Pregnant women are one of the most vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is safe for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant or may become pregnant in the future. Compared to non-pregnant people, pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19.

Denise J. Jamieson

“If you are pregnant, it is more important than ever to make sure you are vaccinated to protect yourself, as well as your baby,” says Denise J. Jamieson, the James Robert McCord Professor & Chair of Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics. “Although COVID infection can be mild, it can also be very severe, even life-threatening. We now know that pregnant women are more likely than non-pregnant women to have severe disease. Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized or admitted to an intensive care unit, and they are more likely to die. In addition, COVID increases the risk that you will have pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth or preeclampsia. We also now know that the protective antibodies that are made in response to the COVID vaccine cross the placenta. Therefore, getting vaccinated while pregnant may provide some protection to your newborn infant.”

Safety First

There are many fears around getting the vaccine, but it is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself from infection. “There are serious risks of not getting vaccinated. Right now, COVID infection rates are very high, and the vast majority of infections are among unvaccinated persons,” Jamieson says. There are more than 1 million confirmed cases in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Although you may be scared of the vaccine, the risks of not getting vaccinated are real and scary, not only for you but also for your baby.”

If you have not yet been vaccinated, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. The sooner you can receive the vaccine, the better off you and your baby will be. “The best time to get vaccinated is prior to pregnancy so that once pregnant you are fully protected throughout,” Jamieson says. “However, if you are not vaccinated prior to pregnancy, you can get vaccinated at any time during the pregnancy. With the current high circulating infection rates, the sooner the better. I would not recommend waiting.”

Ask Others to Get Vaccinated

Before the baby is born, remind your close friends and family to get vaccinated. “In order to protect babies, who are vulnerable to infection yet not old enough to get vaccinated, it is very important that people who are around a baby be vaccinated,” Jamieson says. “You should tell your friends and family that in order to help protect your baby, they should get vaccinated now.”

Protect Yourself and Others

Besides vaccination, protect from an infection by wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, staying six feet apart from people who don’t live with you, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer. “Since the rates of COVID infection are so high in most communities right now, it is important that pregnant persons do everything they can to protect themselves,” Jamieson says.

As the virus evolves, as well as science’s understanding of COVID-19, some populations are being advised to receive an additional dose of the vaccine. “There is emerging evidence that a third dose of mRNA vaccine may be needed in order to maximize protection. A third dose has already been recommended for some immunocompromised persons, and it is likely that in the coming weeks and months the third dose will be recommended for others as well,” Jamieson says. “I recommend that pregnant persons and their families follow the recommendations from the CDC to determine when and if they should receive an additional vaccine dose.” Talk to your doctor about any vaccination concerns you may have.

Look Forward to the Future

Although these are strange times, try to remain positive as you look forward to welcoming a new member into your family. “These are difficult and uncertain times. Although this has lasted much longer than I had anticipated, I still am hopeful that we will get through this, and the pandemic will end,” Jamieson says. “I would advise pregnant women to do everything they can to stay safe and not give up their guard in this ‘last inning.’”

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