Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I'm pregnant?
Shanna Combs, M.D., pediatric gynecologist, answers your questions.
As parents, we want to make the best decisions for our baby. We’ve been asked a lot lately if it’s safe for pregnant women, or women planning on becoming pregnant, to get the COVID-19 vaccine. We met with Shanna Combs, M.D., a gynecologist, to answer some of our most frequent questions.
Dr. Combs oversees the Cook Children’s Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology department. She is the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship Director with the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine and has been an assistant professor for the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine since completing her residency.
What are the differences between the vaccines?
All three of them have been shown to be efficacious at preventing worse outcomes with the COVID-19 infection. Two of them are what we call the messenger RNA vaccines, which is a newer process for vaccination and requires a two-shot series. And then the other one is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one-shot series to fight off the infection.
What should I know about the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine?
With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, one of the biggest things that has come out is a concern for higher risk of blood clots, and so there is a warning about that. That being said, there are many things in life that can also cause blood clots such as smoking, or even being pregnant or having a baby actually increases your risk for blood clots. So while there is that increased risk with the vaccine overall, it's still a very low risk.
If I decide to get a COVID-19 vaccine, what should I expect?
It’s a shot, so I always say your arm is going to be sore the next day. I usually tell people to get it in the hand they write with, so they move it around and it's not quite as sore. What has been seen, especially with the two-shot vaccine series, Pfizer and Moderna, vaccines is that you do get a little bit of rundown feeling after the second vaccine. Some have it with the first shot, but more so with the second shot where you just kind of feel body aches, maybe a little feverish, just kind of run down. But that usually goes away within the first couple of days after receiving the vaccine.
I have heard rumors about how the vaccines can affect my body. What is the truth?
It has no impact on your genetic makeup. Basically what is in your cells, the way you are, that doesn't change. All it's doing is teaching your body how to fight the infection. It's a normal, natural response. With the vaccine, when you feel that bad is your immune system learning the process. It just means that your immune system is working really hard to figure out how to fight off this virus, but we're not actually giving you COVID with the vaccine.
Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am trying to get pregnant?
There has been no evidence to show that it affects your fertility. I know there have been reports that it causes infertility. That has not been shown at all. There’s a continuous registry and nothing has been reported regarding infertility. And so we do recommend it, even if you are considering getting pregnant or planning on getting pregnant, as well as once you are pregnant. We highly recommend the vaccine.
Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy?
When you are pregnant, if you get infected with COVID, unfortunately you are more likely to get sicker. So, you know, we're seeing patients who are healthy young, pregnant women in the ICU with COVID infection. So being intubated, not being able to breathe on their own, or if they are able to breathe on their own requiring a large amount of oxygen. Unfortunately with pregnancy, if you get COVID, you are at much higher risk of getting sick. The unfortunate thing is you're growing your baby. And so if you get sick, there's risks that you may have to deliver your baby early, causing a lot more problems than not getting vaccinated.
Should I be worried about getting the shot during the first trimester?
Thus far, we have not seen any fetal abnormalities or developing abnormality in babies of moms who got the COVID vaccine. So even in the first trimester, we still recommend it. One of the things that we've known from prior vaccines that we recommend in pregnancies, such as the whooping cough vaccine or flu vaccine, is when you, as a woman, build your antibodies, the things that fight infection, after a vaccine when you're pregnant, you actually give those antibodies to your baby through the placenta. So when your baby is born, you're actually giving them a little bit of protection in those first couple months of life. You are actually doing something good for yourself by making yourself be able to fight off the virus, but you're also doing something for your baby.
Is there enough research to know my child will not have any long-term effects?
As a physician (and) a woman’s health specialist and OB-GYN, I would not recommend something to my patients if I thought it was going to endanger them or their child. I say follow the science. This has been studied. This has been approved. It's gone through the normal FDA processes. The only difference with this vaccine right now is it's under emergency use authorization, which does not mean it's experimental, because there is a category for that. It's gone through all the usual processes, it’s just expedited some of the FDA processes to get it out. But it's been studied in many, many people and I highly, highly recommend it for women.
To learn more about the COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding, click here for information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).