Pregnant and Nursing Mothers Hold a Higher Risk of Dying From COVID-19

Pregnant

As if pregnant and nursing women do not have enough to worry about — from their health to their babies’ — just to have COVID-19 added to their stress. The virus has caused massive stress for everyone worldwide in 2020. The ones who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 are pregnant and nursing women.

Everyone faces the chance of contracting the virus. However, pregnant women may fare far worse than anyone else if they contract COVID-19. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted in November, pregnant women are more likely to end up in an intensive care unit (ICU), end up on a ventilator, and die from the virus compared to other women their age — who are healthy and not pregnant.

Pregnancy lowers a women’s immune system and limits the medication a woman can take. It also makes it extremely difficult for vaccines and medications to be tested for them. This due to trying to keep the unborn baby safe from unknown harm.

Views On The Vaccine For At-Risk Women

An obstetrician/gynecologist at Duke Medical Center — Dr. Geeta Krishna Swamy — helped write the vaccine guidelines for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Swamy stated that the COVID-19 vaccine trials were unable to include pregnant and nursing women.

The first COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in the United States was created by Pfizer and BioNTech. They have announced they have begun to test the vaccine on pregnant and nursing animals. They hope to be able to administer the vaccine to nursing and pregnant humans early next year.

Earlier in the week of Dec. 14, 2020, the COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna was approved. Moderna has reported they have completed toxicology studies on rats. Their studies have been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

USFDA’s Reviews On The Vaccine

According to their review, the medication did not cause harm in reproduction or fetal development. Swamy stated the data she has seen from both medications has verified pregnant women are not safe unless they can stay completely isolated. Of course, this is extremely difficult for most people to be able to do.

PregnantTheoretically, the risk of the unknown with the vaccine is greatly outweighed by the known risks COVID-19 virus. Swamy further stated the vaccine has been proven thus far to be safe. She also believes the vaccine could be “one of the most effective vaccines we’ve ever had.”

However, Swamy reiterated the risk “can never be zero without data.” At this time there has been nothing to cause fear that the vaccine is unsafe for pregnant women or their unborn children.

At this time there is a shortage of the vaccine and numerous tiers have been laid out for people to receive the vaccines. By the time there is plenty of vaccines for everyone there should be more data about the situation.

Swamy stated that she feels safe advocating the vaccine to the women. However, she fully understands and respects it is totally the women’s choice.

The doctor also stated that there is little to no risk for women — who are breastfeeding — of the vaccine harming the child. Short of the vaccine going from the arm into the breast tissue and ultimately into the breast milk for the child to digest — there is respectfully no risk to the child.

The vaccine doesn’t work if you swallow it.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Agrees With Swamy

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine agrees with Swamy’s beliefs. In their guidelines about the vaccine, they stated it “would be unlikely to have any biological effects” on a breastfed child. They further stated that pregnant women who receive the vaccine are likely to pass some protection against the virus to their children.

It is believed this protection is likely to last several months after the baby is born. Women who nurse their children afterward are likely to produce longer-lasting antibodies. Thus protecting their children even further.

In the large clinical trials for the vaccines, both companies showed the medicine provides a 94 percent effectiveness. Both trials purposely excluded pregnant women, however, during the trials both had women become pregnant. In the Pfizer-BioNTech trials, there were 23 women who became pregnant. In the Moderna trials, they reported 13 women became pregnant after testing began.

The companies noted those women who became pregnant after the first dosage did not receive a second dose of the vaccine. Both vaccines have not been found to cause infertility in anyone.

Due to the lack of data pregnant women are advised to make their own decisions on whether or not to be vaccinated. According to guidelines,  the “ACOG recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals.”

Of course, further testing is expected to be conducted on the subject.

Written by Sheena Robertson

Sources:

USA Today: For pregnant and nursing women, risks of COVID-19 probably outweigh risk of vaccine, experts say; by Karen Weintraub

NBC Chicago: Coronavirus Vaccine and Pregnancy: The Latest Guidance for Women

ABC7: Coronavirus Update New York City: Should pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine?; by Lauren Glassberg

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Inline Image Courtesy of Province of British Columbia’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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