Is It Safe to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy?
In a time that has felt anything but normal, the race to a vaccine for COVID-19 has been truly extraordinary. And while it may have looked like a sprint, experts caution that when it comes to vaccine development, it’s a marathon.
If you are pregnant, or TTC, you may already be wondering if vaccines are safe in pregnancy, and with the seemingly rapid roll out of COVID-19 vaccines, is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?
Guidelines have already been established for vaccination in pregnancy, but it’s important to understand the factors involved in whether it is considered safe to receive a vaccine during pregnancy and what we know about the COVID vaccine in general.
With confirmed cases peaking regularly, the COVID-19 vaccine status has never been more important. Read on to learn what we already know about the vaccine and what that means for getting it during pregnancy.
What do we know about the COVID-19 vaccine?
While researchers have been making COVID-19 vaccine progress in record time, there are a number of things we already know. Promising results from COVID-19 Vaccine Trials point to the vaccine’s safety, leading many federal regulators to approve the vaccine for mass immunization efforts.
Even so, we also know that pregnant women have been left completely out of those clinical trials – but that’s also completely normal. Pregnancy can be a complex condition and clinical trials with pregnant women usually come after other trials have already deemed the vaccine safe in other groups.
Understanding the different types of vaccines
Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer the body protection against viruses. In basic terms, all vaccines leave the body with a memory of the illness that serves as a blueprint for how to fight the virus.
In more scientific terms, there are three main types of vaccines that all prompt the body in different ways:
- Protein subunit vaccines: work by leaving harmless proteins in the body that trigger the immune system to begin making the appropriate antibodies.
- mRNA vaccines: work by leaving antibody instructions in harmless pieces of protein that is unique to the virus.
- Vector vaccines: insert a weakened version of a live virus (not COVID-19!) that also contains genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19. This viral vector helps our bodies recognize and make antibodies that will remember how to fight COVID-19.
How COVID-19 vaccines work
COVID-19 vaccine progress has come a long way very quickly in the world of vaccine development. And while different vaccines work in different ways, COVID-19 vaccines work by helping our body develop an immunity to the virus by leaving a cellular memory of sorts. A small supply of T and B lymphocytes are left in the body and once activated (if we are infected in the future), those cells will remember how to fight the virus and keep us protected.
Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy?
Generally speaking, vaccines that contain killed or inactive viruses are safe during pregnancy and even though there is a lack of safety data for pregnant women, experts recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, because most of the COVID-19 Vaccines are not live vaccines, they are generally considered safe for pregnant women.
Pregnant people in clinical trials
Pregnant women are a complex group to include in any clinical trial, especially given that no one wants to put any lives in danger (the woman or the fetus’). Given the COVID-19 vaccine status, researchers are hoping to start conducting formal trials with pregnant women as soon as possible. Results from animal trials have been promising with no effects on fertility and researchers are hoping to capitalize on these results and extend trials to humans.
Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines
The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any drawbacks you may experience from receiving the recommended doses. However, as your body is building antibody protection, you may experience pain and swelling where you got the shot, as well as fever, chills, tiredness, and headache. These common mild side effects may occur after the first or second dose.
Recommendations from the CDC
While the CDC recognizes that there is limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women, the vaccine also hasn’t been contraindicated in pregnancy. COVID-19 is a serious illness and may pose additional risks to pregnant women, therefore the CDC recommends that even though getting the vaccine is a personal choice, if you are pregnant and are able to do so, it is safe to be vaccinated.
When can we expect more data on the COVID-19 vaccines?
As development of vaccines accelerates worldwide, more data on COVID-19 vaccines will become available. The WHO reports that there are more than 50 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in trials and data from animal studies is expected soon.
How can you protect against COVID-19 in pregnancy?
One of the best methods to protect against COVID-19 in pregnancy is to keep a small bubble of protection around expectant parents. But other methods of protection should still be followed, including wearing masks in public places, washing hands, avoiding unnecessary activities, and social distancing. This is in addition to keeping yourself in the best health possible to have a healthy immune system ready for action.
In addition to these measures, you can also stay informed by checking trusted health websites, or talking with your healthcare providers. Armed with the appropriate information, you can balance the latest data on vaccines, pregnancy, and your individual risk factors to make the decision that is right for you.
✔️ Medically Reviewed by Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOG
Banafsheh Kashani, M.D., FACOG is a board-certified OB/GYN and specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Eden Fertility Centers, and has been treating couples and individuals with infertility since 2014. Prior to joining Eden Centers for Advanced Fertility, she was practicing as a top fertility specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Orange County and Reproductive Fertility Center. Dr. Kashani has received numerous awards throughout her years of study and medical training.
Dr. Kashani has conducted extensive research in female reproduction, with a specific focus on the endometrium and implantation. Additionally, Dr. Kashani has authored papers in the areas of fertility preservation, and fertility in women with PCOS and Turners syndrome. She also was part of a large SART-CORS study evaluating the trend in frozen embryo transfers and success rates.
Dr. Kashani is a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In addition, she is a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and Pacific Coast Reproductive Society (PCRS). She is also a member of the Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI).