Whether you’re planning to start a family, or you’ve got one (or two) on the way, consider your COVID-19 vaccination status. Dr. Diana Kaufman, OB-GYN and medical director of the UnityPoint Health Women’s Health Service Line, urges you to roll up your sleeve for the health of you and your future family.
Getting the COVID-19 Virus While Pregnant
How Does COVID-19 Affect Pregnant Women?
Pregnant women experience the same symptoms for COVID-19 as those who aren’t pregnant. That includes fever or chills, shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, headache, sore throat, congestion and/or body aches. However, it’s more likely for symptoms to become severe when you’re pregnant.
Why are Pregnant Individuals Considered High Risk for COVID-19?
During pregnancy, the immune system is suppressed, or doesn’t function as well as it does normally.
“From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense. It wouldn’t work if the immune system identified pregnancy as ‘foreign’ and mounted an immune response. However, this normal change in immune system function makes pregnant people more susceptible to some infectious diseases. It’s also a contributing reason pregnant people are more likely to have a severe COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Kaufman says.
Can COVID-19 Be Transmitted from Mother to Baby During Pregnancy?
Reports of babies testing positive for COVID-19 at birth (congenital) is very rare. There currently isn’t enough research to know if mothers can transmit the virus to their baby during pregnancy or childbirth. It is, however, possible for new babies to become infected by sick caregivers.
4 Top Reasons to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine While Pregnant
- COVID-19 Vaccines Prevent Hospitalization. Since severe cases of COVID-19 are more likely in those who are pregnant, there’s a very real chance pregnant individuals who get COVID-19 could be hospitalized and require a stay in the intensive care unit, including mechanical ventilation. It usually takes up to six weeks or more to recover from a severe case of the virus. If you’re pregnant and become infected with COVID-19, studies show you’re 15 times more likely to die than someone who isn’t pregnant.
- COVID-19 Vaccines Reduce the Chance of Premature Birth. The same study shows pregnant individuals are also 22 times more likely to have a preterm birth. Preterm birth can cause health problems for babies immediately following birth and later in life. Babies born premature can have intellectual and developmental disabilities, along with problems with their lungs, brain, eyes and other organs. If you contract the COVID-19 virus while pregnant, there’s also a higher chance of requiring delivery by cesarean section (C-section).
- COVID-19 Vaccines Create Antibodies During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding. The COVID-19 vaccine causes maternal antibodies. Maternal antibodies can be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy. In fact, these antibodies have been found in baby’s blood (often referred to as cord blood) and a mother’s breast milk. While these antibodies are present, there haven’t been studies yet to determine if these antibodies protect the baby from COVID-19. Similar antibody levels have proven effective at providing protection with other vaccines administered during pregnancy, such as pertussis or whooping cough.
- COVID-19 Vaccines Protect Your Family. If you’re vaccinated, data shows you’re less likely to spread COVID-19 to others, which could include your baby or the rest of your family.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. If you’re pregnant and haven’t received the vaccine, now is the time. We recognize it can be difficult and, perhaps it seems easiest to avoid the vaccine since it seems new. However, inactivity can be dangerous. Please do everything you can to protect yourself and your unborn baby — get vaccinated today,” Dr. Kaufman says.
Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine While Pregnant or Planning to Get Pregnant
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Infertility?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t cause infertility. This myth has been circulating for a long time.
“Fertility rates haven’t changed in our society, even though there’s now widespread use of the vaccine. Additionally, animal studies have shown there isn’t any adverse effects on female reproduction, fetal/embryo development or postnatal development,” Dr. Kaufman says.
Does Any Part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Reach My Baby?
The vaccine is a shot into the muscle of your arm. The ingredients quickly break apart, but the message gets to your cells and causes your body to get to work creating protection in the form of antibodies. Nothing, besides the possibility of some good antibodies, gets to your baby.
Is There a Higher Chance of Miscarriage by Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy?
There isn’t a higher chance of miscarriage if you get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant.
“Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate miscarriages reported after COVID-19 vaccination is consistent with rates that happen normally in our society,” Dr. Kaufman says.
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Birth Defects?
No, there is no increased risk of malformation or birth defects from the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine doesn’t change your genetic makeup (DNA), or the genetic makeup of your baby.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you have concerns or questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s always best to talk to your care team. They’ll explain everything, so you feel comfortable getting the vaccine during this exciting time.
“Our goal is keeping our patients healthy. We have your best interest at heart, and it's important patients trust us to be a reliable source of information. Our providers are always reviewing the latest studies and data to ensure we’re making the best recommendations possible,” Dr. Kaufman says.