By Dr. Trashawn Thorton-Davis, Ob-Gyn at Kaiser Permanente
Being pregnant is an exciting time, and many expectant mothers take extra care throughout their pregnancies to ensure that they stay healthy for themselves and their babies – from being mindful of what they eat and drink to staying physically active. In my practice as an Ob-Gyn, I know that expectant moms try to do everything they can to protect themselves and their babies throughout pregnancy. The mixed emotions of joyful anticipation of bringing a new life into the world and anxiety about possible problems have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant can now protect themselves and their babies against the COVID-19 virus – by getting vaccinated.
Unfortunately, there are widespread myths and misconceptions out there preventing many women from getting this life-saving vaccination. This is especially worrying because pregnant who become infected with COVID-19 are more likely to have complications during pregnancy and labor. I have personally witnessed the devastating effects that COVID-19 can have on both mother and child. Pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness, hospitalization, being placed on a ventilator or requiring intensive care. Pregnant women with COVID-19 are also more likely to have a premature birth and cesarean delivery, and their babies are more likely to be admitted to a neonatal unit (NICU).
In September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an emergency health advisory urging pregnant women to get vaccinated. Since the pandemic began, more than 25,000 pregnant women have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 241 have died from the virus. Despite the risks, two-thirds of women in the U.S. remain unvaccinated. At Kaiser Permanente, here in the Mid-Atlantic region, the rate of vaccination among pregnant women is about 70 percent. We are proud of the progress we’ve made to protect our members, and we continue to prioritize educating our pregnant members about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Here’s what I’ve been sharing with the women I treat in our community each day.
Evidence shows that the vaccines are not only safe and effective for pregnant women, but women vaccinated during pregnancy or while breastfeeding are passing antibodies on to their newborns. There are no reports of any impact on fertility from the COVID-19 vaccine according to the briefings to the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. In fact, studies have shown, among women undergoing IVF treatments, there was no difference in pregnancy rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Vaccines do not cause infertility in women or men. Vaccines do not cause miscarriages. In-fact, we have decades of evidence showing that other types of vaccinations, like the flu shot, are safe for pregnant women and provide protection for their babies. Further, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. Some women I have spoken with are concerned about getting COVID from the vaccine, however, none of the approved COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. These vaccines deliver instructions to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Many of the patients I have seen have had little or no hesitation in getting vaccinated. For those who have expressed concern, I remind them of one simple fact – we share the same goal: keeping you and your baby safe and healthy throughout your pregnancy and delivery. And getting the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best ways you can do that.
“I was hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine at first. I just didn’t know enough about it and in my case, I was pregnant. Dr. Thorton-Davis made me feel very throughout my pregnancy,” said Tierra Ellis, a Kaiser Permanente member. “She never pressured me … we discussed the benefits and my concerns. I was six months pregnant when I decided to get the vaccine, and I’m happy and confident with my decision. I did not just get the shot for myself – but also to protect my child and my family as well.”
More than 178, 000 women in the U.S. have received the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant. Tierra and women who received the COVID-19 vaccine can feel confident knowing that their beautiful, healthy baby carries COVID-19 antibodies thanks to the vaccine. If you are pregnant, thinking of getting pregnant, or breastfeeding, now is the time to get vaccinated or to get the booster if you are already fully vaccinated.
To learn more or to get vaccinated, visit kp.org/govax.
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