We get a lot of questions from expectant moms about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is it safe to be vaccinated while pregnant?
Should I wait until after baby is born?
Do I even need to be vaccinated?
For answers, we turned to three of our most trusted physician experts: Dr. Robin Cardwell, who practices at Huntsville Hospital Obstetrics & Gynecology and is part of the OB Emergency Department team at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children; Dr. Morgan Tucker of OB-GYN Associates, a member of Labor & Delivery team at Madison Hospital; and Huntsville Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Ali Hassoun.
Here’s what they told us.
Dr. Cardwell –
Vaccines, except live-virus vaccines like chicken pox and MRR, have proven to be safe and effective in pregnancy. Along with protecting the mother, vaccines protect the newborn baby with antibodies created by mom that are passed through the placenta. Some antibodies are also passed through mother’s milk.
Because expectant moms were not included in the initial COVID-19 vaccine trials, women and their doctors had to make choices based on animal data, studies on the physiology and pharmacology of the vaccine, expert opinion, and the guidance of medical societies like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We also saw some data from women in the initial phase III trials who were later found to be pregnant or who conceived shortly after enrolling in the study. There were no safety concerns in this group.
Now that we are five months into vaccinating, the evidence so far supports the vaccine’s safety in pregnant and lactating women. One study showed that the COVID-19 vaccine is both effective in creating protective antibodies in mom and that these antibodies are being found in baby as well. Another study found no differences when comparing the placentas of vaccinated and unvaccinated moms. Another study found the incidence of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, small for gestational age, congenital abnormalities, and neonatal death was not different than the known population risk. As more women are vaccinated, we will see more data. So far, it looks reassuring.
Meanwhile, we do know that pregnancy puts women who contract COVID at higher risk for ICU hospitalization, supplemental oxygen and death compared to non-pregnant women of the same age and medical background. Because of the known risk of COVID to mom and baby and the emerging safety data on the vaccine, we encourage women who are considering pregnancy, who are pregnant, and who are breastfeeding, to get vaccinated.
Dr. Tucker –
The risk of severe illness from COVID during pregnancy is high. The inflammatory properties of COVID can make moms-to-be more susceptible to hypertensive disease such as eclampsia, cause babies to be born small for their gestational age, increase the risk of preterm delivery, and increase in the likelihood that baby will require Neonatal ICU care. Getting vaccinated can reduce all of these risks. Also, more and more evidence is showing that the protective antibodies mom receives from the vaccine are shared with the fetus during pregnancy or with baby during breastfeeding.
Dr. Hassoun –
If you are pregnant and exposed to COVID-19, you are at higher risk of severe disease. That means more complications, a longer hospital stay, possible intubation and the need for medication which might affect you and the baby in different ways.
By being vaccinated, you will protect yourself and help protect your family and community. Also, studies have shown the vaccine provides some protection to the baby both in utero and after birth.
Ready to get the COVID-19 vaccine? It’s easy. Click here to schedule your appointment at Huntsville Hospital’s Community Vaccination Clinic.
Want to read more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women?
*The information in this blog is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. Please ask your physician if you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Morgan Tucker
Dr. Ali Hassoun
Dr. Robin Cardwell