The Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine all recommend that pregnant women receive the COVID-19 vaccine, for the sake of their health and that of the fetus.
Dr. Lucy Bucher, Senior Director of Medical Affairs with OhioHealth and a practicing OB/GYN, follows CDC guidane and recommends the vaccine for women of childbearing age whether they are pregnant, breastfeeding or actively trying to become pregnant, saying “There is no evidence that the vaccine will interfere in any sort of harmful way with any of that.”
Doctors, including Dr. Bucher, have reported hesitancy among their pregnant patients about receiving the vaccine due to various myths about the possibility of increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and other pregnancy-related issues. Other myths have persisted surrounding the impact the vaccine has on fertility.
During a recent press conference hosted by the Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Dayton based OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Egbert, stated, “Those are myths they have been thoroughly debunked. There is no risk to fertility either male or female.”
“There’s never been a non-live virus vaccine that had prolonged long-term effects that were noted past the six to eight week mark,” said Dr. Bucher. “Major complications that could be related to vaccine side effects are usually limited within that short period of time after getting the vaccine.”
In fact, the virus itself has been shown to be harmful to pregnant patients.
The CDC states on their website that pregnant patients are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 along with higher risk for preterm birth and other complications.
“We have observed that there is a higher risk of preterm birth, potential complications such as stillbirth,” said Dr. Bucher. “Babies who are born to people with COVID also can be at increased risk for needing specialized care after delivery like needing a NICU (newborn intensive care unit) or that kind of thing.”
Dr. Kamilah Dixon, OB/GYN with Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and another guest during Vanderhoff’s conference, stated that pregnant patients who are unvaccinated and contract COVID have a 70% increased risk of death.
Women are more at risk of becoming sick when pregnant due to the body suppressing the immune system to prevent harm to the fetus, according to Dr. Bucher.
By getting the vaccine, a pregnant patient can reap the same benefits of other patients — decreased risk of severe illness and hospitalization, decreased risk of spreading the virus if they do contract it, etc. — while also benefitting in ways that others wouldn’t.
The antibodies created by the vaccine can actually be passed to offspring via breastfeeding and have been found in umbilical cord blood, meaning that antibodies are being passed to the fetus while still in utero. By being vaccinated, pregnant patients also decrease the risk of bringing the virus home to their baby once born.
For doctors speaking with their patients about getting the vaccine, Dr. Bucher emphasized that patients need to be spoken to with understanding and patience.
“Trying to have that conversation in a way thats constructive and that it’s not making a patient feel like they’re being judged or pressured into anything I think is the important part,” said Dr. Bucher.
To those patients hesitant to receive the vaccine, Dr. Bucher strongly recommends they speak with their doctors about what is best for them. Those that choose not to ultimately get vaccinated, she recommends they avoid large crowds and social situations, wearing a mask and following other basic guidelines set by the CDC.