Recent studies published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology show that pregnant women or recently pregnant women have a 70% increased risk for getting the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) infection. This fact can be attributed to the changes the body and immune system of pregnant women undergo, predisposing them to respiratory infections- link.
The research team led by Erica M. Lokken, Ph.D., MS, and Kristina M. Adams Waldorf, MD from the University of Washington identified 240 women who tested positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests from March 1 to June 30, 2020. This came out to a rate of 13.9 cases for every 1,000 deliveries. Comparing this to the 7.3 per 1,000 rates among all 20 to 39-year-old adults in Washington State meant that those pregnant were 70% more likely to have been infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. Excluding the 45 cases of patients who didn’t have any symptoms when they screened for SARS-CoV2 dropped the rate to 11.3 Covid-19 coronavirus cases per thousand deliveries. That’s still 30% higher than the rate for 20 to 39-year-old adults in general.
CDC points out that there are limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant. More data will have to be collected from clinical trials and additional studies, to conclude on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, administered during pregnancy:
- Limited data are currently available from animal developmental and reproductive toxicity studies. No safety concerns were demonstrated in rats that received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy; studies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are ongoing.
- Researchers have studies planned in people who are pregnant.
- Both vaccine manufacturers are monitoring people in the clinical trials who became pregnant.
CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have safety monitoring systems in place to capture information about vaccination during pregnancy and will closely monitor reports.
mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and, therefore, cannot give someone COVID-19. Additionally, mRNA vaccines do not interact with a person’s DNA because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell. Cells break down the mRNA quickly. Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.
Vaccine Side Effects
Side effects can occur after receiving either of the two available COVID-19 vaccines, especially after the second dose. These side effects are not expected to be any different for pregnant people than for non-pregnant people. Pregnant people who experience fever following vaccination may be counseled to take acetaminophen because fever has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Acetaminophen may be offered as an option for pregnant women experiencing other post-vaccination symptoms as well.
Some people have experienced allergic reactions after receipt of the vaccine. CDC recommends that all vaccine recipients, including pregnant people, should talk with their healthcare provider if they have a history of a severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any other vaccine or injectable therapy (e.g., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous). Key considerations to inform these discussions include the unknown risks of developing a severe allergic reaction and the benefits of vaccination.
Getting vaccinated is a personal choice for people who are pregnant
In conclusion, pregnant patients who decide to get vaccinated should continue to follow the current guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after they are vaccinated. That means:
- Wearing a mask
- Staying at least six feet away from others
- Avoiding crowds
- Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Following quarantine guidance after exposure to COVID-19
- Following any applicable workplace guidance
Author: Tafadzwa K Munzwa