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Is The COVID Vaccine Safe For Pregnant And Breastfeeding Moms?

Posted: May 9, 2021

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COVID vaccine in pregnant and breastfeeding moms – how safe is it? What to expect? What are the things you should know? 

We are in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic, with another wave expected in later this year. One of the most effective ways to prevent the third wave, is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

During the wait for the vaccination, it is important to follow social distancing measures as are regularly advised, such as wearing authentic N-95 masks, keeping a physical distance from other people who have come for the vaccine etc.

Safety of COVID vaccine in pregnant and breastfeeding moms

With the vaccinations now being made available to all those in the age group 18-45yrs, there are several people who ask whether the vaccine is safe for pregnant and lactating women.

There are many questions that people have about the vaccines, their efficacy, how each one works, and whether they are safe to be given in specific demographics like menstruating women, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Most of these issues have been addressed at the links we’ve given here. But not for yet women who’re pregnant and breastfeeding. So here goes.

As of now, we cannot give the Indian vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin to pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers, because trials have not been done/completed. Having said that, the Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of India (FOGSI) do recommend considering vaccinating this category of women, but not until the guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) India allow it.

We do hope this changes soon, because pregnant and lactating women are an especially high risk demographic and should be treated with some urgency.

Where do Indian OBGYNs stand on this?

The Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of India (FOGSI) said in a statement on Friday, “As matters stand in our country, every individual needs protection from the surging Covid-19 infections. We are in the midst of the second wave. Lactating women should also be considered as Covid vaccine candidates as there are no known adverse effects on the neonate who is breastfeeding. In fact, there is a passage of protective antibodies to the child, which may be a beneficial effect. The method of administering and monitoring the vaccine and the schedule of vaccination should be the same for pregnant and lactating women as for the general population.”

What? No vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women?

Though the Indian vaccines as yet are not cleared for administration in pregnancy and lactation, do not lose hope. Studies done on 90,000 pregnant women in the US using the Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines have not raised any safety concerns yet. Hence either of the two can be taken.

Once we have a clearer picture regarding the Indian vaccines Coviaxin/ Covishield, we will be similarly in a better position to take an informed decision regarding the COVID vaccine in pregnant and breastfeeding moms in India.

The vaccine by Oxford-Astrazeneca, manufactured in India as Covishield, showed issues with blood clotting, thus is not recommended by the Royal college of obstetricians and gynecologists who say it should not be offered to pregnant women.

Why do we recommend vaccination of pregnant women?

Pregnant women are found to have increased instances of severe illness when affected with the SARS CoV-2 required hospitalization, ventilation etc. They are at a high risk for fatality. Being vaccinated can not only prevent Covid infection, but if infected despite the virus, being vaccinated can prevent against severe illness and fatality.

Additionally, in breastfeeding women, antibodies created by the body in response to the vaccine can be passed on to the baby offering protection. It has not been found to harm the baby in anyway.

While we are on this topic, please do not avoid the vaccine believing it to cause menstrual issues. If you are not pregnant or lactating please take the vaccine without delay.

If you do not have access to the Prizer BioNtech or Moderna vaccines and are as yet still planning a pregnancy, please wait for 2 months to elapse following your second dose of Covaxin or Covishield. Remember if you live you can reproduce and your life is more important.

What do the findings in the Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines show in pregnant/lactating women?

Some of the common side effects of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines in pregnancy include injection site pain, fever, chills, muscle and joint pains and headaches. These do not directly affect the pregnancy and can be managed at home. They do not affect the baby.

Can the vaccine itself cause COVID?

A major misconception is that the vaccine will cause Covid-19. Let me clarify that the vaccines cannot do that.

The viruses in the vaccine are dead and therefore incapable of replicating and causing an illness. They are only capable of raising an immune response which can be seen in the form of fever and the other vaccine related side effects as delineated above.

A lot of people coming back after taking the vaccines do become affected with Covid-19, but the vaccine is not the cause. Carelessness during or after taking the vaccine can certainly be.

What do you do then? Remember that whichever vaccine you take, the precautions following the vaccine are the same. Social distancing, masks, hand washing, sanitizing and common sense. The vaccine will help you, but you have to help yourself first.

Please stay masked, stay safe

The Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the nation like nothing else ever has. I don’t know anyone unaffected by the SARS Cov-2 virus and it’s new mutation, either directly or indirectly. To all of you, we are with you in your health and grief. It is disheartening to see the news and hear more bad news every day. This is an illness so vile that one cannot even help their loved ones with their physical presence.

It gives me immense pride to see doctors, nurses, general workers and all other human beings going out of their way to help each other whether it is by medical advice, treatment, support, resource sharing, sourcing beds, oxygen cylinders, providing free food to those stricken by the disease, etc. I have faith that humans will be there to help each other. Everyone I know has gone out of their way for someone or the other in some way or the other. It gives me so much hope.

As of today, there are 21.1M cases in India of whom 17.3M have recovered and 230K have passed away. Most patients can recover at home, following the instructions of their doctor and other health care workers, with alertness and monitoring. When you watch out for alert signs and visit hospital immediately, there is a good chance of recovery.

Takeaways from this

  • Currently pregnant and lactating women are advised not to take Covishield or Covaxin.
  • Pregnant and lactating women should be offered the vaccines from Pfizer BioNtech or Moderna, if they have access to them.
  • Vaccines do not cause the illness.
  • Side effects can usually be managed at home.
  • Continue Covid-19 precautions as usual even following the vaccine.

Please, take very good care of yourself and help others when you can. We only have each other.

Image source: Deepak Sethi for Getty Images Free for Canva Pro

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Very feminist gynecologist. Cannot do without coffee and dogs. Bibliophile. Apart from seeing patients, most

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