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COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy

Posted on Aug 16, 2021

While the COVID-19 vaccine has been available since late 2020, many expectant mothers and their families still have questions about getting immunized. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Jose Prieto, M.D., medical director of maternal-fetal medicine in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute, answers some common questions he receives from families and highlights the latest recommendations for pregnant moms.

What have you been seeing in terms of pregnant moms coming in with COVID-19, and do vaccinated pregnant moms respond differently compared to those who are unvaccinated?

In the state of Florida, we are seeing a significant surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths, so unfortunately, we've also seen a lot of cases of pregnant individuals who contract COVID-19. It's heartbreaking to see these mothers with their health challenged by this disease, or not able to hold their baby immediately after birth because they need to be in isolation if they are sick or test positive for SARS-CoV-2. We’ve had a few pregnant moms with COVID-19 pass away, and there have been many with severe illness including oxygen issues during labor. Some mothers with COVID-19 have even passed it on to their baby who needed to be transferred to our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The evidence is clear that vaccination protects the pregnant patient from serious illness, ICU care, ventilator support and death. Unvaccinated pregnant patients are at much higher risk for all of those outcomes.

Should pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine now recommend vaccination for all pregnant, postpartum and lactating patients, independent of trimester. There is evidence now that the vaccines help protect pregnant patients from serious illness, hospitalization, ICU care and death from COVID-19. Case reports also suggest passage of these antibodies to the newborn, therefore protecting the baby as well.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect pregnant women’s immune systems?

The vaccine activates the immune system to help patients fight the viral infection.

Some expectant moms have voiced concerns about the risk of miscarriage after being vaccinated. What can you tell us about that?

Preliminary results from published studies suggest that there is no increased risk of first trimester loss in patients who receive any of the three vaccines currently approved for emergency use authorization. These include the Pfizer, Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

What effects does the vaccine have on me and my child while breastfeeding?

There is limited data regarding breastfeeding, but some case reports suggest that lactating women who receive the vaccine will pass protective antibodies in the breast milk to their babies. It’s important to remember, the vaccines do not contain live virus, so there isn’t an infection risk to the baby, nor should you delay or discontinue breastfeeding after getting the vaccine.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, pregnancy and fertility.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital experts. Visit each Monday for the latest report. You also can download our free Pocket Doc app, which features a symptom checker, parenting advice and other tools for staying in touch with us.

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