BHealthy Blog

COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy

“While it is a personal choice of our patients, we do recommend receiving the vaccine, in most cases, to reduce the risk of becoming very ill from COVID-19."

Mark J. Fowler, Baptist Health OB/GYN

Pregnancy can be an exciting and beautiful time in a woman’s life. But it can also be a time filled with decisions that, quite frankly, feel a bit overwhelming. As if the basics, like choosing a prenatal vitamin or a breast pump, aren’t taxing enough, pregnant and lactating moms now have to decide whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be offered to those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The agency suggests those with questions talk to their healthcare provider. Clinical trials are currently underway to examine the effects on women who took the vaccine while pregnant and have since become pregnant. But, based on how these vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to post a specific risk to pregnant women.

For Mark J. Fowler, OB/GYN, at Baptist Health Women’s Clinic-Fort Smith, it’s all about weighing the risk. “During pregnancy, your body is going through a lot of changes and you’re naturally more susceptible to illnesses and hospitalization from things like COVID-19,” said Dr. Fowler. “The biggest factors determining whether or not a pregnant or breastfeeding mother should get the COVID vaccine are really the same as anyone else. If you had an allergic reaction to a previous vaccine, especially the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Other considerations include how likely you are to be exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, how the virus could affect you or your unborn child, and how well the vaccine works to develop protection in the body. As of Spring 2021, no clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines included women who are breastfeeding. So there is no data on the safety of the vaccine or the effects on the breastfed infants or milk production.

“Mom’s immune system is robust, and we know that breastfeeding is one of the ways moms can pass immunity on to their baby,” said Dr. Fowler. The CDC states because the current COVID-19 vaccines available do not contain a live virus, they pose no risk for lactating women or their infants and the data so far shows extremely rare adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“While it is a personal choice of our patients, we do recommend receiving the vaccine, in most cases, to reduce the risk of becoming very ill from COVID-19,” Dr. Fowler said.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, including other frequently asked questions, facts vs. myths, how to schedule an appointment and more.

Dr. Fowler began practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology in Fort Smith in 2016. In addition to providing care to women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, Dr. Fowler offers robotic-assisted surgery for common gynecological issues and pelvic floor disorders. Before coming to Fort Smith, Dr. Fowler practiced at Great River Medical Center in Blytheville, Ark. He also once served as the Department Head of OB/GYN at a Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan.