Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Coronavirus and the COVID vaccine
Coronavirus and pregnancy
Thankfully, the overall risk of severe complications related to COVID-19 infection remains low. However, pregnancy has been associated with significantly increased rates of severe complications, such as intensive care unit (ICU) admission and intubation to assist breathing.
Most troubling is the risk of death, which is higher in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women. These risks are even more pronounced in pregnant women of color and women with high-risk medical conditions in pregnancy.
Are pregnant women at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus?
It is not clear if pregnant women are more at risk for contracting COVID-19. Currently there is no data that shows pregnant women contract the virus more often than those who are not pregnant. However, pregnancy does result in a lowered immune system response. This leads to an increased risk for contracting other viruses such as the flu, so that may be true for COVID-19 as well.
Can I pass COVID to my baby?
The good news is the available data suggests that it is highly unlikely you can transmit COVID-19 to your baby during pregnancy. Also of note, COVID-19 does not appear to increase the risk of miscarriage.
The main risk is related to severe illness in the mother; and we know that a baby’s health depends on mom’s health. If a pregnant woman is severely ill, she may require a preterm delivery, which carries risk to the baby.
If you are pregnant and not feeling well, be sure to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
Protecting yourself against COVID-19
Apart from standard COVID-19 restrictions, there are no special precautions to take other than proven preventive techniques. Pregnant women should take particular care in frequent hand washing, consistent use of a face mask, social distancing, and limiting their potential exposures as much as possible. These preventive measures have been shown to be highly effective and are our best weapons in preventing spread.
Pregnancy and coronavirus vaccines
I personally believe that pregnant women should strongly consider getting vaccinated when able. The major medical and obstetric organizations who review data and make care recommendations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal and Female Medicine all recommend offering vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding women. I chose to be vaccinated in my own pregnancy, but each woman should review the available information with their doctor and make the decision that is right for her.
Unfortunately, pregnant and lactating individuals were excluded from vaccine trials, so we do not have definitive safety information. In theory, this type of vaccine should not pose any more risk than the vaccines already given during pregnancy. We do know that the risks associated with COVID-19 infection in pregnancy are high and the vaccine is 94 to 95 percent effective in preventing severe disease. In my opinion the benefits of preventing COVID-19 in pregnancy outweigh any theoretical pregnancy-specific adverse reactions to the vaccine.
Pregnant women appear to have the same rate of adverse reactions as compared to individuals who are not pregnant. Reactions are generally mild, and include low grade fever, arm soreness, headache, and fatigue. Anaphylaxis related to the vaccine is rare in all cases.
Breastfeeding and the COVID-19 vaccine
For moms who are breastfeeding, the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended. There is no current specific safety data but the known benefits of the vaccine outweigh any theoretical risks.
Could the COVID-19 vaccine affect my chances of becoming pregnant in the future?
I’ve looked into this rumor and I am happy to say it is not true. It was based on a pseudo-scientific article circulated on social media which was quickly debunked. In the initial vaccine trials, there were several participants who became pregnant mid-study, and no impact on fertility was noted when compared to the placebo group. No other vaccine is known to cause infertility. As with everything with COVID-19, data is constantly evolving. There is currently no reason to believe that the vaccine could affect fertility.
This pandemic has been a difficult time for all of us, but especially for mothers-to-be. We’re here for you. Visit our website for more information on our practice and for the latest on the coronavirus.
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