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Studies suggest that vaccine immunity to COVID-19 may be passed on from pregnant mothers to babies.

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Raleigh, NC (WNCN) – When the COVID-19 vaccine was first approved for emergency use, it did not include safety data for pregnant women. This meant that pregnant women made a rather blind decision when deciding whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

With about 32% of the population receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine, researchers are now learning what the vaccine means for pregnant mothers and babies.

“People always suspect that vaccines may be less effective during pregnancy because pregnancy affects the immune system, but at least in the lab, the antibody response seems to be good.” Said Dr. Rachel Ultia, OBGYN of UNC Health.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology deals with vaccine responses in 131 women. Neither the Pfizer vaccine nor the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine threatened pregnant, lactating, or non-pregnant women.

The good news is that Urrutia said the investigation was small and left a lot of uncertainty. 131 women were studied, but by the end of the study only 11 had given birth. That means you don’t know what a vaccine means to your mother in the long run.

“Of course, many vaccinated people are still pregnant, so it will take some time to get that data,” Urrutia said.

As an additional bonus, the study found that the mother passed immunity to the baby through the placenta and breast milk.

Ultia herself vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding. She said she was not overtly worried that the vaccine would harm her or her children.

“I thought about it a bit because you should always do that, but not too long,” Urrutia said.

Increased risk factors for future mothers

Still, she advises pregnant women that the risk of vaccines is likely to be lower than the risk of COVID-19. Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 or to experience severe symptoms.

It is still unknown why the virus increases the severity of symptoms.

“I’ve seen that pattern on SARS. It wasn’t unexpected for us because we saw it on the flu,” says Urrutia.

Side effects

The following are the side effects that pregnant or lactating women feel.

SymptomsPregnant Breastfeeding
Injection site pain73 (88%)20 (67%)
Injection site reaction / rash1 (1%)0 (0%)
headache7 (8%)9 (30%)
muscle pain2 (2%)4 (13%)
Malaise12 (14%)4 (13%)
Fever / chills1 (1%)1 (3%)
Allergic reaction0 (0%)0 (0%)
Other3 (4%)0 (0%)

The following are the side effects experienced by pregnant or lactating women after the second dose of the vaccine.

SymptomsPregnant Breastfeeding
Injection site pain44 (57%)17 (61%)
Injection site reaction / rash1 (1%)0 (0%)
headache25 (32%)11 (39%)
muscle pain37 (48%)16 (57%)
Malaise41 (53%)14 (50%)
Fever / chills25 (32%)12 (43%)
Allergic reaction1 (1%)0 (0%)
Other7 (9%)7 (25%)

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