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The South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women should be vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves from severe disease.

Considerable research has been undertaken on the safety of the vaccine and there is growing evidence about the safety for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Available information suggests that the benefits associated with receiving the COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh potential risks associated with vaccines or of contracting the virus.

Below, please find answers to some of the most common questions asked by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Am I more at risk of getting COVID-19 while I’m pregnant?

Pregnant women are not more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than the general population. Most pregnant women will experience mild/moderate flu-like symptoms.

What are the known risks of getting COVID-19 during pregnancy?

The COVID-19 virus poses a greater threat to certain vulnerable groups such as the elderly, persons who are obese or those who have hypertension or diabetes. Women in their third trimester of pregnancy are also regarded as a vulnerable group. Statistics show that pregnant women who get COVID-19 infection are at a greater risk of being hospitalized, requiring ICU care, needing advanced life support and dying than non-pregnant women of the same age.

How will COVID-19 affect my newborn baby?

If you suffer from COVID-19 during pregnancy, you are more likely to give birth prematurely and to require a caesarean section due to complications. It is also more likely that your newborn will be admitted to the neonatal unit in hospital.

What are the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy?

Vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe disease and death.

While this research is ongoing, it has been reported that the immunity provided by the vaccine crosses the placenta and provides your baby with protection against COVID-19 after it is born.

There is also a potential reduction in the risk of preterm birth and stillbirth associated with COVID-19 infection.

Which vaccines are safe for me to take during pregnancy?

Both the SA National Department of Health and SASOG recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women should receive the Pfizer vaccine or the J&J vaccine.

Are there any side-effects or risks of vaccination in pregnancy?

You may experience the same side-effects as seen in non-pregnant people. These include pain and redness at the injection site, a mild fever or body pains. These side-effects should disappear within a day or two. Paracetamol may be used for treatment of body pains and fever.

There is no evidence that vaccination will cause harm to your fetus at any stage of pregnancy.

Should I be vaccinated if I’m breastfeeding?

Yes. Since there are no known risks of receiving the vaccine while you are breastfeeding, SASOG recommends that all breastfeeding mothers should be vaccinated.

There is some evidence to suggest that antibodies which protect the mother from disease may enter the breast milk, and therefore may offer your baby some protection against COVID-19.

Will having the vaccine make me less fertile?

No. There is significant evidence that COVID-19 vaccines do not decrease your fertility and do not affect your pregnancy. There is also no evidence to suggest that women who are trying to become pregnant should not take the vaccine.

Any questions or concerns you may have about being vaccinated during pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor or healthcare professional, who will assist you in making your decision.

01 September 2021

Patient Information Leaflet developed by the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists