Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

pregnant woman and doctor with a syringe

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is here, many pregnant and breastfeeding women are wondering whether they should be vaccinated.

The vaccines authorized for use in the United States initially were tested for safety and efficacy through clinical trials involving adults of different ages, ethnicities and medical conditions — but not pregnant women. Subsequent studies with pregnant and breastfeeding women found the mRNA vaccines were safe and effective.

Laura Morris, MD
Laura Morris, MD

“Because the vaccines do not contain live virus, they should not affect the baby or the placenta,” said Laura Morris, MD, a family medicine doctor who practices maternity care at MU Health Care. “After antibodies form, these can help protect the newborn since they are too young to get their own vaccine.”

Protection for baby

Infants have a varied response to COVID-19. Some get sick with upper respiratory symptoms, while others get very ill. Some can be asymptomatic, meaning they have the virus but don't show symptoms.

A study confirmed that if a pregnant woman is vaccinated or breastfeeding and vaccinated, antibodies safely pass from the mom to her unborn child through the placenta or through breast milk. Having antibodies suggests that infants may have some natural immunity passed on to them by their mothers, helping reduce their risk of infection or severity of the virus.

What about side effects?

Some people will experience temporary side effects after being vaccinated, but those are caused by the immune system ramping up and are not a symptom of infection.

Pregnant women are likely to experience the same reactions or side effects that nonpregnant people are experiencing from the vaccine, such as fever, muscle aches or a headache. Pregnant women can use acetaminophen to treat fever. If any symptom is worrisome, it’s important to contact your doctor.

“Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice for pregnant and lactating people,” Morris said. “A pregnant person or breastfeeding mom who wants more information should talk to their prenatal care provider, but it’s not necessary to get a doctor’s approval to get the vaccine.”

Read more stories like this