COVID-19, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & the Vaccine
New information is emerging daily about how COVID-19 can effect pregnant women and their babies. The current reports suggest that pregnant women have a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women. They are more likely to need care in an intensive care unit (ICU), to need a ventilator, or to die from the illness. Still the amount of overall illness and death for pregnant women is low. Pregnant women with other health conditions, such as obesity and gestational diabetes, may have a higher risk of severe illness. Also, pregnant women who are Black or Hispanic have a higher rate of illness and death from COVID-19 than other pregnant women. This is not because of biology but because these women are more likely to face social, health, and economic inequities that put them at greater risk of illness.
Some researchers are looking specifically at COVID-19 and its possible effects on a fetus. They have found a few cases of COVID-19 that may have passed to a fetus during pregnancy, but this seems to be rare. There have also been studies performed that specifically look at infection, preterm birth, and stillbirth. Some suggest there may be an increased risk of preterm birth and stillbirth for women with COVID-19, but other studies have not found this to be true. All of this information is still limited, and researchers are continuing to study these outcomes to better understand the effects of COVID-19 before birth.
At this time there is a limited amount of safety data available on the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy and breastfeeding, but what experts know so far is reassuring. The studies done before the first vaccines were approved for emergency use did not include pregnant women, but based on how the vaccines were made and the science behind how the vaccines work in the body, experts believe they should be safe in pregnancy. Many women have enrolled in the CDC’s vaccination tracking program, and the data from this program does not show any safety concerns. The CDC and vaccine makers are now starting or planning tests with pregnant women. If you are pregnant and want to know more about the vaccine, talk with your obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) such as the ones at All Women or other health care professional. Discuss your risk of getting COVID-19 and your risk of severe illness if you get sick. A vaccine may protect you from severe illness, which could help both you and your fetus. The claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility have been scientifically disproven.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology recommends that breastfeeding women get a COVID-19 vaccine if they desire, and there is no need to stop breastfeeding if you want to get the vaccine. When you get vaccinated, the antibodies that your body makes can be passed through breastmilk and help protect your child from the virus.
Tips for staying healthy:
• Wear a mask or cloth face covering in public and any other needed protection while at work.
• Limit contact with other people. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people and avoid crowds.
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Keep a stock of essential supplies, including at least 30 days of medication so you don’t have to go out as often.