Pregnancy, breastfeeding and vaccine safety

by Kelsey DeClue | Apr 09, 2021
If you're a pregnant or breastfeeding mom, you're probably keenly aware of everything you're exposing you and your baby bundle to on a daily basis. Are you and the baby set up for optimum health by getting enough nutrients, sleep, hydration and physical activity? You read books and blogs about what foods to eat or what medications to avoid. What a mother puts in her body during and after pregnancy -- especially if she is breastfeeding -- has a direct effect on the health of her and her baby, so it's only natural for pregnant and nursing mothers to question the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

"There is absolutely no evidence that the vaccine causes infertility, or is unsafe for the fetus or breastfeeding baby," said CRH OBGYN Dr. Rachel Reed. "There is, however, very good evidence that COVID infections in pregnancy are potentially very dangerous for both mom and baby. "COVID infection during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal blood clots in the lungs, ICU admissions, needing to be mechanically ventilated, miscarriage, and stillbirth," Reed continued.

When making the personal choice whether or not to receive the vaccine, knowledge is power. Following are highlights of information from leading national institutes on health such as the Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infant Risk Center on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines for mom and baby. In short, pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to receive the vaccine because the risks are minimal and the benefits may not only help mom avoid dangerous and potentially deadly infection from the coronavirus, but help baby build immunity through the mother's antibodies. Let's learn more... 

How do the vaccines work?

None of the vaccines currently on the market are "live" or infectious. They are made of very few ingredients with no preservatives. The mRNA vaccines (thus far produced by Pfizer and Moderna) are prepared by stimulating the human mRNA within the cell to build the “spike” proteins.  In another set of vaccine (produced by Johnson & Johnson) the structure of the spike protein from the virus is synthetically rebuilt and presented bound to another carrier protein to the patient in the injection. Our immune system quickly recognizes that the spike protein doesn’t belong there and starts making antibodies. (source: Infant Risk Center)
 

Will the vaccine interact with or get passed to the baby? 

The COVID-19 vaccines authorized now are non-replicating vaccines, meaning they are able to create an immune response but do not reproduce inside host cells. Because non-replicating vaccines pose no risk for lactating people or their infants, COVID-19 vaccines are also thought to not be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. Therefore, lactating people may choose to be vaccinated.

Because the vaccines do not contain live virus, they cannot give someone COVID-19. Additionally, mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) do not interact with a person’s DNA or cause genetic changes because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a vector vaccine, and although the specific current vaccine hasn't been studied, vector vaccines have been trialed and used for many years on pregnant women of all trimesters with "no adverse pregnancy-related outcomes," according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  

According to a statement from the Infant Risk Center, "As for breastfeeding, little or none of these vaccine components would ever reach the milk compartment, or even be transferred into human milk. Even if they were, they would simply be digested like any other protein by the infant.  It is our opinion, that the present group of vaccines are quite safe for breastfeeding mothers. The infant may even gain a small amount of maternal antibodies in the breast milk, which may even be beneficial." 

"The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine -- these physicians treat the most high risk pregnancies and patients -- and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine -- these physicians treat infertility -- all advocate for women planning pregnancy, who are currently pregnant, or who are breastfeeding consider receiving the vaccine," Reed said.

Pregnant or breastfeeding? Got questions? Visit www.crh.org/birthing or download our BabyScripts app! 

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