Pregnant and breastfeeding people were intentionally left out of clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines. But a new study offers some reassuring data for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding—and suggests that vaccination has benefits that extend to their baby as well.
For the study, published recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers looked at how the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines affected 84 pregnant people, 31 people of whom were lactating, and 16 people who were not pregnant. When looking at the pregnant participants, 13% received the first dose of the vaccine in the first trimester, 46% got it in the second, and 40% received it in the third trimester.
The researchers found that pregnant, lactating, and non-pregnant people had about the same levels of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in their blood after vaccination. The researchers also detected antibodies in umbilical cord blood (from the 13 participants who gave birth during the study) and breast milk from the participants, suggesting that the protection that a pregnant or breastfeeding person gets from the vaccine may transfer to their child.
Pregnant people face higher risks for complications, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, SELF reported previously. But because pregnant and breastfeeding people were left out of the clinical trials, which is actually standard practice in much of medicine, people in those groups didn’t have a lot of information to go on when deciding whether or not to get the vaccines.
This study, while small, should help reassure those patients and their doctors that being pregnant or breastfeeding does not make it more likely for you to have side effects or complications after getting these two COVID-19 vaccines. And larger studies are on the way—in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) v-safe program includes data for nearly 70,000 vaccinated pregnant people so far.
Of course, the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant is an individual one, especially without robust clinical trial data. So experts recommend that, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and unsure about getting a vaccine, you should talk to your doctor about what feels right for you. But this new research may provide some reassurance for anyone trying to make that choice right now.