A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

The CDC lists pregnancy as a high-risk factor for COVID-19; know the facts about getting vaccinated

By Dr. Wendy Hansen
UK Healthcare

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists pregnancy as one high-risk factor for severe COVID. Pregnant people are more than 3 times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and 2.4 times as likely to require drastic medical intervention such as ECMO than non-pregnant people.

(Image from Prostock-Studio, iStock/Getty Images Plus, via UK Healthcare)

Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and might be at increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes, compared with pregnant people without COVID-19.

A study was conducted of over 1,000 pregnant people, and researchers and clinicians have seen no increased risk to the baby or the mother from the vaccine. There were no reported miscarriages or other complications because of the vaccine. The vaccine is considered safe in pregnancy. There is no effect on fertility, so people who aren’t pregnant but plan to be can safely get the vaccine.

It has been confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing serious infection and hospitalization, but there is an added benefit for people who are breastfeeding. Reports have shown that breast milk contains antibodies from the mother’s immune response, and breastfeeding can provide some level of protection to breastfed babies. However, more data are needed to confirm the protective benefits of breastfeeding to reduce COVID-19 in babies.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infection, including in pregnant people or their babies. None of the vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make anyone sick with the disease. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 12, including people who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, get vaccinated.

Dr. Wendy Hansen, M.D., is chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UK HealthCare.

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