This post is current as of December 16, 2021 and will be updated as new CDC recommendations are released.
This article was medically reviewed and authored by Dr. Lynn Westphal, the Chief Medical Officer and practicing OB/GYN at Kindbody.
With 2020 coming to a close, it seems like the world is one step closer to reopening and getting an answer on, “when the pandemic will end?” As vaccines begin to roll out across the world there is a sense of relief that the end of COVID-19 may be near — providing hope for the devastated lives around the world. However with the vaccine, questions are arising and it’s important to recognize that some individuals may not have access to the vaccine or should not get vaccinated.
Before we jump into the vaccine recommendations let’s review who is considered at risk and why that is the case. Recent studies indicate that symptomatic pregnant women may be at increased risk of severe illness and may have a higher chance of being admitted to the ICU. Similarly to the general population, pregnant individuals with other chronic illnesses and health factors –like obesity and diabetes–may be at even higher risk of the severe disease. This in turn can cause an increased probability of other pregnancy complications, such as preterm delivery (although this is not seen in all studies). However, transmission to the fetus appears to be uncommon.
What will be covered in this article
- If pregnant or lactating individuals can receive the COVID-19 vaccine
- Whether the COVID-19 vaccine can cause female sterilization or infertility
- What should pregnant individuals consider before getting vaccinated
If I’m pregnant or lactating can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Currently the available vaccines were not tested on pregnant women so there is limited data to provide a clear recommendation. Nonetheless, based on how these vaccines work, it is expected that the guardrails for pregnant women should be the same as non-pregnant individuals. Preliminary results from the Pfizer’s reproductive toxicity studies are expected by the end of the year, and will provide physicians and healthcare workers more data to base a recommendation. With COVID-19 cases increasing, it is important for all eligible people to have access to the vaccine. It’s only through widespread vaccination and continued measures in which we’ll be able to prevent the spread of the virus and end this pandemic.
Note, vaccination is being recommended to individuals trying to get pregnant or conceive. If an individual gets pregnant after the first dose of the vaccine, the second dose should be given as planned. These vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants and individuals who are breastfeeding do not need to stop if they receive the vaccine.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause female sterilization or infertility?
Let’s get into the science of the vaccine. The authorized vaccine in the US is called a mRNA vaccine (messenger RNA). This type of vaccine has been studied to combat other infectious diseases like the common flu, Zika, rabies, and more. What is special about the mRNA vaccine is that, unlike the majority of our traditional vaccines, it does not have a live virus. Instead, this type of vaccine triggers an immune response without exposing our body to COVID-19. So without a live virus the thought is that there will not be an increased risk of infertility, miscarriage, or birth defects. As data evolves so will the recommendations.
What should I consider before I get vaccinated?
When deciding about vaccination, there are many factors to take into consideration, such as the local transmission rate, personal risk of the disease, and risk to the fetus. Pregnant women may want to include their care team as they weigh the risks and benefits of vaccination. This is a personal choice and you should do whatever feels best in protecting yourself, your family, and the child you’re carrying. However, no matter what you decide, you should remain vigilant about protective measures such as hand washing, physical distancing, and wearing a face covering.
Things are changing rapidly, so it is important to stay updated on current recommendations. The CDC and Coronavirus.gov are comprehensive resources for accurate information.