Expert Advice on Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccines
Pregnancy comes with all manner of worries for expecting parents, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to that list of concerns.
In addition to fears about contracting the virus itself, some people may also wonder whether the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for them and their babies.
It is important for people who are pregnant or were recently pregnant to get vaccinated because they are far more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. In addition, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at higher risk of preterm birth and other pregnancy complications.
Dr. Emily West, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Kaiser Permanente Northwest, recently answered common questions about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination before, during, and after pregnancy.
What are the risks of COVID-19 for pregnant people?
If you are pregnant and have COVID-19, you are more than twice as likely to need ICU admission and ventilation than someone with COVID-19 who isn’t pregnant. Among pregnant patients who are admitted to the hospital for delivery, those with COVID-19 are 5 times more likely to require ICU admission, 14 times more likely to need ventilation, and 15 times more likely to die in the hospital than those who do not have COVID-19.
Contracting COVID-19 while pregnant also increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant patients with COVID-19 have increased risk for heart attack, blood clots, high blood pressure, stillbirth, and preterm delivery. These risks increase if someone has additional medical problems, such as obesity, diabetes, or kidney disease.
The good news is we know that vaccination significantly reduces the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe during pregnancy?
Yes. Data collected from large vaccine safety registries shows that all three vaccines are safe for those who are pregnant. The vaccines don’t increase the risk of miscarriage, they don’t cause infection, nor do they alter DNA. Vaccination is strongly recommended by the CDC and many other medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Do the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility?
Data shows no impact on fertility in men or women, with no difference in pregnancy success rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Confusion about fertility arose when a false report surfaced on social media. Claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility have no scientific evidence supporting them.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe while breastfeeding?
Yes, the vaccines are shown to be safe for people who are breastfeeding. In fact, recent reports have shown that breastfeeding people who had received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines had antibodies in their breast milk, which could help protect their babies.
Any final thoughts?
The data is clear: All three vaccines are safe for those who are planning to conceive, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding. And getting vaccinated is one of the best ways for pregnant people to protect themselves and their babies.
It’s also good to remember that we are coming up to flu season, and it is OK to receive a flu and a COVID-19 vaccination at the same time.
For more information on pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine, visit kp.org/maternity/nw.