The Covid vaccine and pregnancy is a subject that raises many questions for those who are expecting or planning to start a family soon.
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – which are currently being distributed in the UK – have not yet been tested in pregnancy. As a result, the current advice for those going through pregnancy or hoping to get pregnant in the near future is that they should not have the vaccine.
As standard, vaccines and new medicines aren’t tested on pregnant women or on those trying to conceive. This is stated by the government in their guidance for the vaccine: “it is usual to not recommend routine vaccination during pregnancy.”
However, they also say: “Although the vaccine has not been tested in pregnancy, you may decide that the known risks from Covid-19 are so clear that you wish to go ahead with vaccination. There is no advice to avoid pregnancy after Covid-19 vaccination.”
So it is unsurprising that many pregnant women or those looking to conceive are confused about the vaccine.
Here’s what we know so far and what medical professionals want you to know about the Covid vaccine and pregnancy:
Covid vaccine and pregnancy – is it safe?
It’s not that the vaccine isn’t safe for pregnant women, our experts say, it’s just that there hasn’t been enough evidence for it to be rolled out as standard at this stage.
“Current NHS guidelines are that pregnant women should not receive the Covid-19 vaccine. This has led to statements of concern that the vaccine is not safe in pregnant women. However, this is not the case.” Dr David Thompson from Medic Testing says.
“During the vaccine research and trials, pregnant women were not specifically investigated or recruited. This is sensible, as they represent a specific sub-population with their own risks and are generally not included in initial trials for drugs and vaccines. For this reason, the vaccine safety in pregnant women has not been proven – not because the vaccine is unsafe in this group, it just means they have not yet shown that it is safe.
“The MHRA have stated there are no specific concerns for safety in pregnancy, but due to the new formulation of the vaccine, it wants to see more non-clinical data before giving final advice and this will be kept under review as more evidence and data becomes available.”
Dr Ellie Rayner, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, explained to GoodToKnow that many vaccines are already given to pregnant women without issue: “A number of different vaccines are already routinely and safely offered to pregnant women, such as the whooping cough and flu vaccine.”
“Specific clinical trials have not yet been carried out of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. So, until there is more information available, those who are pregnant or trying to conceive should not have the vaccine.”
At the moment, only those who are at high risk of serious complications from coronavirus and pregnant, as well as those who are breastfeeding, may be allowed to have the vaccine. However, experts suggest that anyone looking to be vaccinated first speaks to their GP about any possible personal risks involved.
The Covid vaccine and fertility
Much like coronavirus trials on pregnant women, those looking to conceive were not deliberately included in the Covid-19 vaccine trials. This means there’s currently not enough data to support a conclusion on either side.
As other medical professionals have done with new vaccinations in the past, Dr Ellie Rayner advises caution: “If you are planning on getting pregnant in the next three months, or you think you might already be pregnant, then you should also delay the vaccination.”
However, there’s also no evidence to suggest that it reduces fertility at this stage. As Dr Matthew Prior, consultant doctor and medical director at Dr Fertility explains, “Specific research into the effect of the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy has not yet been carried out and the initial advice was cautious. However, this advice has changed. The rationale is that there is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines during pregnancy. These types of vaccines cannot replicate, so they cannot cause infection in either the woman or the unborn child.”
Dr Prior says that this means women trying to conceive don’t need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.
You should discuss having or completing vaccination with your doctor or nurse in all scenarios.