Pregnant women getting covid-19 vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccines for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women

Tara Gellasch, MD, OBGYN, and Daniel Grace, MD, help us understand how the COVID-19 vaccines can impact pregnant and breastfeeding women and whether the vaccines are safe.

Aug. 11, 2021 4   min read

Research is building about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Tara Gellasch, MD, OBGYN and Chief Medical Officer at United Memorial Medical Center, and Daniel Grace, MD, associate chair of obstetrics at Rochester Regional Health, advise us on how the COVID-19 vaccines can impact pregnant and breastfeeding women and whether they recommending their patients get vaccinated.

Pregnant woman getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Should pregnant or breastfeeding mothers get the vaccines?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that pregnant or breastfeeding individuals who meet the criteria for vaccination should get any of the COVID-19 vaccines with current FDA emergency use authorization.

"While the vaccines were not studied specifically on pregnant women or breastfeeding women, the vaccines do not enter the nuclei of cells nor are they altering human DNA," explained Dr. Tara Gellasch, Rochester Regional Health OBGYN. "The vaccines are created to prepare your body to fight against the virus that causes COVID-19 and keep you protected, so they are believed to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women." 

The recommendations align with guidance issued by the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should speak with their OBGYN or primary care provider to determine the best option for them.

Side effects and mild symptoms

Side effects are the body’s normal reaction to the vaccine and the body’s normal reaction to developing antibodies against COVID-19. We expect mild side effects to be similar in women who are pregnant and not pregnant.

Reported side effects from the vaccines are pain at the injection site, headache, tiredness, muscle pain, and other symptoms

Is the vaccine as effective on pregnant women?

No evidence exists to suggest any difference in the effectiveness of the vaccines between pregnant women and the general population.

"We expect to see that 95% efficacy rate to remain with pregnant women, which is very encouraging," said Dr. Gellasch.

"I would recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant patients and I’m putting my money where my mouth is if my family member was pregnant. I would recommend it to them,” Dr. Grace said.

Research on mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women 

Early findings from CDC research in the U.S. showed no increased safety risks for pregnant women who were vaccinated or their babies.

An analysis of pregnant women who received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine shows there is no increased risk of miscarriage compared to pregnant women who are not vaccinated.

In addition, a separate study of pregnant women who received COVID-19 vaccine doses found antibodies in umbilical cord blood, suggesting mothers pass the antibodies to their babies and could protect them against the virus. Scientists say this concept still requires more in-depth research.

“When mom gets the vaccine, mom develops antibodies that do cross the placenta and provide a degree of protection to the newborn,” Dr. Grace said. “So not only is this protective for mom during the pregnancy and help prevent severe disease should she contract COVID-19, but it can also help protect the baby after delivery.”

Can side effects be passed on to my baby through breast milk?

Recent reports show pregnant women who were vaccinated against COVID-19 and also breastfeeding are producing breast milk containing antibodies, according to the CDC. This could help protect babies against COVID-19.

There is currently no evidence to suggest any negative side effects of the vaccine to breastfeeding women. We would not expect any impact on their ability to breastfeed or a negative impact on the baby from their breastmilk.

As research and guidance evolve, the ROC Baby Cafe offers free education, support, and up-to-date information to pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers in the community, at all stages of the breastfeeding journey.

Find an upcoming session 

What about couples planning on becoming pregnant?

We continue to recommend that women receive the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them, along with their partners. The vaccine will help protect all people who get the vaccine from getting COVID-19.

Pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at a greater risk for more serious outcomes, as well as at a higher risk for preterm delivery and potentially stillbirth. 

"If a pregnant woman does contract COVID-19, she is at a higher risk of getting a severe version of the illness and at a higher risk of hospitalization or even ICU admission," said Dr. Gellasch. "We see that with other viral illnesses like the flu. Pregnant women who get a viral illness often have a worse course compared to their non-pregnant counterparts. This is why it’s important for pregnant women to do what they can to stay protected and consider getting the vaccine when it is available to them."

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Tara L. Gellasch, MD
Obstetrics And Gynecology
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Daniel W. Grace, MD
Pediatric Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Maternal And Fetal Medicine
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