The Critical Importance of Vaccinations for Moms-to-be

Amid the COVID -19 pandemic, there has been confusion about vaccines, particularly for pregnant women. Paul Mikel, MD, a Board Certified Obstetrician with Eisenhower Family Birth Center, sets the record straight based on the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Healthy Living: Why is getting vaccinated against the coronavirus so vital for pregnant women?
Dr. Mikel: One of the biggest reasons is that pregnant women are at significantly higher risk of complications from COVID-19 compared to women the same age who aren’t pregnant. These complications include hospitalization, admittance to the intensive care unit and having to be ventilated. And they’re at higher risk of death from the virus.

Among pregnant women who contract COVID -19 we’ve also seen complications that aren’t widely reported, including a higher rate of preterm births, more hypertension (high blood pressure) issues, and an increase in stillbirths.

It’s a fact that getting vaccinated has been shown to decrease the risk of all these complications.

Healthy Living: Is it true that getting vaccinated protects the baby as well as the mother-to-be?
Dr. Mikel: Absolutely. Babies of mothers who are vaccinated against COVID -19 are born with coronavirus antibodies. In fact, most vaccines confer this protection, enabling newborns to enter the world with partial immunity against an array of viruses. And this immunity is further enhanced if the mother breastfeeds once her baby is born.

Healthy Living: Are all the COVID -19 vaccines currently available — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — safe for pregnant women?
Dr. Mikel: We believe that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have proven to be very safe in pregnant women. We are less certain about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as there has been a slightly higher rate of blood-clotting issues in reproductive-aged women who get this vaccine. We urge women to talk to their doctors about this.

Healthy Living: Is it also safe for lactating (breastfeeding) moms to get the vaccine?
Dr. Mikel: Yes. In fact, a mother’s risk for complications from COVID -19 is elevated for several months following delivery, so she should get the vaccine when lactating if she hasn’t already done so.

Healthy Living: Any other advice about vaccines and pregnant women?
Dr. Mikel: We encourage pregnant women to also get a flu shot. While we don’t know how significant flu season is going to be from year to year, we do know from years of experience that pregnant women have a higher rate of complications from seasonal flu and a higher rate of death. And we know that the flu shot is safe and effective at lowering the risk of severe complications.

Bottom line, we absolutely recommend that pregnant women get the vaccines for both COVID -19 and seasonal flu. And we recommend that all women (and men and children!) continue to wear masks, and practice good hand hygiene and social distancing — all measures known to reduce the risk of getting and/or spreading these viruses.