COVID-19 Vaccines: Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

If you’re pregnant, plan to get pregnant soon, or breastfeeding, the CDC suggests getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It’ll help protect you from severe illness if you do get COVID-19.

A CDC analysis looked at nearly 2,500 pregnant people who took an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine before the 20-week mark in their pregnancy. The study showed post-COVID-19 vaccination miscarriage rates were around 13%, similar to the expected rate of 11-16% in the general population.

There were no negative pregnancy-related outcomes in previous clinical trials that used the same vaccine technology as used in the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The vector vaccine platform didn’t cause any harmful side effects during any trimesters of pregnancy or to the baby after birth.

Similarly, other data from three CDC safety monitoring systems suggests that vaccines are safe for people who’ve gotten vaccinated later in pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) also recommend that all pregnant people be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Can Those Who Breastfeed Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The CDC recommends those who are breastfeeding get the COVID-19 vaccine. But there haven’t been any clinical trials in the U.S. for those who breastfeed and take the vaccine. Due to this, there is limited information on the:

  • Safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in those who breastfeed
  • Side effects of the vaccine on the baby who breastfeeds
  • Side effects on milk production or flow after the vaccine

But we do know that the vaccine works to ward off severe COVID-19 illness in people who breastfeed. Some studies show that those who breastfeed after the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine have antibodies in their breast milk. This could potentially protect their babies. More research is needed to know exactly how the antibodies may help your baby.

Is COVID-19 Transmitted Through Breast Milk?

Breast milk is not likely to spread COVID-19 to babies. While you’re not likely to spread the virus to your baby through breast milk, it’s still important to get vaccinated to keep you and your newborn safe.

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Can the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Fertility?

The COVID-19 vaccine won’t affect your fertility. People who are trying to get pregnant should still get the vaccine. There’s no reason to delay pregnancy after you’ve taken the vaccine.

False claims on social media stated that the spike protein on COVID-19 was the same as another spike protein (syncitin-1) that’s involved in the attachment and growth of your placenta during pregnancy. This misleading report suggested that the COVID-19 vaccine could affect your ability to reproduce. But these two spike proteins are not the same, and the COVID-19 vaccine won’t affect your chances of a successful pregnancy.

In one study with the Pfizer vaccine, 23 women volunteered to become pregnant. Only one woman had a pregnancy loss, but she had not received the COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, she’d received a placebo. All other women who had the vaccine had successful pregnancies.

What Are the Risks?

Compared to those not expecting, pregnant and recently pregnant people are at a higher risk for severe illness from the COVID-19 virus, but the risk is still low. This may include sickness that requires hospitalization, intensive care, the need for a ventilator or special equipment to breathe properly, or illness that results in death.

Pregnant people who have COVID-19 are also more likely to have a preterm birth and may have a higher risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes, compared to pregnant people without COVID-19.

With the highly contagious Delta variant, it’s important for pregnant or recently pregnant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The severe side effects of COVID-19 in pregnant people outweigh any potential risks of the vaccine.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 13, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination,” “COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding,” “New CDC Data: COVID-19 Vaccination Safe for Pregnant People,” “COVID-19 Vaccine Monitoring Systems for Pregnant People,” “Breastfeeding and Caring for Newborns.”

Research Square: “Receipt of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines preconception and during pregnancy and risk of self-reported spontaneous abortions, CDC v-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry 2020-21.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “The COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy: Conversation Guide for Clinicians,” “ACOG and SMFM Recommend COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant Individuals.”

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