Coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnant & breastfeeding women (updated August 2021)
Last year in April we published a blog post titled “What we know during COVID-19”. Back then we understood far less about COVID-19 and its link to women who are expecting, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Now, however, it’s safe to say a lot has changed; new variants of the virus, new restrictions, new advice on how to stay safe, and of course new vaccine options. As a result, we thought it might be time to touch base once again to help keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy.
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What we DO know about Coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2021
As of the time of writing (August 24, 2021), we do know that pregnant women do not have a higher chance of contracting the virus. Whilst this is good news, those who are pregnant do have a higher risk of severe illness and needing intensive care from COVID-19, and their unborn babies have a slightly higher risk of premature birth and distress during delivery (Australian Department of Health 2021).
As for the relation of COVID-19 and stillbirth, a large study of over 340,000 UK women, which was lead by the National Maternity and Perinatal Audit, found that COVID-19 may also increase the risk of stillbirth (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2021). The rates of stillbirth have also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to indirect implications, such as disruptions to reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health care, and the effect of lockdown policies (The Lancet 2021).
As a result, pregnant women should take extra precautions to prevent the contraction of COVID-19, and are urged to consider vaccination to reduce these risks; both topics we'll cover now.
What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines
Scientists have been working on developing Coronavirus vaccines for almost 20 years since the SARS vaccine in the early 2000s. Through the combined effort of scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals worldwide, there has been a breakthrough and new vaccines to help combat the spread of COVID-19 have been made. In Australia, there are two main vaccines that are offered for COVID-19: the Pfizer vaccine, and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Out of these two vaccine options, the Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine in Australia recommended for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy. This is because real-world research and clinical trials has shown Pfizer is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women– research which has not yet been carried out for the AstraZeneca vaccine (Australian Department of Health 2021).
Some key points about vaccination:
You do not need to avoid becoming pregnant before or after vaccination.
Vaccination does not affect fertility.
You are not required to have a pregnancy test before getting vaccinated (Australian Department of Health 2021).
So, if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or expecting to be pregnant, do not delay and consider the Pfizer vaccine to help keep you and your baby safe. If you have any questions about the timing of vaccination, don't hesitate to contact your care provider (RANZCOG 2021). If you'd like to know more about COVID-19 vaccines in relation to pregnancy or breastfeeding please read this fantastic fact sheet here.
What hasn't changed?
As usual, there are actions that you can take to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 and help keep you and your baby safe which has not changed. These are:
Wear a mask
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly; and
Continue to social distance 1.5 metres apart
Avoid large gatherings and say no to visitors where necessary to minimise your risk
Furthermore, the advice around stillbirth remains unchanged. Continue to monitor your baby's movements, trust your intuition, and if you feel like something isn’t right at any point during pregnancy, we strongly encourage you to contact your care provider. Do not wait! If you want to learn more about how to keep your baby safe during pregnancy please head over and familiarise yourself with our Still Aware Daily Actions."
This information was provided from the following:
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical professional. Still Aware provides this knowledge as a courtesy, not as a substitute for personalized medical advice, and disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.