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COVID vaccine in pregnancy

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Pregnancy can be a minefield of new health concerns – eating the right foods, avoiding the wrong ones, taking essential supplements, keeping up with health checks. You want the best for you and your baby and the COVID-19 pandemic has added a whole new heap of stress to your journey through pregnancy.

The vaccine is one such consideration. Whether you have not been vaccinated yet, have received only one dose, or are due for the booster dose, there’s conflicting information out there and it can be tough to work out what’s best.

The doctors here at Healthwords follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in advising you that getting fully vaccinated offers the best protection for you and your baby. Real-world data suggests that pregnant women that are unvaccinated are significantly more likely to end up seriously unwell or needing hospital care than those who are vaccinated. Your baby may also risk being born prematurely if you contract COVID-19.

When should I get vaccinated in pregnancy?

The highest risk is later in pregnancy, so it’s best to get vaccinated as soon as you can. The vaccines are safe to take at any stage of your pregnancy, and it’s never too late to book your shot, if you weren’t sure initially.

You can book your first dose as early as possible and have your second dose 8 to 12 weeks afterwards. Your booster is due 12 weeks or more after your second shot. There’s no benefit to waiting until after your baby is born, and it puts you at greater risk.

You may get similar mild symptoms to anyone else receiving the vaccine – a bit like mild flu for some – but these only last 1 to 3 days and you can take acetaminophen for any fever, headache or muscle aches. The vaccine is considered safe and there is no evidence from hundreds of thousands of women worldwide that it causes miscarriage or changes to your fertility.

Can I catch COVID from the vaccine?

COVID vaccine is not a live vaccine, therefore it is not possible to cause COVID in anyone who takes the vaccine.

If you do catch COVID from others, you can still be vaccinated. It’s the same rules as for everyone else: wait at least 28 days since you first observed symptoms or you first tested positive.

It’s worth considering that vaccines are well-established and safe in pregnancy: the pertussis vaccine booster is recommended in pregnancy to protect your baby against whooping cough, and the flu vaccine is also recommended as you are considered at higher risk of complications in pregnancy from influenza, another respiratory virus.

Which vaccine will I get in pregnancy?

Pregnant women are offered the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines for their first dose, and should stick with the same brand for the second, unless they had a serious side effect from the first.

Am I at high risk?

Being pregnant, even with no underlying health conditions or pregnancy-related complications, puts you in the high-risk category for complications if you contract COVID. We should emphasize that complications are rare, but increased when compared with others of your age.

Those who are pregnant with other considerations are at even higher risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19. These include if you have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or problems with your immune system. You are also at increased risk if you are overweight or obese, over 35 years old, or from a Black or Asian Minority Ethnic background.

If you belong to one or more of any of these groups, catching COVID-19 puts you at high risk of severe illness. Being fully vaccinated reduces this risk to a large extent, especially in your third trimester.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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