Aug 05, 2021 12:00 PM

Kylene Metzger

Damaging misinformation about COVID-19 is preventing people from getting vaccinated and ultimately helping stop transmission of the virus. While much of this information is spreading on social media and through misleading groups or untrustworthy websites, experts at University of Utah Health urge patients to get COVID-19 information from trustworthy sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their health care provider.

Erin Clark, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at U of U Health, and Torri Metz, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist, and vice chair of Research of Obstetrics and Gynecology at U of U Health, provides information surrounding pregnancy, COVID-19, and vaccines.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines are not safe for pregnant women.

FACT: While the first COVID-19 vaccine trials did not include pregnant women, available data shows vaccination during pregnancy has been safe and effective among the more than 139,00 women who have received a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. These data have been collected from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and from the V-Safe COVID-19 vaccine pregnancy registry. Safety data show no concerns for vaccinated pregnant or breastfeeding women and their babies.

These data support that COVID-19 vaccination is as safe and effective for pregnant and lactating women as it is for non-pregnant individuals. To date, there has been no connection to any increased risk of complications after getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. Clark and Metz agree that the risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy is much higher than any risk associated with COVID-19 vaccination. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines cross the placenta.

FACT: COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding provides protection for both mother and baby. When a vaccine is administered, it works in the muscle where the vaccine is given—It does not cross to the baby directly. The body then recognizes the vaccine and generates a response in the form of antibodies. These antibodies then cross the placenta via the bloodstream to the baby or enter the breast and are passed on to baby through breastmilk.

This process is not unique to COVID-19 vaccines. Influenza and pertussis (whooping cough) are recommended vaccines during pregnancy. Vaccination during pregnancy has been found to be very effective for protecting newborns from these diseases.

MYTH: Breastfeeding women should wait to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

FACT: Breastfeeding women can get a COVID-19 vaccine and still breastfeed if they have already been vaccinated. According to research about vaccination during pregnancy, protective antibodies stimulated by the vaccine can be passed through breastmilk and help protect a baby from harmful viruses.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.

FACT: There are no data to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines negatively affect fertility or a woman’s ability to conceive after getting vaccinated. Some misinformation claims pregnant women who receive a COVID-19 vaccine reject a protein that is vital for the placenta, which can reportedly make a woman infertile. This has been disproven. According to published research, vaccines are not likely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. To date, no vaccine is known to cause fertility issues.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines can change a woman’s menstrual cycle.

FACT: There have been anecdotal reports that COVID-19 vaccines affect the menstrual cycle. Menstrual cycles can be affected by a variety of things, including stress, which many have experienced over the past year. It’s not known at this time whether people are seeing changes in their menstrual cycles in relation to the vaccine or other factors such as COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health has shown interest in studying these reports. At this point, no causal link between vaccination and irregular menses has been established.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccination should be avoided in the first trimester.

FACT: COVID-19 vaccination is safe any time during pregnancy.

MYTH: Women should wait to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they want to get pregnant.

FACT: COVID-19 vaccination dramatically decreases the chance of infection and reduces risk of severe illness, ultimately protecting both mothers and their babies. On the other hand, getting COVID-19 can be a significant risk to a pregnant woman’s health. Pregnant people are at increased risk of severe illness compared to non-pregnant people. They are more likely to be hospitalized, require intensive care, or die from COVID-19. If they become seriously ill, they are also at increased risk of preterm birth and pregnancy loss.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines can make pregnant women sick.

FACT: Pregnant women have not reported different side effects from non-pregnant individuals after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, side effects from vaccination are normal signs that a person’s body is building protection and should go away within a few days.

During pregnancy, women are more vulnerable to infections and viruses due to changes to their immune system. They tend to get sicker than people who are not pregnant. This is the case for influenza and also COVID-19. According to research conducted by U of U Health, pregnant women with severe COVID-19 are at higher risk for pregnancy complications like preterm birth, cesarean delivery, and high blood pressure in pregnancy. These findings highlight the importance of vaccination in pregnant women and those who are planning pregnancy.

MYTH: mRNA technology is new and cannot be trusted by pregnant women.

While COVID-19 vaccines are relatively new, the technology behind them has been around for many years. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines are held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the U.S. These vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19 and they do not affect or interact with your own DNA in any way.

mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines, which are the only vaccines that are generally avoided during pregnancy.

Questions about COVID-19?

If you are pregnant and have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, talk to your health care provider or contact MotherToBaby. MotherToBaby experts are available in English or Spanish by phone, text, or chat.

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