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Ask the Expert: Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe During Pregnancy?

February 16, 2021

If you’re worried about how the COVID-19 vaccine affects you, you’re not alone. We sat down with Jefferson Health -- New Jersey OB/GYNs Drs. Jennifer Hummel, Deborah White, and Kelly M. Park, as well as Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Henry Schuitema, to help quell some common concerns surrounding getting the vaccine while pregnant/before becoming pregnant.

1. Do you recommend people who are planning to have children in the near future, or currently pregnant, get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Hummel: Yes, I do. The CDC; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Society of Reproductive Medicine; Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine; and other key organizations have all made official recommendations to get vaccinated. We know how the vaccine works. We know that it’s not impacting genetics, and therefore, not offspring. 

Dr. Schuitema: It’s important to note that pregnant women fall into a higher risk category. Data shows that when they are symptomatic with COVID-19, they have a higher rate of ICU admission and death. Symptom severity is compounded even more if they have other health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma. If you get vaccinated, you’re going to be safer in the long run.

Dr. White: In general, the known risks of having COVID-19 during pregnancy currently outweigh the unknown risks of the vaccine.

2. Do we know if the COVID-19 vaccine will impact fertility?

Dr. Hummel: We currently don’t have any reason to believe that the vaccine will impact fertility. It’s important to understand how the vaccine works. It’s not a live virus. It’s an mRNA vaccine, which does not get incorporated into your DNA or alter genetic material. With that being said, it won’t have any effect on the egg and sperm in creating an embryo.

We also know that during one of the vaccine trials, there were 23 women who became pregnant after receiving the vaccine – 12 of whom were in the vaccine group. Only one experienced an adverse outcome, and she was in the placebo group. They will continue to be monitored throughout their pregnancy.

Dr. Park: We avoid giving pregnant patients live vaccines, such as rubella and varicella, as these are live viruses. However, the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t; it cannot enter the nucleus of the cells. All it does is incite an antibody reaction.

Dr. White: In all major studies with Moderna and Phizer, no impact on fertility has been found. We have also considered that throughout the pandemic in its entirety, the world, as a whole, has not seen a decline in pregnancy and birth rates, so, there’s no reason to believe that the virus itself can impact fertility.

3. How should women going through IVF/fertility treatment handle the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Park: We understand that some women have dealt with a frustrating delay in fertility treatment due to the pandemic, but this shouldn’t cause a delay in getting the vaccine. Even if you get pregnant after the first dose of the vaccine, you are safe to get the second dose.

Dr. White: If you’ve struggled to become pregnant, then I would advise you do everything possible to maintain your pregnancy and your health – and, right now, getting the vaccine is part of that.

4. If a mom has COVID-19 and has a baby, what is the chance the baby would have the virus when they are born?

Dr. Hummel: It’s incredibly rare. We’ve delivered many babies whose mom’s have had COVID-19, and all but one of the babies was fine/negative. Babies are tested at 24 hours and 48 hours after birth.

5. If pregnant, should I wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine after the first trimester, since fevers are not good at that time?

Dr. Hummel: Yes, the recommendation is to still get the vaccine, but to take acetaminophen to prevent a high fever. If you can’t take acetaminophen, you can take ibuprofen once or twice to help bring the fever down, but continued use is not recommended during pregnancy.

6. Is breastfeeding impacted at all by the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. White: Based on how the vaccine works, there is no concern of it coming through someone’s breast milk. You should be able to continue breastfeeding as you’ve been doing.