Things to Consider if Your Pregnant or Breastfeeding and the Covid-19 Vaccine

With promising news of a COVID-19 vaccine around the corner, many are relieved. This is not the case for pregnant women who can have worsening outcomes if the contract the virus and little is known on the effect the vaccine can have to the growing baby. For breastfeeding moms, this too is a concern, as little is known if this can transmit to the baby through breastmilk.

Many clinical trials on the vaccine have excluded this patient population due to safety concerns. Over the years safety measures have been put in place due to the lack of research conducted on pregnant women which has resulted in terrible consequences, such as pregnant women taking thalidomide during pregnancy resulting in significant fetal anomalies and taking DES during pregnancy which has resulted in significant reproductive anomalies and cancers in the off spring of moms who took it during pregnancy.

This has created a dilemma for pregnant women. The lack of pregnant women in clinical trials has resulted in safety issues. To help address this research can done in several ways in addressing safety and pregnant women. For one, safety trials can be conducted. Unlike other randomized control studies that enroll large groups of people, this would allow a very small and willing group of pregnant women to receive the vaccine and be monitored. Safety trials are done on other patient populations where medications may be harmful, such as chemotherapies.

Another approach would be to start monitoring and collecting data on patients that get the vaccine and who are unknowingly pregnant and received the vaccine. Mass amounts of people will be getting the vaccine soon, and yet requirements will not be so strict to ensure that all women of childbearing age have a pregnancy test. Therefore, there will be women who may not feel or think they are pregnant and will subsequently learn they are pregnant. There needs to be a well established database for these cases so that these women and their growing baby can be monitored long-term to establish safety.

The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine has recently released a recommendation stating that pregnant women who work in “high risk areas” such as healthcare workers are advised to get the vaccine. The SMFM have an updated recommendation on their website for pregnant women getting the vaccine as evidence emerges.

For many people this is a big concern to get a vaccine in which little is known in what can happen to the fetus. For those that don’t want to get the vaccine and want to wait until after the pregnancy, they still enter into uncertainties, if they chose to breast feed.

If pregnant womenm especially those in the high risk groups do not get the vaccine, it really essential that they adhere to preventive measures. Below are some of the key strategies to prevent from getting COVID-19.

Prevention Measures

  • Wearing a mask in public
  • Stay home as much as possible, except for important medical appointments, and work from home if possible.
  • Talk to your doctor, obstetrician or midwife about the possibility of telephone or video conference appointments for some prenatal appointments.
  • Avoid visitors to your home.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Practice social and physical distancing from others.
  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene by coughing or sneezing into your bent elbow or sleeve to cover your mouth and nose.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Avoid touching frequently touched surfaces when in public.
  • Avoid crowded places and peak-hours. 
  • Make limited trips to the store for essentials, use delivery services is able.
  • Avoid contact with people who are known to be positive with COVID-19
  • Avoid places with high rates of COVID-19 in the community
  • Avoid travel by public transit and walk if safely able
  • Get the Flu vaccine if you haven’t for the season

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