Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy?

By Mayo Clinic Staff

May 5, 2022

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Should pregnant women be vaccinated for COVID-19?

Melanie Swift, M.D., COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution, Mayo Clinic: Pregnant women should be offered the vaccine, and that is not just my opinion, that's the opinion of the American College of Gynecology and that's the opinion of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. These are experts and taking care of pregnant mothers, and they believe that women should be offered these vaccines. They really want to protect pregnant women from having severe outcomes from COVID.

Pregnant women are at increased risk for bad outcomes when they get COVID and even if they're healthy, the pregnancy itself makes them susceptible to some of the complications of COVID. So pregnant women are more likely to have severe COVID and more likely to be hospitalized, and any severe illness in pregnancy increases the risk to the outcome of the pregnancy.

Now we have registries of women who did choose to take the vaccine, because theoretically there's no reason it would be harmful for them to do so. We have some data that shows they haven't had any increased risk of bad outcomes from their pregnancies. Their babies have been just as healthy as their counterparts who weren't vaccinated. But looking at the transfer of immunity to their babies, there are some early signs from studies that have been conducted that are small, that show those antibodies do get transferred across the placenta to the baby. So Pfizer is enrolling about 4,000 women in a large study looking at the immunity that babies get when they're too young to be vaccinated. They could still get enough benefit from their mother being vaccinated to protect them from COVID in infancy. So it's still a question that's being answered. There are some very promising, early results.

There's absolutely no sign that it's any concern for breastfeeding mothers to take the vaccine. Perfectly safe for you to breastfeed after you've been vaccinated. Antibodies are detected in breast milk. Now, what we don’t know is how well those antibodies get absorbed by the baby, and if they end up being protective or not. There's two ways that the baby could be getting antibodies from their mom. They could get it through the bloodstream, which we think is probably a pretty efficient way to immunize the baby, or they could get it through breast milk.

Pregnant women are sometimes confused by all of this understandably, and I would encourage them to talk with their ob/gyn, talk with their primary care provider who's taking care of them in their pregnancy and can advise them about the pros and cons of being vaccinated, and generally they're going to find reassurance there.

Key takeaways

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you get a COVID-19 vaccine. The overall risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women is low. However, women who are pregnant or were recently pregnant are at increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness due to COVID-19. Vaccination can also help pregnant women build antibodies that might protect their babies.

COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause infection with the COVID-19 virus, including in pregnant women or their babies. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Research findings suggest that getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy poses no serious risks for pregnant women who were vaccinated or their babies.

Research shows that infants born to mothers who receive two doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine — such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine — might have a lower risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection in their first six months of life.

COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, including in pregnant women or their babies. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Keep in mind that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines don’t alter your DNA or cause genetic changes. In addition, vaccines that use the same viral vector as the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have been given to pregnant women in each trimester of pregnancy in clinical trials. No harmful effects were found.

Pregnant women may also receive a COVID-19 booster shot. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

More about pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccines