Pregnancy and COVID-19: What you need to know
With pregnancy comes joy and excited anticipation for women and their families, but the current pandemic raises concerns about whether you and your baby may be at risk.
By taking some extra precautions and of course following you doctor’s advice about how to protect yourself and your baby, you should be able to enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Avoiding the Coronavirus during pregnancy
Since pregnancy can cause changes in a woman’s immune system that may make them more susceptible to contracting respiratory viruses, it’s vital that you are proactive in observing safety practices to protect yourself and your baby.
Follow all guidelines including maintaining physical distancing, wearing a mask, frequent hand washing and of course staying in close communication with your practitioner.
Some practitioners are scheduling less frequent appointments to limit the patient’s in-person office visits, and some obstetricians are offering telemedicine appointments so they can continue to monitor pregnant patients without an in-person visit. Speak with your practitioner to learn whether they are offering these options.
Should you get a coronavirus test?
If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or believe you may have been exposed to an infected person, call your doctor and follow his or her advice about whether you should get tested for the coronavirus. And make sure you’re being careful to observe all precautions, including staying at least 6 feet away from others, wear a mask, and avoid all large gatherings as well as indoor socializing outside of your household’s members.
Ideally all pregnant women should be screened for COVID-19 when they are admitted to deliver their babies, especially if they have a cough, fever or other respiratory symptoms.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine, and is it safe to get it while I’m pregnant?
The COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by the FDA should not be withheld from pregnant women who chose to receive the vaccine, but it is strongly recommended that women speak with their doctor to discuss all factors related to the vaccine and their pregnancy.
Pregnant women who contract COVID-19 and are symptomatic are at higher risk for severe illness, complications and death than women who aren’t pregnant. And many pregnant women have other medical conditions that may put them at increased risk for contracting the virus.
Another consideration about whether to get vaccinated while pregnant is the level of activity or prevalence of the virus in your community. If you are located in an area with a high rate of infection it could be more important to get your vaccine. Consult with your practitioner.
To date no study has specifically evaluated the vaccine in pregnant and lactating women, although a few pregnant women were inadvertently enrolled in vaccine trials. Preliminary developmental and reproductive toxicity studies do not indicate any adverse effects on reproduction or fetal development.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states they do not have any reason to believe that there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women. Pregnant women at high risk of exposure, such as health workers, or those who have comorbidities that add to their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) have issued a joint statement on the WHO recommendations:
A conversation between the patient and her clinical team is recommended to assist with decisions regarding the use of vaccines.
What about if I’m nursing my baby?
Based upon available data, it appears safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you are nursing a baby. Although the vaccines have not been studied in nursing mothers, lactating women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines do not contain live virus, so being vaccinated does not pose a risk to the baby. If you are vaccinated for the coronavirus, there is no need to delay or discontinue breastfeeding.
Can the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Fertility?
No, getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect your fertility. Women who are trying to conceive may be vaccinated with the currently available vaccines. There is no reason to delay pregnancy after completing the vaccine series.
Pregnancy and the Flu – Get Vaccinated!
Lastly, pregnant women should be vaccinated against influenza (the flu), because pregnant women who contract the flu can get very sick – and having a high fever raises the risk of harm to your baby.