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What expecting moms should know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Authored by: Ross Heaton, MD, OB/GYN, Allina Health

Moms will do anything to keep their kids and babies safe, and that’s especially true during a pandemic. When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, you might have a lot of questions—especially if you are pregnant or may become pregnant soon.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?

Pregnant or nursing mothers were not included in the initial COVID-19 vaccine studies. Because of this, you may read some conflicting information about the safety of this vaccine in pregnant women. However, many health organizations in the United States such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging pregnant women to get the vaccine because of the high risk of illness or death associated with COVID-19 infection. Professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine also recommend that pregnant women consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

It is also important to note that the vaccines that should be avoided during pregnancy are usually vaccines that contain the live virus. In this case, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus, nor does it have an inactive form of the live virus inside. You cannot get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccines.

If I am thinking about getting pregnant soon, should I get the vaccine?

Yes. Pregnant women are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease than other non-pregnant women. Because of the increased risk of mortality and complications from a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, you should talk to your physician about obtaining vaccine. However, it’s important to note that getting a vaccine may be challenging for these first few months because vaccination is currently reserved for those in high risk populations or those with a higher risk for exposure.

If I have the vaccine, can it help protect my baby during pregnancy or after birth?

Vaccines, such as influenza or TDAP, can help protect babies from getting sick – similar to how the flu shot can protect your baby.

This happens through something called passive immunity. Passive immunity is when mom’s antibodies could be passed to their baby before birth, which then helps protect their little one after birth. While more research is needed, many experts believe this could be the case with the COVID-19 vaccine, too.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

Yes. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus from either a mom’s infection or vaccine passes through breast milk to the baby. Because of past research on vaccines, experts believe the COVID-19 vaccine will not harm a breastfeeding child or mom. This is especially true when you compare the risks of getting COVID-19. In fact, it’s possible that a mom that received the vaccine may be able to help transfer immunity to their child who did not receive the vaccine.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect my fertility?

No. According to Dr. Ross Heaton, “This is a fear mongering myth with zero scientific basis that is spreading around the internet and social media like wildfire.”

We know that vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, will not affect fertility. In fact, women who participated in the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech trials have gotten pregnant after getting vaccinated. So, while we are confident that the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility, we do know that some infections caused by getting sick with COVID-19 can affect fertility.

Talk with your care team about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for you. In general, experts believe that the benefits of pregnant and lactating women getting vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 far outweigh any theoretical risks.