COVID-19: Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?
On August 11, 2021, the CDC released new data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people and recommended all people 12 years and older, including pregnant people, get vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is important to remember that pregnant people are at increased risk for severe illness if they get COVID-19. This includes infection due to the Delta variant.
While pregnant women were excluded from initial COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, there is mounting scientific evidence that COVID-19 vaccines not only protect pregnant women and appear not to damage the placenta, they may also transfer benefits to infants. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 13, 2021 reported that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines produce robust immune responses in pregnant and lactating women. Pregnant women who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (mostly those in their third trimester) may also pass along protective antibodies to their fetuses through their bloodstream and infants through breast milk, according to the research. Separately, a study published May 11, 2021 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found no evidence that either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines damaged the placenta during pregnancy.
If you become pregnant after receiving your first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine that requires two doses (i.e., Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine), you should get your second shot so that you benefit from as much protection as possible. If you experience fever following vaccination, you should take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) because fever—for any reason—has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Pregnancy and the Johnson & Johnson (Janseen) Vaccine
According to the CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), pregnant or lactating people are eligible for and can receive any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. The Advisory Committee does not state a product preference. However, pregnant, lactating, and postpartum people younger than 50 years of age who choose to receive the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine should talk to their health care provider about:
- The rare but increased risk of Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) after receipt of this vaccine
- The availability of other FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines (i.e., mRNA vaccines) for which the risk of TTS has not been observed
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?
Yes, by all means. Based on how these vaccines work in the body, all COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are thought not to be a risk to lactating people or their breastfeeding babies. Therefore, lactating people can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause infection in anyone, including the mother or the baby, and the vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 in people who are breastfeeding. Recent reports have shown that breastfeeding people who have received COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have antibodies in their breastmilk, which could help protect their babies.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect women’s fertility?
Misinformation widely circulated on social media has implied that antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines could attack the placenta. This is false. The coronavirus spike protein that the COVID-19 vaccines target is completely different from the spike protein, syncytin-1 (a.k.a. enverin), associated with development of the placenta, despite what some social media posts suggest. The vaccines do not impede the protein syncytin-1and will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization. During Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women involved in the study became pregnant. The only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had received a placebo rather than the actual vaccine.