Pregnant and lactating women should get vaccinated and receive the booster against COVID-19 when eligible, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged in recently updated guidance.
The CDC’s recommendation echoes statements in strong support of vaccinations and boosters from Sanford Health providers as well as the nation’s leading obstetric organizations.
“This is not just part of a recommendation encouraging everyone to get the vaccine,” said Christine Keup, M.D., a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Sanford Southpointe Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota. “For pregnant women, there can be significant complications with COVID that make it even more important for them to receive the vaccine.”
Vaccination protects mom and baby
While there have been some cases of menstrual changes, research has found it’s a small and temporary change. Knowing this gives patients and their providers the opportunity to discuss this as they prepare for their COVID-19 vaccination.
Additionally, vaccines don’t cause birth defects. Vaccinations of moms during pregnancy do help protect babies from getting sick while they’re too young for vaccination.
A CDC study of 379 infants across 20 pediatric hospitals found a two-dose vaccine in pregnant women was 61% effective in helping prevent hospitalization from COVID-19 of their babies under 6 months. The study also says, among 176 infants under 6 months who were hospitalized for COVID-19, 84% of them were born to mothers who were not vaccinated during pregnancy.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there, especially regarding vaccines and fertility,” Dr. Keup said. “The vaccines do not affect fertility at all. That misinformation makes it very important to have a connection with a provider you trust.”
Because pregnant women were not initially part of the vaccine trials, the CDC and other national organizations advised people to consult their providers and make an informed decision regarding COVID-19 shots. Since then, the accumulated data shows that it is indeed safe for those who are pregnant, wanting to become pregnant or breastfeeding.
As a result, the messaging from the CDC and others has become more urgent.
“People’s initial anxiety about the safety of the vaccine in pregnancy was well-founded,” said Erica Schipper, M.D., a Sanford Health OB/GYN in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Since then we’ve had more than 139,000 pregnant women get the vaccine and we’ve collected data showing no increase in adverse outcomes, no increase in adverse fetal or neonatal outcomes and no increase in adverse maternal outcomes.”
Risks with COVID-19 infection
Studies have shown there is no increased risk for miscarriage after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. A CDC analysis of current data from the v-safe pregnancy registry did not find an increased risk of miscarriage among nearly 2,500 pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
However, it’s dangerous to get infected with COVID-19 while pregnant. Studies have found there is an increased risk of miscarriage for those who get COVID-19 as it can invade and destroy the placenta.
“When we think about the vaccine and how it works, there’s no reason it should be unsafe in pregnancy,” Dr. Schipper said. “There are some vaccines we don’t give in pregnancy because they’re a live virus vaccine or they pose a threat to the mom or baby. That’s just not the case with this vaccine.”
Fortunately, the updated CDC guideline gives providers another tool in the quest to present accurate information.
“It’s a hard conversation to have when people are reluctant,” Dr. Schipper said. “My hope is that because they trust me to provide the best possible prenatal and intrapartum care, they will trust that I have their best interests at heart when I make a recommendation about the vaccine.”
The CDC continues to encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated and get their booster shot as soon as possible to protect themselves, their families, loved ones and communities.
Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.
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