By Festus Fifen
The Covid-19 vaccines are now being offered to everyone aged 18 and over, including pregnant women. Whatever stage you’re at in your pregnancy, if you’re breastfeeding or plan to have children in the future, you can get vaccinated and help protect yourself from serious illness.
It’s a particularly important time to consider getting the vaccine as observing some of the strictest Covid-19 safety measures – such as wearing a mask and social distancing – are no longer legally enforced and people will be able to choose whether or not to continue taking these precautions.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has advised that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated pregnant women should take steps to avoid COVID-19 infection by continuing to practice social distancing, particularly in their third trimester.
If you haven’t got your jab yet, you may have some questions about if the vaccine could affect your pregnancy or your baby.
Here, eight medical experts – including England’s chief midwifery officer, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent – answer some of the most common questions about Covid vaccination, pregnancy, fertility and women’s health.
Is it safe for breastfeeding mothers to have the Covid vaccine?
Yes, it is safe to have the vaccine if you’re breastfeeding. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended the Covid vaccines can be taken while breastfeeding. Everyone aged 18 and over can now book their Covid vaccination, and that includes women who are breastfeeding.
Dr Daniel Osigbe
At what stage in my pregnancy should I have the Covid vaccine?
You don’t need to postpone getting the Covid vaccine because you’re pregnant. You can have your vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy.
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent
Why is it important to get the Covid vaccine if I’m pregnant?
Although it’s very rare for pregnant women to become seriously ill if they get COVID-19, it may be more likely later in pregnancy. If this happens, there’s a small chance your baby may be born early. The vaccine will help to protect you and your baby.
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent
Why has the guidance on vaccinating pregnant women changed?
Around 120,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and no safety concerns have been raised, real-world data from the United States shows. As a result, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has updated its guidance.
Dr Margaret Ikpoh
Should I leave a gap in between getting my Covid vaccine and other vaccinations recommended during pregnancy?
Vaccines can protect you and your baby from infection so it is important you receive all of the jabs you need during pregnancy. These include whooping cough and, in winter, the flu vaccine. These vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccines can be safely taken alongside one another. You can choose to leave at least 7 days in between jabs to avoid confusion over any of the common side effects.
Dr Gabrielle Macaulay
What should I do if I’ve already had my first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine?
If you’ve received the first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and you are due to take your second dose whilst pregnant, you can speak to your GP, midwife or health worker about the second dose of the vaccine.
Dr Omon K Imohi
Could the Covid vaccine harm my baby?
None of the Covid vaccines contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.
The Covid vaccines approved for use in the UK are not ‘live’ vaccines, which means they cannot infect you or your baby with Covid-19. Other non-live vaccines (such as those for flu and whooping cough) are routinely given to pregnant women and are shown to be safe.
Could the Covid vaccine impact my fertility?
There is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant. During the clinical trials a number of women – a similar number in the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups – became pregnant by accident.
The theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems is not supported by evidence and most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibody to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems in people who have already had Covid-19.
Dr Adwoa Danso
Can I have the vaccine during IVF treatment?
Yes. The British Fertility Society suggests that you may want to leave a gap of a few days between some treatment procedures (e.g. embryo transfer) and your Covid vaccination so that any symptoms you may experience can be rightly ascribed to either the vaccine or a fertility procedure.
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