COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

Published: December 15, 2021
Revised: February 16, 2023
By Sahid M Sahid, RPh., 2022 PharmD Candidate
Gina Luchen
By Georgia G. Luchen, PharmD

If you are pregnant or were recently pregnant, you are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 compared to people who are not pregnant. There are many things you can do to stay healthy during and after your pregnancy. Your pharmacist is an excellent resource for answering questions about COVID-19 vaccination.

Why does pregnancy increase my risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19?
Women who are pregnant or have recently been pregnant have a higher risk of developing more severe illness compared to people who are not pregnant.  They may have more symptoms, may be sick for longer, may be more likely to need hospitalization, and may require intensive care or a ventilator to help them breathe. Another risk of COVID-19 during pregnancy could be preterm birth, which means delivering your baby earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy.

These risks may be even higher for pregnant or recently pregnant people who are older, overweight, or have pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or other health conditions.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant, or might become pregnant in the future.

Should I get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?
Yes, a bivalent booster dose is recommended by ACOG for all people after they receive an initial vaccine series or previous booster doses. The bivalent booster (Pfizer or Moderna) protects against the original and new versions of the Omicron variant. The booster dose should be given at least 2 months since your last COVID-19 vaccine. They recommend that pregnant or recently pregnant people can get any available vaccine as a booster – it does not need to match the product received in the initial series.

How will the COVID-19 vaccines protect my baby or me if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Vaccines help our bodies build antibodies against COVID-19. The antibodies help reduce the risk of getting the virus or passing it on to others. They also help your body fight off the infection faster and with fewer symptoms than people who are not vaccinated.

When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the antibodies your body produces may pass on to the baby and help protect them from COVID-19.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine make me or my baby sick if I get it while pregnant or breastfeeding?
The COVID-19 vaccines do not have live virus to make you sick with COVID-19. Once you receive the COVID-19 vaccine you may have some redness, swelling, or pain in the arm that the vaccine was injected. You might also have some mild flu-like symptoms like headache or fever for 1 to 2 days after getting the vaccine. ACOG guidelines recommend you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to control the fever and muscle pain. Acetaminophen has been found to be safe when used during pregnancy and does not appear to affect your body’s response to the vaccine.

These symptoms do not mean that you have COVID-19 and you will not pass COVID-19 on to your baby. These symptoms are simply your body’s way of reacting to the vaccine to create antibodies.

Serious side effects from the vaccine are very rare. Studies have found that the risks of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are far less than the risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19.

How can I protect myself against COVID-19 when I am pregnant? 
If you are pregnant, there are many things you can do to protect yourself from getting COVID-19: 

  • Get your COVID-19 vaccine and updated bivalent booster shots
  • Avoid crowded spaces, particularly those indoors
  • Wear a mask 
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub 

Pregnant or recently pregnant people are more likely to become seriously ill if they are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The best way to prevent COVID-19 infection is to get vaccinated. Vaccination has been shown to be safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Your pharmacist can answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines and the timing of each injection while pregnant or breastfeeding. In many areas, your pharmacist can administer COVID-19 vaccines.

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