What every pregnant woman should know about COVID-19 and vaccines

As new data reveals that more than 96% of the pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 were unvaccinated, mums-to-be are urged to come forward for the jab, without delay.

Blue cheese, unwashed vegetables, cured meats … there are lots of things you’re advised to avoid when pregnant. So, it’s no surprise that some expectant mums have been wondering about whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the early days of the programme, lack of trial data among pregnant women meant the vaccine wasn’t routinely offered to this group. Since then, the evidence has become overwhelmingly clear. The vaccine is safe if you’re pregnant, in all three trimesters.

What is seriously unsafe is catching COVID in pregnancy. The virus can lead to life-threatening illness in some women, particularly if they have underlying health conditions, with those in the later stages of pregnancy at increased risk.

In addition, pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms, are twice as likely to go into labour early, exposing the baby to the risks of being premature. Women with COVID are also more likely to develop pre-eclampsia or need an emergency caesarean. The risk of stillbirth is also twice as high in women who have tested positive for the virus.

Initial wariness about the vaccine meant that in August 2021, only 22% of women who gave birth had been vaccinated. However, that is changing with more and more women coming forward for their first, second and booster doses.

They include Anne, who got her booster dose at Centre Court, Wimbledon with her husband Charlie just before Christmas. She said: “I’m pregnant with my first baby due in April. We think this is the safest way to look after me and the little one. So come along and get yours done – it’s completely pain-free.”

Centre Court vaccination centre matron, Christiana Pena urged women to pop into her clinic for a vaccine – or a chat. She said: “We have so much evidence now that the vaccine is safe in pregnancy, and for new mums, but that catching COVID poses real risks. It’s natural to have questions about the vaccine at this time, so our message is please do drop in and talk to us about any concerns.”

Meanwhile here are some of the things we often get asked about the COVID vaccine and pregnancy. This information is taken from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website where you’ll find more questions and comprehensive answers

How do you know that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe in pregnancy?

Robust data from the United States, where over 177,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated, has not raised any safety concerns. In England more than 84,000 pregnant women have received at least one dose of COVID-19 and 19,000 in Scotland with no serious adverse effects recorded.

COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby. Studies of the vaccines in animals have shown no evidence that the vaccine causes harm to the pregnancy or to fertility.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccines used in UK are not ‘live’ vaccines and so cannot cause COVID-19 infection in you or your baby.

On the other hand we know that catching COVID-19 during pregnancy can cause severe illness, which is why COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended.

Are vaccines normally used in pregnancy?

Yes, pregnant women are already routinely and safely offered vaccines such as those for flu and whooping cough. Many of these vaccines also protect your baby from infection.

Should I have a COVID-19 vaccine if I plan to become pregnant?

Yes, this is strongly recommended. Getting vaccinated before pregnancy will help prevent COVID-19 infection and its serious consequences.

What if I find I’m pregnant between doses?

You are strongly advised to still have your second dose eight weeks after your first dose and your booster three months after your second. The vaccine is safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy and there’s no evidence that you need to delay.

When in pregnancy can I have the vaccine?

The vaccine is considered to be very safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy. There’s no evidence that you need to delay vaccination until after the first 12 weeks.

Can I have the vaccine during IVF treatment?

Yes, you can have the COVID vaccine during IVF treatment.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility?

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility. There is​ ​no biologically plausible way that the current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility.

Does it matter which vaccine I have?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation(JCVI) advises that it is preferable for all pregnant women to be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. This is because these vaccines have been given to over 275,000 pregnant women in the US and UK and the data has not raised any safety concerns.

Should I wait before having my COVID-19 vaccine or booster after having the flu jab?

You can have the COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time as other vaccines such as for flu or the whooping cough vaccine.