Everything You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy
Over the last couple of years, there have been a lot of questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and the potential impacts they may have on those before, during, or after their pregnancy. Simply put, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant people, but we understand that with so much information available, it can be hard to parse through it all. We have put together this guide to answer some of the most common questions and to provide the resources you need to make an informed decision.
When vaccines first became available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an urgent health advisory encouraging people before, during, or after their pregnancy to get vaccinated. This is due to the increased risk of hospitalization for pregnant people if they contract the virus. CDC data showed that nearly one in five pregnant people who tested positive for COVID-19 needed to be hospitalized.
“The fact that COVID-19 accounted for almost the entire increase in maternal deaths in 2021 should send a resounding message to researchers and vaccine developers about the harm of excluding pregnant people from the vaccine development process…Our continued message to all pregnant people is that vaccination is a critical part of prenatal care, not only to prevent death but also to prevent low birth weight and preterm births, which also increased for individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy.”- Mauren G. Phipps, CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
COVID-19 can pose risks to the fetus as well, including preterm birth and stillbirth. However, there is no evidence that the vaccine causes infertility, miscarriages, or pregnancy loss.
Let’s dive in further about the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during your fertility care and pregnancy.
IVF and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Some patients who are about to begin an IVF cycle have expressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and whether it will impact their chances of becoming pregnant. However, the findings of many studies over the last couple of years have all come to the conclusion that IVF and COVID-19 vaccines do not have a negative effect on each other.
A 2021 study found no difference in the quality of an IVF cycle or the outcome for women who underwent treatment one week to three months after getting vaccinated. Those vaccinated were just as likely to become pregnant as those who weren’t, and there weren’t any differences in the dose of medication needed, the number of eggs retrieved, or the characteristics of the eggs and embryos.
The same can be said for any fertility treatment you might be seeking. If you have any questions, working with your fertility specialist can help you find the answers you need.
COVID-19 Vaccinations During Pregnancy
According to the CDC, anyone six months or older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and boosters are available for anyone age five and older. There’s no evidence to suggest that vaccines impact male or family fertility, or fertility treatment outcomes. Though a recent study found that COVID-19 vaccines temporary delayed the arrival of the patient’s next period, the number of days of menstrual bleeding did not change and, for most, the shift resolved during their next menstrual cycle. COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy do not increase the risk of miscarriage either.
When it comes to getting vaccinated or receiving a booster shot, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has made the following recommendations:
- Those who are pregnant or up to six weeks postpartum should receive a COVID-19 booster following the completion of their initial vaccine or vaccine series.
- Anyone age 18 or older, including pregnant and recently pregnant people, who received the J&J/Janssen vaccine as their initial COVID-19 vaccine should get a booster dose at least two months after the initial vaccine.
- Those qualified for a COVID-19 booster dose may receive any vaccine product available to them. You do not need to receive the same product as your initial vaccine or vaccine series.
What is the Bivalent Vaccine?
The new bivalent vaccine will protect you from both the original strain of the virus and the omicron sub variants, which are the most prevalent
at this time. This updated vaccine helps better protect people against reinfection and produces a more long-term immunity response. More information about how the vaccines work can be found online, along with the closest vaccination location to you.
There’s no bad time to get the initial COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy or subsequent booster shots. This is true even if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the past. Not only will it help to keep you safe, but your baby as well. A recent study found that antibodies are passed to the baby through the umbilical cord, protecting them against the virus after birth.
What to Know About COVID Vaccines and Breastfeeding
Those who have gotten the COVID vaccine and are breastfeeding have a healthy amount of antibodies in their breast milk, which can help keep their babies safe from the virus. A recent study concluded after looking at a person’s breast milk before their vaccine, after their first dose, and after the second dose. Researchers saw an increase in antibodies in breast milk after each shot.
Because vaccines aren’t available for babies under six months at this time, being able to provide this immunity through breastfeeding is a promising development. And, if you are unable to breastfeed or choose not to, getting vaccinated during your pregnancy can pass along this immunity as well.
What to Do if You Test Positive for COVID While Pregnant
While vaccines can help reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, breakthrough cases can happen. Luckily, their protection significantly reduces the risk of serious illness and the need for
hospitalization. If you do test positive for COVID while pregnant, there are some steps you can take to care for yourself, your family, and your baby.
The first is to contact your OBGYN or healthcare provider to see what advice or guidance they may have. Most likely, this will include drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and using approved over-the-counter medications to reduce your fever, relieve pain, or lessen coughing.
Other steps you can take include:
- Staying home unless you are getting medical care. If you need to leave the house, avoid public transportation.
- Before your next appointment, call your healthcare provider so they can take the proper precautions. However, if you feel worse or think it’s an emergency, you should seek medical care immediately.
- Limit contact with others in your home as much as possible if they haven’t tested positive.
- Wear a mask when you leave your house, especially if you are seeking medical care for any reason.
The Fertility Centers of New England team is committed to patient safety and helping them build their families in the healthiest way possible. If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Initial consultations are free for those without fertility insurance.