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People who are pregnant are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.Kemal Yildirim/Getty Images
  • Pregnant people will need to decide whether they should get the shot and protect themselves against a potentially life-threatening disease, or hold off until more data is available.
  • Pregnant people who contract the coronavirus face a higher chance of being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), receiving mechanical ventilation, or dying.
  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are thought to be safe for pregnant people.

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out, pregnant people must look at their own medical histories and risk factors to determine if they feel ready to get the shot.

The vaccines weren’t studied in people who were pregnant during clinical trials, leaving little safety data to work with.

If you are pregnant, you will need to decide whether getting the shot is the right call for you.

Though the overall risk of severe COVID-19 is low, pregnant people who contract the coronavirus face a higher chance of being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), receiving mechanical ventilation, or dying.

Of the 4.2 million Americans who already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, there have been many pregnant healthcare workers who felt their personal risks of contracting COVID-19 outweighed any potential risks of the shot, which is widely thought to be safe in pregnant people.

“Between the two choices of being vaccinated vs. getting COVID, women must make a choice that fits into their own values and the setting in which they work and live,” said Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, an OB-GYN and senior medical director with Babyscripts.

Pregnant people have an increased risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19 and are more likely to develop severe illness, need to be hospitalized, be in the ICU, or die. They may also have an increased risk of preterm birth.

Pregnant people were not included in the vaccine trials, so there is limited data on how people who are pregnant respond to the COVID-19 vaccines.

That said, messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are thought to be safe for pregnant people.

According to Dr. Henry Bernstein, a pediatrician at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center and a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) committee, mRNA vaccines are quickly broken down and degraded in the body.

They are not live vaccines, don’t enter the nucleus of our cells, and do not alter our DNA.

The vaccine is also unlikely to reach and cross the placenta, according to Dr. Christian Pettker, a high-risk pregnancy specialist at Yale Medicine and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

“Based on current knowledge, experts believe that mRNA vaccines will not pose a risk for people who are pregnant,” said Pettker.

Some people report mild side effects after receiving the vaccine, such as fatigue and a mild fever.

These side effects simply indicate the immune system is working, and are not a sign of something more serious.

Pregnant people who experience a mild fever after the shot may consider taking acetaminophen.

“You may have a sore arm or feel a little ‘flu-like’ — or even run a temperature. This is totally OK and you can take acetaminophen and rest until these side effects wear off in a couple of days,” said Demosthenes.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says the vaccine should not be withheld from people who are lactating or pregnant.

ACOG also states the vaccine is not believed to cause infertility, miscarriage, newborn harm, or harm to pregnant people, Demosthenes added.

“Women trying to conceive should feel comfortable with their decision to get the vaccine and if they should conceive, they should receive their second dose at 3 weeks,” said Demosthenes.

Ultimately, choosing whether or not to get the vaccine will be a personal decision for each pregnant person.

“Women are going to have to think about what is the level of community transmission where they live, what is their personal risk of exposure in contracting the disease themselves,” Bernstein said.

It’s also crucial to consider other underlying health conditions — like obesity, diabetes, or lung disease — that may increase their risk of severe COVID-19, Pettker noted.

“This is not a simple discussion or recommendation. It should be a personal discussion that involved a shared decision-making approach,” Pettker said.

Bernstein says the best thing to do is have a conversation with their obstetrician if they’re thinking about getting the shot.

“They should write down the questions or concerns that they have so that they hopefully can be addressed during the conversation with their obstetrician,” Bernstein said.

With limited safety data available on how pregnant people react to the COVID-19 vaccine, anyone who is pregnant will need to weigh the risks and benefits and decide whether they feel comfortable getting the shot.

The COVID-19 vaccines, which use a technology called messenger RNA (mRNA), are thought to be safe in pregnant and lactating people.

Those who are pregnant and considering getting the vaccine should talk to their doctor about what’s best for them.