Having the covid vaccine in pregnancy is a hot topic of discussion at the moment with much confusion and uncertainty about its safety.
The women I have spoken to are no anti-vaxxers but they are genuinely torn about whether it is the right thing to do, based on the information available to them.
And it’s a divisive issue – some pregnant women are happy to take the vaccine and are reassured by the information they have been given, others just aren’t convinced by the safety claims.
Below I have included information and guidance, along with links to the latest research.
Covid vaccine in pregnancy: So, what do we know?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have updated their information but makes it clear that: “If you are pregnant and have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, the decision whether to have the vaccination is your choice.”
RCOG & the Royal College of Midwives – with UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS) and the MacDonald Obstetric Medicine Society (MOMS) -have created a decision-making factsheet, which you can download here.
But here are some the main points…
Covid in pregnancy
- In the UK, approximately one in 100 pregnant women who have been admitted to hospital test positive for COVID-19
- Some pregnant women can get life-threatening illness from COVID-19, particularly if they have underlying health conditions.
- In the later stages of pregnancy women are at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19 and it is two to three times more likely that a baby will be born prematurely.
What is known about the effects of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant women?
- The large trials which showed that these vaccines are safe and effective did not include pregnant women – as often happens in clinical trials.
- Monitoring from the United States, where over 100,000 pregnant women have had a COVID-19 vaccine, has not raised any safety concerns.
- COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.
- Pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, as most of the safety monitoring data from the United States relates to these two vaccines.
The factsheet states that you are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 if:
- you or someone in your household is a health or social care worker or works in a care home
- your community has a high or increasing rate of COVID infections
- you have frequent contact with people outside your home
- you are not able to comply with social distancing for the rest of your pregnancy
- you live in a crowded household
- you are of Black or Asian ethnicity, or from another minority ethnicity background
And that you are at higher risk of becoming unwell with COVID-19 if:
- You have underlying medical conditions such as immune problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or asthma
- You are overweight
- You are over the age 35
- You are in your third trimester of pregnancy (over 28 weeks)
What should you do if you are offered a COVID-19 vaccine?
- If you are at higher risk of catching COVID-19, you should consider getting the vaccine.
- If you are at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell if you do catch COVID-19, you should consider getting the vaccine.
There’s also the document by Victoria Male, Lecturer in Reproductive Immunology at Imperial College London: Explainer on COVID19 vaccination, fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding
You can download it here and it comes with links to more research and findings. A round-up of the main points around pregnancy are…
- In the USA the vaccine is being monitored by V-safe & by VAERS.
V-safe recruits people at vaccination and actively tracks their outcomes. No concerns have been raised so far.
VAERS collects information that doctors, patients or their families report. Of the 106,000 pregnant people who have been vaccinated so far, there have been 432 reports of adverse effects, most of which were normal/expected side effects.
- The safety of using these vaccinations during pregnancy is being carefully monitored and no concerns have arisen so far.
- People who get vaccinated while they are pregnant also pass protective antibodies to their babies through the placenta.
- With breastfeeding Vic Male states: ” There is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines whilst breastfeeding and no safety signals have appeared in breastfeeding people or their babies…the vaccine does not pass through breast milk, but the protective antibodies that your body makes do.”
So if you are pregnant, where does that leave you?
For some pregnant women, right back where they started which is feeling unsure about taking the vaccine. No-one can give any assurances and, for some people, that is going to cause concern.
One pregnant women I spoke to said: “I was vaccinated 2 weeks ago – I wasn’t given much information from the NHS but I read a few studies. In Canada, where I am originally from, they prioritised pregnant women after seeing the numbers of pregnant women in ICU increase.”
Another said: “The NHS may say that over 90,000 pregnant women in the United States have had it, with no side effects but that doesn’t seem solid enough evidence as most of those babies won’t have been born yet.”
So it comes down to the balance of risk and making a personal decision based on this: “For me, one risk outweighed another.”