Starting a family or having another little one is such an exciting time, but having a baby during all the confusion of COVID-19 can be stressful. And as breakthrough cases continue to rise and new variants pop up left and right, you may be unsure of the best way to keep yourself, your baby, and your family safe.
If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, Omicron (the latest variant) may be causing you some extra anxiety.
The good news is, after nearly 2 years of living through this pandemic, new scientific data are revealing how mothers can best protect themselves and their infants.
Let’s take a look at the latest findings to learn 8 powerful ways that vaccines provide protection for both you and your future baby.
- The CDC highly recommends vaccines for people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future.
Ready to double down and get twice the protection? Getting vaccinated before and/or during pregnancy will give you and your baby antibodies against dangerous viruses like COVID-19 and the flu.
It’s certainly no fun to get sick, especially when you have a beautiful new life forming within you, but COVID-19 during pregnancy can mean long-term health consequences for your child that are preventable with vaccination — especially before conception. It’s one of the best ways you can protect your future health and that of your little one.
If you are planning to get pregnant in the near future, a great first step to setting yourself up for a healthy pregnancy is by setting up a preconception health appointment with your healthcare provider. At this appointment, you can discuss which vaccines are right for you.
- There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (preventing you from getting pregnant) in women or men.
If you have been worried about vaccines making it difficult for you to get pregnant, you can breathe a sigh of relief…preliminary findings indicate that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is safe for people that are trying to conceive and also for pregnant people (The New England Journal of Medicine).
Thousands of pregnant people have been COVID-19 vaccinated and have not had increased rates of miscarriages, birth defects or preterm births.
And many other vaccines — like the flu shot — have been given to millions of pregnant people over many years with an excellent safety record.
The CDC recommends all pregnant women receive Tdap, flu, and COVID-19 vaccines before or during pregnancy, but it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider to see what immunizations are right for your unique situation.
- Vaccines will offer you protection from respiratory viruses like the flu & COVID-19 during pregnancy.
As you imagine being pregnant, you may feel excitement at the thought of watching your body experience many changes as your little one grows and develops in your womb.
But you might not realize that you are more susceptible to respiratory viruses while you’re pregnant because of changes to your immune system, heart, and lungs. You are also at an increased risk for severe illness while pregnant. This means that if you get the flu or COVID-19 while pregnant, you could need:
- Intensive care
- A ventilator or special equipment to help you breathe
To help lower these risks, vaccines are the #1 way to protect yourself.
- Vaccines are especially important if you have pre-existing conditions.
It’s important to consider your health history and current medical conditions as you prepare for pregnancy. Certain pre-existing conditions make you more susceptible to COVID-19 and other infections.
If you have underlying medical conditions—including obesity, chronic lung disease, hypertension or diabetes—you are at increased risk (Oxford University Press).
And because the risk of severe infection increases with the number of underlying conditions you have, you’ll definitely want to talk with your doctor about steps you can take to protect your health during conception and pregnancy.
- Vaccination will protect you from immediate threats from getting sick with COVID-19.
With so many getting infected with COVID-19, you may be thinking it’s inevitable that you’ll become infected yourself. But before you lower your guard, it’s good to know about the immediate risks that can impact you if you get COVID-19.
Even if you’re tracking your cycle, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when you might conceive. And even in the first few weeks of pregnancy, the risks for infected pregnant women can’t be ignored.Pregnant women with COVID-19 are:
- 5x as likely as uninfected pregnant people to need intensive care (JAMA)
- 22x as likely to die (JAMA)
- 4x more likely to have a stillborn child (NBC News)
- 60% more likely to have a premature birth (The Lancet)
- 76% higher chance of developing preeclampsia (JAMA)
These statistics are serious and scary. But, you can help avoid these threats by getting vaccinated and boosted AND taking other precautions like always wearing a mask indoors (over your mouth AND nose), limiting your social circle, washing your hands, and avoiding as many higher risk situations by staying home as much as possible when case-counts in your area are high.
- Vaccination will protect your baby from long-term effects of getting sick with COVID-19.
We know from history — like the 1918 influenza pandemic — that it will take several decades to fully understand the long-term health effects for babies born to mothers that get COVID-19. Effects from infections experienced in the womb won’t be completely documented until middle childhood or early adulthood.
Even if you yourself have a strong immune system, getting an infection — like COVID-19 — during pregnancy has long-term risks for your baby. As examples, studies have linked fever and infection during pregnancy to developmental and psychiatric conditions such as autism, depression and schizophrenia (PubMed).
And sadly, premature births caused by COVID-19 and other infections increase the risk of long-term disabilities such as cerebral palsy, asthma and hearing loss, as well as a child’s risk of adult disease including depression, anxiety, heart and kidney diseases.
These infections may actually alter your baby’s immune system…affecting their health for the rest of their life. To protect your baby, both in the womb and beyond, you want to do everything you can to stay healthy during your pregnancy.
- Vaccination will protect you from dangerous prenatal inflammation caused by viruses.
If you’re planning to get pregnant, you may have heard that it’s a good idea to exercise and develop tools to deal with the inevitable stresses we all deal with. These actions are super important because they protect your body from inflammation — your body’s natural response to infection, stress or obesity (OHSU).
If you’re fighting an infection or virus while pregnant — or even experiencing non-stop stress — this can cause harmful inflammation in your body which can:
- Injure your placenta, making it harder for your baby to receive the amount of oxygen that they need (American Journal of Clinical Pathology).
- Affect how your baby’s organs like the brain, heart, and lungs develop.
- Increase your baby’s risk of mental illness or brain development problems.
Getting in shape before conceiving, finding ways to limit the inevitable stresses of daily life, and getting vaccinated are all ways you can protect yourself from these very real risks.
- With vaccinations, timing is everything!
Like trying to get pregnant — timing is everything when it comes to vaccines.
Even though vaccinations can protect you from harmful infections, there are certain vaccines you won’t be able to receive once you’re pregnant. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant — or are pregnant — take this helpful chart with you to your preconception or prenatal checkup.
Getting up to date on your vaccinations before conceiving will ensure that you and your baby are well protected during pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and most providers recommend getting the flu, Tdap, and COVID-19 vaccine before and during pregnancy. Here’s when you should be getting these important vaccinations:
- COVID-19 vaccine: You can get the COVID-19 vaccine at any time. If you get pregnant after receiving your first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine that requires two doses (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine), you should get your second shot and booster to get as much protection as possible.
- Flu vaccine: Flu seasons vary in their timing from season to season, but the CDC recommends getting your flu vaccine by the end of October.
- Tdap vaccine: The Tdap vaccine primarily protects your baby. For this reason, the CDC recommends you get your Tdap vaccine in your third trimester, between the 27th and 36th week, so that you pass the greatest number of protective antibodies to your baby before birth.
Vaccinations are Just ONE Important Part of Preconception Care.
Vaccines are one of the most important ways you can set yourself — and your baby — up for a healthy pregnancy. It’s a good idea to start thinking about vaccinations before you conceive to make sure you’re all up-to-date before you get pregnant.
But if you want to become pregnant, or have been trying for some time, there are a number of additional ways you can set yourself up for success. Check out our Preparing for Pregnancy Checklist with 9 healthy steps you can take to give your child the best start to life and have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
And remember: you don’t have to go on this journey alone. At GetzWell, we believe preconception care is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. You deserve advice tailored to your unique situation and specific health needs and we’re ready to provide that to you.
From vaccinations and prenatal vitamins, to gut health, nutrition and exercise, there are actionable steps you can take to optimize your own health and also greatly improve your child’s chances of optimal health – for a lifetime. If you want to schedule a preconception care appointment or learn more about our preconception care and how our “greening the womb” process prepares your body for a healthy pregnancy and birth, please contact our San Francisco offices at 415-826-1701.