Are you a pregnant person who's feeling anxious about whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Today, our Ottawa radiologists break down the facts for you about pregnancy and coronavirus vaccination.
As COVID-19 vaccines become available, people who are pregnant or trying to conceive must decide whether to get it — a decision that may seem daunting in the face of so much evidence and information on social media and elsewhere.
Safety data for the vaccines is still coming in, but our team at Premier Imaging is here to help you make this important choice based on the pros and cons of each option and verifiable information that’s currently available.
Why Pregnant People Should Consider Getting Vaccinated
Getting vaccinated is one of the best methods we have of reducing the risk of severe illness as a result of COVID-19.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines reduce the risk of illness by 94 to 95% — extremely high when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of vaccines. To compare, the measles vaccine is 93% effective after one shot and 97% effective after two shots. Experts agree that whether you are pregnant or not should not influence the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that while the overall risk of severe illness is low, pregnant people are more likely to become severely ill with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people.
These risks include being admitted to an ICU, ventilation or illness resulting in death. The data regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy is limited but growing.
Miscarriage and pre-term delivery are two more potential complications of COVID-19. For these reasons, pregnant people are advised to use caution to avoid exposure: practice rigorous hand hygiene, avoid large crowds, wear a face mask in public, and practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from anyone you don’t live with).
Some vaccine studies have included pregnant animals. In these, no harm was seen in either the pregnant animal or her babies. In addition, a handful of people included in the initial COVID-19 vaccination studies who became pregnant did not experience adverse outcomes. More COVID-19 vaccine studies focusing on pregnant people are happening now.
Here are some common questions that have come up:
Can you or your baby get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are FDA-approved and do not contain the live virus. Therefore, they will not give you or your baby COVID-19. The vaccines cause our bodies to produce a single protein, which results in an immune response that prevents infection.
Does it matter which trimester I am in when I receive the vaccine?
No. You can get the vaccine at any time during your pregnancy.
Are there potential side effects to the vaccine for pregnant women?
Anyone who receives the COVID-19 vaccine can experience side effects — including muscle pain, fever, pain in the arm near the injection site, headache and chills. For pregnant people who experience a fever, their doctors may recommend they take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Symptoms should disappear after one or two days.
What are the experts’ recommendations for pregnant people regarding the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics and gynecology set national health care guidelines. Both recommend offering the COVID-19 vaccine to pregnant people.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding women may receive the vaccine, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. While clinical trials did not include breastfeeding people, there are no real concerns for these patients based on the information we have about other vaccines.
While we do not yet know if the vaccine is passed through breast milk, if it is, there is no known harm that would come to an infant in this manner. Lactating women are routinely given live viral vaccines such as rubella, mumps and measles, and there is no live virus in the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can the vaccine cause infertility?
While there is evidence that the illness itself may impact fertility, there is no reason to believe that the vaccine would contribute to infertility. When it comes to this question, the virus may put you at an increased risk for infertility vs. the vaccine.
Our radiology team at Premier Imaging offers many imaging services to people in every stage of pregnancy. Your doctor may refer you to us for diagnostic imaging tests such as an obstetrical ultrasound https://www.premierimaging.ca/site/obstetrical-ultrasound-ottawa or 3D ultrasound https://www.premierimaging.ca/site/3d-ultrasound-ottawa. We are happy to work with your medical team and answer any questions you may have about medical tests or their results.
What should I consider when deciding whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?
If you and your doctor are considering whether you should receive the vaccine, consider:
- Your risk of exposure to COVID-19
- Your risk of severe illness
- Known benefits of vaccination
- The limited but growing amount of evidence regarding the safety of vaccines during pregnancy
Our radiology team at Premier Imaging offers many imaging services to people in every stage of pregnancy. Your doctor may refer you to us for diagnostic imaging tests such as an obstetrical ultrasound or 3D ultrasound. We are happy to work with your medical team and answer any questions you may have about medical tests or their results.