OBGYN Answers Questions Surrounding Pregnancy And The COVID-19 Vaccine
The World Health Organization says they don’t have any reason to believe there are specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of pregnant women getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although pregnant women were not included in the vaccine trials, more than 15,000 pregnant women in the U.S. have received the vaccine — with no evidence of complications, according to Dr. Sheldon Wasserman. He’s an OBGYN with the Ascencion medical group and the former chair of the Wisconsin section of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOB).
The ACOB recommends pregnant women should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Women who are pregnant will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting March 22 in Wisconsin.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine currently authorized by the FDA for pregnant women?
“Yes, it is. It was authorized on an emergency basis because of the pandemic and the need for it. ... And it's supported by the evidence we have based on the disease and what COVID can do to pregnant women,” Wasserman says.
If pregnant women contract COVID-19, are they at greater risk for developing a more severe COVID-19 illness?
“They are at increased risk for hospitalizations for ICU admissions, they're placed on the [ventilator] at higher rates, they've had issues with increasing blood pressure and premature births, it is very serious,” he says. “Specifically, the ICU admission for pregnant women is three times that higher than that of the same age person who's not pregnant.”
Have there been any studies on the COVID-19 vaccine on pregnant and lactating women?
“As of the end of January, they have 15,000 pregnant women who've been vaccinated already. And none have showed complications at all,” he says. “Now they're specifically vaccinating pregnant women and looking for complications both for the pregnant women themselves, and also issues of for the baby, for the fetus — and that's an ongoing study. But so far, things are showing it to be very safe and effective.”
When it comes to vaccine studies in general, when is there enough data collected to perform a study? Have other vaccines been studied on pregnant women as standard procedure?
Wasserman says this issue is complicated by the fact that historically the medical field had advocated that vaccines never be administered during pregnancy. But in the last five to ten years, as new data has come in and new studies show the benefits of getting vaccines during pregnancy, there has been a strong push to do more research on which vaccines should be administered and which shouldn’t.
“The issue of vaccines and pregnancy is really, it's coming from a historical place of have absolutely not — to the current day, yes we have to vaccinate and yes, we can prevent serious disease. And at the same time, let's acquire data to protect the baby as well as the mother,” he says.
If a pregnant woman does decide to get vaccinated, what are the recommendations for first, second and third trimester?
“The current recommendation is to use a vaccine at any trimester to prevent that overall disease process. And once again, we're not seeing any problems at all we're not seeing in the 15,000 women who just had it and in this current ongoing study, nothing has been shown to be a problem for the babies or the mothers at this time,” Wasserman says.
What about younger women who are pregnant versus geriatric pregnancies?
“I think in a situation like that, you know, once again, age becomes a factor more than the pregnancy,” he says. “I think every single pregnant woman I have right now is asking that question in some way. She is worried and she is concerned, when this pandemic has so affected everybody but for pregnant women, it's really isolated them.”
Can women who are breastfeeding get the COVID-19 vaccine?
“They can receive it also. So, pregnancy and lactating women are really we're putting them in the same category, it's shown be safe and effective,” he says.
What about concerns for people who are trying to get pregnant? Do vaccines affect fertility?
“I've heard, 'Can vaccines cause infertility? Are you never going to be able to have a child because you received a vaccine?' There's absolutely no evidence of this. There's no absolute theoretical evidence on this. These are absolute falsehoods, and it's really very sad and it scares people. You know, 12% of our population has infertility issues. And for the 12% of couples who have that issue, it is deep, it is personal, it's a sense of, of loss that the other 88% of our society really doesn't get,” Wasserman says.
Overall, consulting your physician who is up to date about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy is the first and crucial step before making a decision.
"We translate that information into practice ... but things do change," notes Wasserman. "If a week later you still have more questions, I would suggest you call back your doctor ... because we are get some developments daily and with some aspects a week can make a world of difference. So seek more information."