Although things may not be peachy when it comes to the coronavirus situation right now, there was collectively a big sigh of relief when the first COVID-19 vaccination was released. Unfortunately, the vaccination was initially not encouraged for those who were pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding. There has now been a U-turn in the guidelines and naturally, there is a little confusion in the air.
If you fall into one of the three categories mentioned above, you probably have many questions about what is okay and not okay. Here are some of your most common questions answered about the new COVID-19 vaccines. If you want a shortened version, just scroll to the bottom of this post.
Disclaimer: This is an informational post that has been reviewed by a medical professional. Please do double check with your obstetrician or doctor before you do get the vaccination.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?
When both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/Astrazeneca vaccines were announced, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) suggested that although there were no safety concerns or harmful effects for pregnant women receiving the vaccine, there was still insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. 1
Since then, the JCVI have updated their guidelines and have deemed that the COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to pregnant women at the same time as their same age or risk group. 90,000 pregnant women in the US have been vaccinated with no safety concern.
It is recommended to go for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if you are pregnant. If you have had the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine already, then it is advised to read this leaflet which contains information about the AZ vaccine and blood clotting.
Although pregnant women are no more likely to catch COVID than a healthy adult, they are more likely to become severely ill with the virus compared to non-pregnant women, especially if they are in their last trimester. Studies have shown that there are higher rate of admissions into intensive are units for pregnant women with COVID than non-pregnant women.2
The UKOSS study has also shown that women who have underlying health conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory illnesses etc), come from a BAME background, have a BMI above 25, or are over the age of 35 are more prone to being admitted into hospital with COVID-19.3
Just remember that most pregnant women will not be eligible for the vaccination until their age or risk group has been called forward but it is suggested that all pregnant women should go ahead and get the flu vaccine in the mean time so that you do not fall sick during the winter months according to Gill Walton, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).4 Pregnant women, especially if they are past 28 weeks, should still maintain social distancing and adhere to the shielding guidelines to keep safe.
From the 13th of May, all pregnant women will be able to book their vaccine through the national booking service once they receive an invitation. At your appointment you will be able to discuss the benefits and potential risks of having the vaccine in pregnancy so that you can make an informed decision about having it.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding?
If you are currently breastfeeding your child, you are eligible to receive the vaccine according to the updated guidelines. This still applies if you are considered high risk or not. Although there is still a lack of safety data for these vaccinations for breastfeeding women and breastfed infants, there are no known risks of giving breastfeeding women a non-live vaccine according to the RCOG.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) have stated that as the vaccine is non-live and does not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, there is no risk of passing it on to your infant through breastfeeding. In fact, the vaccine causes the mother’s immune system to develop antibodies that are then passed onto the infant via the breast milk.5
Be sure to speak to your doctor about your options with regards to the vaccine and breastfeeding.
Can I get the Covid-19 vaccine if I am TTC?
Whilst it was initially suggested for women to avoid the vaccine if they are trying to conceive or if the pregnancy would fall within the first three months post the first vaccine dose, the guidelines have now changed and it is recommended for women to go ahead and get the vaccination as soon as they are eligible so that they can stay safe throughout their pregnancy. There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccination affects fertility or your chances of getting pregnant.
What if I fall pregnant after my first vaccine dose?
According to the Public Health Guidelines in the UK, if you fall pregnant after your first dose of the vaccine, it is recommended to get the same vaccine for your second dose unless you had serious side effects.6
This new update should help to alleviate any fears and anxiety women may face if they did indeed conceive after the first vaccine dose according to Clare Murphey, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).7
Want a diluted version? Here are the main takeaways:
→ If you are pregnant, you are eligible to recieve the vaccine at the same time as your age or risk group. It is recommended to have the Pfzier or Moderna vaccines for your first dose.
→ If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended to receive the vaccine when it is available to you as it does not affect you or your breastfeeding infant.
→ If you are trying to conceive, it is fine to get both dosages of the vaccine as it will keep you safe throughout your pregnancy
→ If you happen to fall pregnant after your first vaccine dose, it is recommended to go ahead and receive the second dose as this will protect you later on in pregnancy. You should get the same vaccine that you had as your first unless you had serious side effects.