What pregnant women should know about the COVID-19 vaccine
UCLA Health OB/GYN experts address concerns.
A vaccine is clearly the most promising strategy for combating COVID-19 for the general population. But there’s less clarity about the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women. Since pregnant women were not included in the COVID-19 vaccine trials, there is no data on the safety of the vaccine for this population.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for pregnant women. Many types of vaccines have been safely given to pregnant and lactating individuals for decades. So, the big question remains: Is it safe for pregnant women to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
The recommendation is that women and their health care provider should weigh the benefits and risks together. When making a decision about a vaccine, there are a few things to consider: the availability of safety data on the vaccine, the risks of getting COVID-19 while pregnant, and a woman’s individual health risk (such as having an underlying medical condition) for developing severe disease.
In the below Q&A, UCLA Health OB/GYN experts address some of the most pressing questions relating to pregnancy and the vaccine:
Q: I’m pregnant, should I get a vaccine?
Pregnant women have two options – to get a vaccine when it’s available or to wait for more information about how the vaccine affects pregnant women. The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommend that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination. UCLA Health also stands by this statement from the ACOG and SMFM regarding the World Health Organization's position on this topic. Ultimately, it’s a decision that is best made in collaboration with a health care professional who knows your personal medical history.
Q: What are the benefits to getting a vaccine?
A vaccine can help protect you from getting COVID-19 with roughly 95% efficacy. You must get both doses of the vaccine for it to be fully effective. It is not yet known whether it prevents passing the virus to others if you do get COVID-19 or how long protection lasts. At this time, vaccinated people still need to wear masks and practice hand washing hygiene and social distancing.
Q: What are the risks of getting a vaccine?
The vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnant women. Pregnant women were not allowed to take part in the clinical trials of the vaccines. A few people who received the vaccines in the clinical trials did get pregnant. There have been no reports of any problems with these pregnancies, and they are continuing to be monitored.
Q: If I get a vaccine while I’m pregnant, is there a way to be safely monitored?
Going forward, as pregnant individuals get a vaccine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will gather detailed information about its safety and effectiveness during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other federal partners, will monitor new vaccines for serious side effects using existing vaccine safety monitoring systems. You can participate in this effort by enrolling in www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html. This program lets your health care professional check in daily for one week following your vaccination. You can also report any side effects or concerns you might have.
Q: What are the risks of getting COVID-19 while pregnant?
About 1 to 3 per 1,000 pregnant women with COVID-19 will develop severe disease.
Compared with those who aren’t pregnant, COVID-19-infected pregnant people are:
- 3 times more likely to need ICU care
- 2 to 3 times more likely to need advanced life support and a breathing tube
- Have a small increased risk of dying due to COVID-19
Q: I’m currently breastfeeding, should I get a vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to people who are breastfeeding/lactating. Although lactating individuals were not allowed in the clinical trials, based on experience with other vaccines, the benefits of vaccination outweigh the very small safety concerns. You do not have to delay or stop breastfeeding just because you get a vaccine.
Q: I’m thinking about getting pregnant soon, should I wait?
There is no reason that individuals who are trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatment should withhold from receiving a vaccine. Since these are not live vaccines, there is no reason to delay trying to get pregnant or delaying fertility treatment because of your vaccination schedule.
Q: What are side effects of a vaccine?
Side effects after vaccination are mild and often produce a normal bodily response to the vaccine and the development of antibodies to protect against the disease. Side effects often occur in the first few days after receiving a vaccine, and that is true for both the first and second dose. If pregnant people experience fever after vaccination, acetaminophen is recommended.
Q: Where can I go for additional up-to-date information?
These three sites contain trusted, evidence-based, curated information for pregnant and lactating individuals:
- Center for Disease Control
- Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists