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If you’re pregnant, get your COVID-19 vaccine

By Rachel Bell

COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out in limited supply. In Texas, if you’re pregnant, you are eligible to get your COVID-19 vaccination. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, you’re part of Phase 1B, which also includes people 65 and older and those with conditions that put you at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19. If you’re pregnant, there are many reasons to get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able.

“The benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine when you’re pregnant far outweigh any risks,” says Dr. Randall Robinson, an OB-GYN and fertility specialist and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University Health. “We’d rather see you vaccinated for COVID-19 than face the potential risks without it.”

Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy.

Do doctors recommend getting a COVID-19 vaccine while I’m pregnant?

Yes. Early on, doctors weren’t sure if pregnancy brought increased risks of COVID-19 complications. Now, more data has helped to inform the expert recommendation for pregnant patients to get vaccinated. For example, about one in three pregnant women who get COVID-19 will develop severe disease. If you get COVID-19, you’ll be three times more likely to need intensive care, and two to three times more likely to need a breathing tube, or ventilator. You’ll also have an increased risk of death compared to non-pregnant patients. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid the hospital, data suggests that you may have an increased risk of other complications including pre-term birth and stillbirth. These are all reasons why doctors recommend getting your COVID-19 vaccine if you can.

If I’m pregnant, is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which means they don’t contain a live virus. There’s a very small chance that the vaccines will even cross the placenta. Even though pregnant women were excluded from the trial to receive emergency use authorization, 23 women were unknowingly pregnant when they participated in vaccine trials. There was no difference in the outcome of their pregnancies. Also, doctors emphasize that similar vaccines are recommended and given safely during pregnancy all the time.

“We recommend lots of vaccines during pregnancy, as long as they’re not live vaccines,” says Dr. Robinson. “We’ve been doing that safely for years, because again, the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine even if I have a high-risk pregnancy?

Yes. In fact, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, you have even more reasons to get your COVID-19 vaccine. Complicated pregnancies include women who are older, have a body mass index (BMI) over 35, or have other conditions like diabetes or heart disease. These factors can not only complicate your pregnancy, but they also are among the underlying factors that often lead to more serious complications with COVID-19. Also, women of color have vastly higher risk of severe disease or dying from COVID-19. These are all even more compelling reasons to get your COVID-19 vaccine if you’re pregnant and fit these descriptions.

Will getting a COVID-19 vaccine affect my ability to get pregnant in the future?

No. Again, because these are not live vaccines, they should not affect your future fertility. That goes for both you and your partner. Also, if you’re planning a pregnancy, once COVID-19 vaccines become more widespread, medical experts want you to get one when you can. There’s nothing to suggest a COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility or affects your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.

Is there any reason why I should not get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?

The only contra-indication, or reason why a COVID-19 vaccine may not be recommended for you, is if you’ve had a bad reaction to another vaccine somewhere in your medical history. Check with your health care provider so you can discuss your individual circumstances and make the best decision for you.

Is there a point in my pregnancy after which I shouldn’t get my COVID-19 vaccine?

No. You can get your COVID-19 vaccine at any time. Doctors recommend completing your doses before your due date.

What side effects will I have after getting my COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?

You should expect the same adverse events, or side effects, that anybody has after getting a vaccine, whether you’re pregnant or not. You may experience some soreness in your arm, redness or swelling at point of injection. Also, it seems that more patients have more reactions after getting the second injection. For example, a low-grade fever is more likely after your second shot. That’s your immune system reacting, which is a good thing.

Do I need a note from my OBGYN to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

No. If you’re pregnant, you don’t need special paperwork or permission from your provider to get a COVID-19 vaccine. You may sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if you are able. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to talk with your OBGYN doctor or primary care provider.

How can I get my COVID-19 vaccine?

If you’re pregnant, see your OBGYN doctor or primary care doctor for the latest guidance on how to access your COVID-19 vaccine. You can also sign up when opportunities are available in the community.

“We’ve been leading a lot of this discussion, and have been involved in getting information out to people as well as taking care of patients with COVID-19. We care for pregnant patients all the time who come into labor and delivery and test positive for COVID-19,” says Dr. Robinson. “We see unfortunately sometimes the very negative effects and how severely it can affect women, so we’d rather see you vaccinated than take that risk.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more details about COVID-19 vaccination considerations for people who are pregnant.

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