The questions on every expectant mother’s lips
While the rest of the world is making plans for the second they get the COVID-19 vaccine (a flight to Mexico and margaritas on the beach for us, please), pregnant women and new moms are being bombarded with information about vaccines and giving birth.
Everyone’s asking similar questions right now, and they’re all based on keeping yourself and your child safe while the world is a little weird. The best thing you can do is try and understand the science behind the decisions and advice.
Are there any real reasons women should avoid, delay or refuse any of the COVID-19 vaccines due to pregnancy or breastfeeding? As agreed by the USA, UK gov, CDC, and WHO, the answer is no. You should go ahead and have the COVID-19 vaccine and any boosters that are available.
What transfers to your child in your breast milk?
If you’re offered the COVID-19 vaccine while you’re breastfeeding, you can safely accept it according to advice from WHO and CDC. The only two vaccines that breastfeeding women can’t safely receive are the yellow fever vaccine and the smallpox vaccine.
And some more good news – your baby is likely to receive your antibodies through breastfeeding. This pretty much confirms what we’ve always known – breastfeeding is a superpower!
Though, it’s worth noting that vaccinations are poorly bio-available, so the levels that reach your breastmilk are minimal. This means it’s not the vaccine they’d receive but the antibodies you create in response to it. So, your baby gets the benefit but not the vaccine itself. Still with us? OK, good.
What transfers through the placenta?
So for breastfeeding mamas, the COVID-19 vaccine is A-OK. But what about pregnant women? Some vaccines, especially ‘live’ vaccines, should not be given to pregnant women because they can be harmful to the baby.
At this point, we know these vaccines aren’t appropriate for pregnant women:
Certain travel vaccines: yellow fever, typhoid fever, and Japanese encephalitis
OK, but what does this mean for the COVID-19 vaccine?
We'll keep it simple: it's safe to have the COVID-19 vaccine when you're pregnant. According to the NHS it's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine because they've been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and haven't caused any safety issues.
The early COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain organisms that can multiply in the body, so they can’t infect an unborn baby in the womb, and all the data collected so far in the trials haven’t raised any risks.
Pregnant women are actively encouraged to take up the vaccine because they're more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with people who aren't pregnant. So there you have it. Getting dosed up with a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you from a severe illness.
Right, let’s wrap up. Breastfeeding women and pregnant women can be routinely vaccinated.
Meanwhile, you can stay informed by checking trusted health websites, such as those mentioned above, and talking with your healthcare providers.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.