Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Infertility: More Reassuring Evidence About COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

newborn baby

New evidence suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Our experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering are monitoring all of the latest studies about the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines on people who are trying to get pregnant, are already expecting, or are breastfeeding. Deborah Goldfrank, Head of General Gynecology at MSK, explains new and encouraging results so far about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines for people planning to have children.

Are the vaccines safe for pregnant women?

There continues to be evidence that the vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found no safety concerns among more than 35,000 pregnant people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

As for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement emphasizing that “women under age 50 including pregnant individuals can receive any FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine available to them.” However, people should be aware of the very rare risk of a blood clotting disorder associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that the other FDA-authorized vaccines are available.

“It is critical to emphasize the rarity of this syndrome which has occurred in approximately seven out of every million doses of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine administered to females age 18-49 years,” said ACOG. There are no known cases of this in syndrome occurring in people who are pregnant.

The CDC advises pregnant women can receive a vaccine and be given the opportunity to decide for themselves, ideally after talking to their healthcare provider.

MSK recommends COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant employees directly involved in patient care. Healthcare workers are at higher risk for getting infected. Pregnant women appear to be at greater risk of more severe illness from COVID-19, so it’s important they talk to their healthcare provider about the benefits of being protected by the vaccine. Women should be able to make this choice for themselves.

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How is COVID-19 more dangerous for people who are pregnant?

According to the CDC, people who are pregnant and contract COVID-19 are at higher risk of serious complications, including being admitted to the ICU, needing a breathing tube, and even death. They may also be at higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as premature birth.

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Do the vaccines protect pregnant women and their babies?

Emerging research shows pregnant women who are vaccinated not only protect themselves but also their babies.

Pregnant women who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had COVID-19 antibodies in their umbilical cord blood and breast milk, according to the Journal of Obstetrics and GynecologySimilar findings have been reported in other medical publications, too. While these studies are preliminary, they offer encouraging evidence that some of a mother’s immunity can be passed along to the baby before and after they are born.  

This latest research also builds on a previous study that found pregnant women who have recovered from COVID-19 can pass along their immunity. The new study found more antibodies present in women who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 than in women who had recovered from COVID-19.

In addition, the new research found the vaccine is equally effective for women who are pregnant compared to those who are not. Antibody levels following vaccination were the same in pregnant and lactating women compared to those who weren’t pregnant, the study says.

This study is currently under peer review.

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Can COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility?

Despite alarming rumors spreading on social media, there is no data suggesting that COVID-19 vaccination impacts fertility. The approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live virus. They do not interact with or alter your DNA. According to fertility specialists, there is no evidence that vaccines increase the risk of infertility, first or second trimester miscarriages, stillbirth, or any birth defects.

Furthermore, because pregnant people are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19, vaccination is important protection for people who are trying to get pregnant.

April 30, 2021

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