Is the vaccine safe? What can I expect when I give birth? Your questions answered.
By Dr. Kimberly Heller and Dr. Dimitry Zilberman, OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialists, Nuvance Health
We know many expecting moms and their partners have a specific birthing experience in mind, and have imagined what it will be like to bring their newborn baby home. The COVID-19 pandemic is temporarily changing the way our hospitals and communities are functioning. These changes are all to help keep our patients, staff, and communities safe and healthy, and to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, many expecting moms and partners are now wondering how this will affect their birthing experience and their newborn baby.
Am I in a high-risk category because of my pregnancy?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and death compare to non-pregnant people. Additionally, they might be at increased risk for other complications, such as pre-term birth.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for pregnant and/or breastfeeding women?
Guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the CDC have stated that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant women who want to be vaccinated and should be offered based on federal and state eligibility guidelines. Nuvance Health OB/GYNs believe in having a conversation with patients, providing information, and weighing the benefits and risks while supporting patients and their individual choices.
What are the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, besides protecting myself?
New study results published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology show that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines offer protection from the virus to expectant mothers, mothers who are breastfeeding and their newborns. The study found that women who received a vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) during pregnancy passed immunity to the virus to their babies through the placenta and breastmilk. Women who got vaccinated post-pregnancy while nursing also pass immunity to COVID-19 to their babies through breastmilk.
Have there been any studies on the COVID-19 safety for pregnant women? What about breastfeeding women?
Data from the CDC’s v-safe and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System have not shown any patterns to indicate safety problems with the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines in pregnant people, and no unexpected pregnancy or infant outcomes have been reported. Miscarriage was the most frequently reported pregnancy-specific adverse event reported to VAERS; however, the numbers are within expected background rates.
Should I schedule my vaccine during a specific trimester?
There is no evidence or data at this time that vaccination during the first, second or third trimester is advantageous over another trimester.
Are there ongoing research studies I can get involved with?
What if I develop cough, fever, or other symptoms during pregnancy?
If you are severely ill or have difficulty breathing, get medical attention immediately. If you have respiratory illness symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath, call your OB/GYN or primary care physician. They will screen you for possible symptoms of COVID-19 and help you with next steps if you meet criteria for testing.
Is there special health advice I should follow?
Pregnant women should follow the same health advice recommended to the community. Because we know COVID-19 is primarily spread from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, it’s important that we all practice proper hygiene. This includes washing or sanitizing your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face — eyes, nose, and mouth — and cover your coughs and sneezes with the bend of your arm. When greeting people, avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
It’s also very important to follow public health guidelines for social distancing (stay at least six feet away from each other) and avoid being in large groups of people. Postpone nonessential appointments, errands and travel. By taking these measures, you’re helping to keep yourself and your family, friends and community safe from possible exposure to COVID-19.
Am I allowed to have a support partner or visitors when I’m in the hospital?
A support partner and/or a doula are allowed (maximum 2 people). They must pass a screening for COVID-19 risk factors. Mothers with or suspected to have COVID-19 cannot have any visitors. For the full visitor policy, visit nuvancehealth.org/coronavirus.
We truly appreciate everyone’s cooperation and look forward to removing this temporary visitor policy as soon as conditions allow. In the meantime, please consider using technology to stay connected to family and friends during your stay at the hospital.
How will you protect me on the maternity unit?
All maternity patients are screened for COVID-19 risk factors when they enter the hospital. If they are suspected or confirmed COVID-19, they will be put into an isolation room for safety reasons.
How will you protect my infant on the maternity unit?
If mothers are not ill and have not been exposed to COVID-19 at the time of delivery, their baby will be able to stay with them and they will be encouraged to breastfeed as usual.
How can I protect my infant when we go home?
We are encouraging mothers to be discharged from the hospital as soon as it is medically safe.
Although your friends and family will be anxious to meet your new baby, you should limit the baby’s exposure to as few people as possible for the next few weeks or while there are federal and state guidelines in place for social distancing. Discourage family and friends from traveling until it is deemed safe.
Can I breastfeed?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 is in breast milk. Therefore, even if you are suspected COVID-19, you will still be encouraged to breastfeed. You will be instructed in the safest way to provide breast milk to your baby.
Nuvance Health is keeping the communities informed on our website at nuvancehealth.org/coronavirus, and on social media @NuvanceHealth, or search for your hospital’s name.
Sarah Colomello, Manager, Public and Community Affairs
O: (845) 871-3179