

Dr. Roofeh/Dr Huete: Most common side effects are pain at injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, fever, nausea/vomiting, chills and joint pain. Symptoms typically last for up to 48 hours.

Where can I go for more information?

Dr. Roofeh: The CDC website has the most comprehensive information. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/index.html

Dr. Huete: The best person to talk to will be your doctor who can give you the reassurance you need and guide you to the different organizations if more information is desired.