Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

pregnant woman and doctor with a syringe
(This article was updated on Nov. 17, 2021)

When the COVID-19 vaccines first became available, there was little information about how they might affect pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Now, the evidence and expert advice is clear: The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and top health care experts recommend vaccination for this group.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, recommend that all pregnant women be vaccinated against COVID-19. Read the recommendation. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has updated its guidance to recommend vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

What does the science say?

Although limited, the data on safety and effectiveness continues to grow. Scientists have compared the pregnancies of women who have received COVID-19 vaccines and women who have not. The reports show that these women have had similar pregnancy outcomes. Data do not show any safety concerns.

Remember, pregnant women have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and the vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, severe illness and death.

How does it affect baby?

A study confirmed that if a pregnant woman is vaccinated or breastfeeding and vaccinated, antibodies safely pass from the mom to her unborn child through the placenta or through breast milk. Having antibodies suggests that infants may have some natural immunity passed on to them by their mothers, helping reduce their risk of infection or severity of the virus.

Infants have a varied response to COVID-19. Some get sick with upper respiratory symptoms, while others get very ill. Some can be asymptomatic, meaning they have the virus but don't show symptoms. Any protection conferred via mom is important as infections continue to spread.

What about side effects?

Some people will experience temporary side effects after being vaccinated, but those are caused by the immune system ramping up and are not a symptom of infection.

Pregnant women are likely to experience the same reactions or side effects that nonpregnant people are experiencing from the vaccine, such as fever, muscle aches or a headache. Pregnant women can use acetaminophen to treat fever. If any symptom is worrisome, it’s important to contact your doctor.

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