Why pregnant women should get vaccinated against COVID-19 – a maternal care expert explains

Pregnant women are at significantly higher risk from COVID-19 than from the vaccine. Emilija Manevska/Moment via Getty Images

I don a gown, gloves and a mask to enter the hospital room of a new mom who has contracted COVID-19.

She lies exhausted in bed between fits of coughing; Your day-old is resting comfortably across the room. She contracted COVID-19 a week before her due date and was hospitalized just as her labor started.

Due to the mother’s illness and her inability to care for the newborn, we plan that the child will go home to his father on the second day of life. But his mother remains hospitalized to recover from COVID-19 and her delivery.

The couple’s other two children at home also need care. The road to recovery will be long for this family, but fortunately the mother’s illness does not require intensive care or mechanical ventilation. This result is not what the family envisioned when they made the decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during her pregnancy.

Unfortunately, such scenarios have become far too common for me and other care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the recent omicron riseIt was not uncommon to have four or five patients with active COVID-19 infection in the labor and delivery unit at the same time.

A woman in a hospital bed holds her newborn baby.
The CDC, along with many other health organizations, recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women. Ariel Skelley/The Image Bank via Getty Images

decision-making during pregnancy

Pregnancy is often a time of sweet anticipation. But the ongoing pressure to make the right decisions for the health and well-being of both the pregnant person and the unborn child is dampening that excitement. And no doubt the decision-making surrounding COVID-19 vaccination adds another layer of stress. The relative newness of COVID-19 in our lives, fear of the unknown, and abundant misinformation often complicate these decisions. Advice comes from many directions during pregnancy, including well-meaning friends and family and sometimes even strangers.

It is worth noting that the decisions a person makes during pregnancy result from a desire to avoid anything that could cause complications in the pregnancy or harm the fetus. At the same time, it is also important that a parent does everything possible to protect the well-being of the couple.

As a Family doctor specializing in obstetrics, I often hear about the challenges and confusion pregnant people feel when making these important decisions. My job is to respect pregnant people in their autonomy and to provide evidence-based information that can support their decision.

When deciding to get vaccinated against COVID-19, pregnant women must consider the potential risks of the vaccine as well as possible harm from infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These two sides of the same coin are important to the discussion and the final decision that the patient makes.

Simply avoiding action is not the answer. Any pregnant person should weigh the decision carefully and not passively accept doing nothing as the safer option, since the decision to do nothing is likely a decision to accept the risk of avoidable harm.

COVID-19 disease in pregnancy

COVID-19 has caused a serious illness that requires hospitalization in over 30,000 pregnant women in the United States with 292 deaths as of mid-March 2022. The risk of serious illness is higher in pregnancies complicated by advanced age, high body mass index, hypertension and diabetes.

Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 three times more likely to need intensive care than people who are not pregnant. Death is rare in pregnant women, but COVID-19 is causes a significant increase in this risk.

have health differences become clearer during the pandemic. Black and Latino populations have had disproportionate experiences COVID-19 infection, serious illness and death. this Inequality persists among pregnant peoplewith the rate of infection among pregnant Latinos being nearly twice that of their white counterparts.

Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than non-pregnant women.

Vaccination protection during pregnancy

Vaccinations to protect against serious illness from COVID-19 are recommended for anyone who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant leading health organizationsincluding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and others.

The mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are recommended people who are pregnant in an initial two-dose series followed by a booster immunization five months later. The immunity generated has been shown to reduce the severity of disease, pregnancy complications, stillbirth and maternal mortality.

In mid-February, 68% of pregnant women were over 18 years old were fully vaccinated, compared to 75% in the general adult population. Complications from the vaccine are rare and mild, similar to patients with complications who are not pregnant. There are no increased risk a miscarriage, infertility or pregnancy complications related to the vaccine.

Additionally provides vaccination during pregnancy important protection for newborns. Pregnant women who are vaccinated pass antibodies in the blood to the fetus through the umbilical cord, and this has been shown to protect the newborn from serious illness from COVID-19 for up to six months.

Surveys of newborns at 20 children’s hospitals in 17 states showed that 84% of hospitalized infants are younger than 6 months were born to unvaccinated people. And infants born to people vaccinated with two doses of mRNA vaccines were 61% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Since a vaccine for newborns is unlikely to be available any time soon, this will protect this vulnerable population Vaccination during pregnancy is the best option.

vaccination decision

It is natural for pregnant women to have some of it uncertainty about the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They are likely to be insecure and have conflicting feelings of their own, and they may receive conflicting advice from family and friends. I believe it is important to show empathy and respect for this ambivalence while sharing information about the safety of the vaccine and the risks of contracting COVID-19.

Pregnant women should be given the most up-to-date evidence-based information to help them make vaccination decisions. If they decide to get vaccinated, it may be helpful for family members or others to remove any barriers to entry. On the other hand, a pregnant person who decides not to be vaccinated must be provided with other additional support, such as B. Guidance on masks and how to avoid high-risk exposures to reduce the risk of disease.

The impact of COVID-19 extends far beyond the person with the infection, especially during pregnancy. It is clear that the vaccine can help prevent serious illnesses in pregnant women and is a way to prevent newborns from going home without their mother, temporarily or permanently.

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.

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