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For the latest COVID-19 information, visit vcuhealth.org/covid-19 or Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for pediatrics. For vaccine details, visit vcuhealth.org/covidvaccine.

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COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy: Should I get the vaccine?

Pregnant woman getting COVID-19 shot Photo: Getty Images

As the number of COVID-19 cases goes up and the vaccine rolls out across Virginia, pregnant patients are wondering if they should get the vaccine. We asked our VCU Health experts to share the latest information to help you decide.

I’m pregnant. Should I get the vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say the vaccine should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet the criteria for vaccination. VCU Health believes in the recommendations provided by the CDC and ACOG.

At this time, the vaccines have not been tested in pregnant women. But we do know that the vaccines offer tremendous protection against COVID-19 among those tested. Given what we know about how the vaccines work leads us to believe that they are likely to be safe in pregnancy. Other factors, like whether you have any medical problems that increase your risk of getting severe illness from COVID-19, should be part of your decision. We encourage you to speak with your OB-GYN, midwife or nurse practitioner if you are having trouble deciding.

In Virginia, if you’re pregnant, you likely fall in tier 1b or higher, under “patients aged 16-64 years with a high-risk medical condition or disability that increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”

Is the vaccine safe during pregnancy?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 studies did not include anyone who was pregnant, so we have limited data about the safety of the vaccines during pregnancy. We do have extensive experience with other vaccines during pregnancy, such as the flu and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough) vaccines. These vaccines are safe during pregnancy and are recommended for prenatal care. 

What do we know about COVID-19 during pregnancy?

COVID patients who are pregnant are more likely than COVID patients who aren’t pregnant to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19. You’re more likely be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), be placed on a ventilator or have other complications. Pregnant COVID patients with other risk factors, such as obesity or diabetes, are at extra risk. Severe illness is generally uncommon during pregnancy.

Will the vaccine change my DNA? Or my baby’s DNA?

No. The virus cannot alter DNA or cause any genetic changes. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which is thought to be safe for pregnant patients.

Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. The vaccine doesn’t contain the virus that causes COVID-19, so you can’t get it from the vaccine. Many non-live virus vaccines, like the flu and tetanus vaccines, are routinely given during pregnancy and are safe.

Will the vaccine cause infertility or miscarriage, or harm my fetus in any way?

No. ACOG does not believe the vaccine will cause infertility, miscarriage or harm to your fetus. However, this is still being studied.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Many patients report mild to moderate symptoms. The most common side effect is a sore arm, where you got your shot. You may also experience fatigue, headache, muscle pain or a mild fever.

The CDC recommends that pregnant patients who experience mild fever after the shot consider taking acetaminophen, which may be safer than other drugs for you and your fetus. If you have side effects, they usually last no more than a few days.

As for severe allergic reactions, these are rare. You may be asked to stay about 15 minutes after your vaccination to watch for severe allergic reactions.

Should I delay getting pregnant until I get both doses of the vaccine?

Don’t delay. If you get the first dose of the vaccine and later find out you’re pregnant, it’s recommended that you still receive the second dose.

Can I get the vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?

While the vaccine wasn’t tested among breastfeeding women, it’s believed to be safe. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine reports that there is no reason to believe the vaccine affects the safety of breastmilk. Because the vaccine doesn’t contain the virus, there appears to be no risk of infecting your baby.

After I get the vaccine, do I have to wear a face mask or practice social distancing?

While the vaccines prevent about 95% of COVID-19 infections, it takes a few weeks for the protection to be fully effective. After vaccination, you may not get sick from COVID-19, but you might still be able to spread it. Keep up with the practices currently in place to protect against COVID-19 – handwashing, social distancing and wearing a face mask.

Whether you get the COVID-19 vaccine during your pregnancy is your choice. We are happy to advise you. Please reach out to your OB-GYN, midwife or nurse practitioner for more information as it relates to your situation.

For more information

For more news and information on COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 news center. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit our COVID-19 vaccine page and sign up for vaccine email updates.

For more information on pregnancy during COVID-19, please view this webinar with one of our obstetric experts, a Q/A with our obstetrics experts and Carly’s story.