Pregnancies are always stressful for those involved. Parents try to make sure they do everything by the book to ensure the baby's safety and health. With the added burden of the pandemic, the difficult decision to get vaccinated has been weighing down on many new mothers-to-be.
Just last week, pregnant women of all ages in Australia were declared eligible to receive Pfizer vaccine. However, some are still hesitant to take to it.
A survey taken by the Conversation revealed that among the 512 women who had babies 12 months ago, 62% would get the vaccine, 12% refused, and 26% remained unsure due to fears over safety during pregnancies and breastfeeding.
Fortunately, over time, international evidence has shown positive results in favour of the safety of Covid vaccines for pregnant women. It has also shown results that demonstrate its effectiveness at preventing severity.
The main medical body for Australian obstetricians and gynaecologists released a joint statement with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that states, "pregnant women are routinely offered Pfizer mRNA vaccine (Cominarty) at any stage of pregnancy […] because the risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby."
The statement recommended even those who are currently breastfeeding to get vaccinated. Additionally, the vaccination has shown other benefits as well. It is said to have enabled antibodies to pass through the umbilical cord which offers protection for the baby. This evidence applies to babies who are currently being breastfed since the antibodies can travel to breastmilk.
What initiated this change?
The main reason behind the shift is the newly updated data collected from the recent studies.
A study of 827 pregnant women in the United States, who had mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer mostly in their third trimester, found no safety concerns. The rates of miscarriage (12.6%), stillbirth (one baby), preterm birth (9.4%) small babies (3.2%), and abnormalities in the baby (2.2%) were similar to what would be expected in an unvaccinated group of women, reports The Conversation. This study is still ongoing with approximately 4000 expecting women on board and many have yet to give birth at the time this article has been published.
Research conducted in Isreal consisting of 7,350 vaccinated pregnant women and 7,530 unvaccinated women revealed that the risk of getting Covid was higher in those who were not vaccinated (202) than those who were (118). Among those who were vaccinated, 68 reported vaccine-related symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and pain at the injection site. These symptoms were neither prolonged nor different from the ones seen in non-pregnant participants. Other than that, the pregnancies remained unaltered.
Data from the UK and US
In the UK, the professional bodies for midwives, obstetricians, and gynaecologists have expressed concern about the effect easing restrictions will have on pregnant women. 58% of pregnant women in the UK have declined the vaccine. The main reason for declining is waiting for more evidence to reassure them it's safe for their baby. More than 100 pregnant women have been admitted to hospital in the UK in the past couple of weeks with Covid-19; none had received both doses of the vaccine and five had one dose.
One in ten pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid symptoms in the UK go to intensive care. These women are more likely to have a baby born early (preterm), develop high blood pressure, need a cesarean during labour, and become very ill, particularly after 28 weeks.
Meanwhile, in the US, more than 130,000 pregnant women have received a Covid vaccine to date and the data so far is reassuring. Side effects such as getting a sore arm or headache or feeling tired are common but don't appear to affect the pregnancy, says The conversation.
Additional information for those closely involved with pregnancy:
The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for all expecting mothers, regardless of age. The vaccine itself does not contain live coronavirus or any additional ingredients that would harm the fetus in any way. This has become the third vaccine offered to pregnant women, along with the influenza vaccine and whooping cough (pertussis).
It is important to note that no vaccine is 100% effective. Therefore, proper precautions must be taken such as wearing a mask. social distancing, and staying hygienic.
Pregnant women are at higher risk of becoming very unwell with Covid-19 if they:
● have underlying medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, immune problems
● are overweight
● are over 35 years of age
● in their final trimester.
Overall, the decision is a tough call for a pregnant mother to make, and at the same time, it is vitally important to be well-informed while staying away from any sort of misinformation