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COVID-19 and Pregnancy: What Expectant Mothers Need to Know

December 23, 2021

Is it safe for me and my baby? It’s the No. 1 question expectant moms ask about the COVID-19 vaccine. Overwhelming evidence suggests that it is safe, and that getting vaccinated can also help your baby develop his or her own immunity against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is also strongly recommended by leading experts including The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Still, many moms-to-be remain skeptical about vaccines. While about 75% of New Jersey residents have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, “that percentage drops to between 35% to 40% for pregnant women,” says obstetrician/gynecologist Diana Contreras, MD, Medical Director for OB/GYN and Women’s Health at Atlantic Health System.

In fact, the biggest risk may be not getting vaccinated. According to CDC data from earlier this year, 97% of pregnant people hospitalized (either for illness or for labor and delivery) with confirmed COVID-19 were unvaccinated. “Unvaccinated pregnant women who get symptomatic COVID-19 are at higher risk of adverse outcomes for themselves and their babies compared to pregnant women who are vaccinated,” Dr. Contreras said.

She recently answered some of the most common questions about pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccinations.

What do we know about pregnant women and the COVID-19 vaccine overall?

According to experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, more than 200,000 pregnant women in the U.S. have received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). “That means we already have an enormous amount of data indicating that vaccines prevent serious illness like COVID-19 in pregnant women,” Dr. Contreras says.

“I view getting vaccinated like wearing a coat in the winter. Going without it makes you more vulnerable to illness.”

Will a COVID-19 vaccine affect my pregnancy?

COVID-19 vaccines do not cause miscarriage or stillbirth, despite rumors to the contrary. The vaccines also don’t cause pre-term births. “But evidence shows that getting COVID-19 while you’re pregnant will raise your risk for a premature delivery,” Dr. Contreras says.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility?

No. “The COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility,” Dr. Contreras says.

How will my newborn benefit when mom-to-be gets a COVID-19 vaccine?

A study of 36 newborns whose mothers received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines published in September 2021 showed that 100% of infants had protective antibodies at birth. In addition, multiple studies indicate that vaccinated moms produce IgA and IgG antibodies in their breastmilk for a full six weeks after vaccination and pass those antibodies along to their newborns through breastfeeding.

When is the best time for a pregnant woman to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

“Don’t wait; get it now,” Dr. Contreras says. “Vaccination gives real, proven health benefits to both mom and baby.”