Are the COVID-19 Vaccine and Bivalent Boosters Safe for Pregnant People?

by | Aug 30, 2021 | In the News

Updates from the CDC and ASRM on the COVID-19 bivalent boosters, pregnancy, and infertility. Updated 12/16/22 to include information on bivalent booster vaccinations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), among other professional medical societies, all recommend the COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or who might become pregnant in the future. Over two years of research demonstrates the vaccines’ safety and efficacy in preventing or lowering the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from contracting COVID-19.

The CDC and medical societies have updated their recommendations to include the latest bivalent booster shots. All people, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, are encouraged to receive a bivalent booster as soon as they qualify (typically six months after your most recent COVID-19 vaccine shot). Protection from the vaccines fades naturally over time. As we head into the winter months with a possible rise in COVID-19 spread, it’s important to stay protected, especially for people who are pregnant, trying to conceive, or who have infants at home.

We’ve answered some common questions about booster shots and pregnancy below, as well as general questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, pregnancy, and fertility. If you have other questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine, please let us know.

When should I get my booster shot?

The best time to get your booster shot is as soon as you are eligible. The vaccines and boosters have been shown to be safe for all trimesters of pregnancy. The sooner you get the booster, the sooner you are protected against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Can vaccines pass on immunity to my baby?

Current studies indicate that pregnant people can pass on antibodies to their baby, both in the uterus and through breast-feeding. This means receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters protects both you and your baby during the first few months of their life before they are able to be vaccinated themselves.

What kind of booster should I get?

It is safe to “mix and match” different types of COVID-19 vaccine once you have received both primary doses. In general, medical associations recommend receiving an mRNA vaccine as a booster dose, such as Moderna or Pfizer, rather than the Johnson & Johnson (J&J). However, if mRNA vaccines are unavailable, the J&J is safe to receive as a booster.

Can the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine harm my pregnancy?

No. Side effects of the vaccine are typically mild, and fever is rare. Ask your doctor for more information; typically, however, pregnant people can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) if they develop a fever.

How do we know the vaccine is safe for pregnant people?

First, we know how vaccines in general work, and how the COVID-19 vaccines specifically work, and there is no evidence to suggest that any part of the vaccines would affect pregnancy or the ability to become pregnant. When mRNA vaccines are injected in the arm, the mRNA works locally to make the coronavirus spike protein which results in the production of antibodies to the virus. The mRNA and spike protein are broken down in the arm and only the antibodies leave the arm to circulate and fight the virus, so neither the mRNA nor the spike protein can reach a fetus or affect the body as a whole.

Secondly, many people who have received the vaccine (including in the original trials) have successfully become pregnant and delivered their baby after receiving one or both doses, or have received the vaccine while pregnant without any complications or negative side effects. Because the vaccines have been administered to millions of people around the world, we now have lots of data showing no difference between the rates of successful pregnancies between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Are pregnant people more at risk from COVID-19?

Yes! Data from the CDC and medical publications have found that pregnant people are more likely to become severely ill from COVID-19 than non-pregnant people. Pregnant people also have a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19. Evidence also shows that getting COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to stillbirth or a preterm birth with serious long-term health effects on babies. The bottom line is: COVID-19 can seriously risk your and your baby’s health. The COVID-19 vaccine protects against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and is safe for you and your baby.

Can the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility?

No! None of the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility in any way, whether for people with eggs or sperm. Published studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines do not adversely affect embryo implantation or sperm counts. Miscarriage rates are not affected by the vaccine and, contrary to social media claims, the vaccine does not cause menstrual abnormalities. Plenty of people have successfully gotten pregnant and given birth to healthy babies after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

In its approval of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, the FDA specifically expressed concern that misinformation about the vaccine and infertility may cause people to avoid vaccination. In its FAQs, it states “after a person is vaccinated, their body produces copies of the spike protein, which does not cause disease, and triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against the virus. Contrary to false reports on social media, this protein is not the same as any involved in formation of the placenta.” The COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility or fetal development in any way.

Can I get vaccinated if I am currently going through fertility treatments?

Yes. In fact, if you haven’t gotten the vaccine, we recommend you get it as soon as possible! Our only recommendation is to not schedule your vaccine either three days before or after a fertility procedure such as an egg retrieval, embryo transfer, hysteroscopy or IUI. While the vaccine will not affect the success of these procedures, it is possible to get a fever or other symptoms after the vaccination, which can cause confusion if it occurs around your procedure, as we won’t know if the symptoms are from the shot, from your procedure, or from a new COVID-19 infection. As long as you schedule it outside of that 6 day window, we absolutely recommend you receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

When should I get vaccinated, if I am pregnant or trying to get pregnant?

The best time to get the COVID-19 vaccine is as soon as possible. The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner your immune system will be able to protect you against becoming severely ill, hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19, as well as protecting you and your baby from serious pregnancy complications related to COVID-19. If you are pregnant, have some acetaminophen (Tylenol) on hand to take if you experience any kind of fever after receiving the vaccine. As we mentioned in the previous question, try to avoid scheduling your vaccination three days before or after a clinical procedure; other than that, the best time to get the vaccine is now.

How do I get vaccinated?

If you live in the state of Washington, you can find available vaccine appointments here. All US residents can find available vaccine appointments here. You can also contact your healthcare provider for additional resources on getting the vaccine.

We understand that it can feel overwhelming to try to protect your health and the health of your future children. We hope these facts help relieve any concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, which have been proven to be safe, effective, and the most important tool in fighting against COVID-19. If you have any remaining questions or need help in getting vaccinated, please reach out to our team today.

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