COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnancy

COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnancy 

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new type of coronavirus, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In addition to the seasonal flu vaccine and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines are recommended during pregnancy due to the increased risk of severe disease and complications which can affect both mother and baby.

This page provides information about:

Key Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnancy 

The infographic below summarises key messages surrounding COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy. These are further outlined below:

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended during pregnancy as there is strong evidence that pregnant people are at higher risk of severe illness and complications from COVID-19 compared to the general population. This risk is especially high in the final trimester. Vaccination against COVID-19 provides the best protection for both mother and baby. COVID-19 vaccines have been given to over 264,000 pregnant people across the US and UK and there are no safety concerns associated with the use of these vaccines during pregnancy. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live SARS-CoV-2 virus and cannot cause COVID-19 infection.

In the UK, pregnant individuals are eligible to receive their 1st, 2nd and booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines. These can be given at any stage of pregnancy. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect both mother and baby from complications of COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines can also be given to breastfeeding mothers and those who are trying to become pregnant. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can affect fertility in either men or women. There is no need to delay vaccination if pregnant, breastfeeding or trying for a baby.

In the short film below, two pregnant women share their decisions to have the COVID-19 vaccinations and experts talk about the evidence and recommendations surrounding COVID-19 vaccination, pregnancy and fertility. 

(Video credits: Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford; Fierce Kitty Films)

 

Are COVID-19 Vaccines Recommended for Pregnant People?

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended during pregnancy due to an increased risk of serious illness and complications from COVID-19 in pregnant people, compared to the general public. Since December 2021, pregnant individuals have been considered a priority group for vaccination due to the potential risks to both mother and baby from COVID-19 infection.

Most people who get COVID-19 while pregnant experience no, or mild to moderate symptoms, but a small number become seriously unwell. COVID-19 infection in pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of preterm labour and stillbirth. Almost all pregnant individuals with serious illness requiring hospitalisation and admission to intensive care for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to protect both mother and baby from these serious complications.

This risk of severe illness and complications from COVID-19 is particularly high for those:

  • in their third trimester of pregnancy
  • from a Black, Asian, or ethnic minority background
  • over the age of 35
  • overweight or obese
  • with underlying medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure

The infographic above outlines the risks associated with COVID-19 infection during pregnancy. Data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System shows that more than 1,400 pregnant individuals were hospitalised with COVID-19 between May and October 2021. Of these, 96% were unvaccinated. A third of those hospitalised developed pneumonia and required ventilatory support, and 1 in 6 required admission to intensive care. Pregnancy complications in these individuals included premature delivery, which occurred in 1 in 5 of these pregnancies, a total of 280 pre-term births. More rarely, in the most serious of cases, miscarriage and stillbirth occurred.

Safety and Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnancy

Safety

Around 84,000 pregnant individuals in the UK and over 180,000 pregnant people in the US have now received COVID-19 vaccines while pregnant. There are no safety concerns for COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant individuals. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), who are responsible for ensuring the safety of all medicines and medical devices in the UK, report that there is no evidence linking COVID-19 vaccination with an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. Studies have shown that rates of miscarriage are similar in those who received COVID-19 vaccines as in the rest of the population. The MHRA continue to closely monitor all safety data for the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people.

Side Effects

Reports from pregnant individuals show similar side effects to the rest of the population following COVID-19 vaccination. Common side effects include: pain or tenderness at the injection site, chills, fever, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and headache.

The infographic above details findings from a study assessing the safety and side effects of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant individuals. When non-pregnant people were compared to pregnant people, vaccine side effects were found to be largely similar, with injection site pain being slightly more common, and headaches, fever and chills being slightly less common in pregnant people. Pregnancy complications were no more common in vaccinated individuals and no neonatal deaths occurred in these individuals.

Benefits of Vaccination During Pregnancy

Getting vaccinated while pregnant is the best way to protect both mother and unborn baby from serious illness and complications associated with COVID-19. After vaccination, protective antibodies made by the immune system can pass from mother to baby, either through the placenta or in breastmilk. These antibodies help to protect the baby against COVID-19. More information about the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy can be found here.

Which Vaccines Are Used in Pregnant People?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that pregnant people should receive either the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines. These vaccines are preferred as they are also widely used in the US, so more data is available on the use of these vaccines in pregnant people. However, for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose before becoming pregnant, it is recommended that they have the same vaccine for the second dose unless otherwise advised. More information about COVID-19 vaccines, including how they work, can be found here.

COVID-19 Vaccines: Breastfeeding, Fertility and IVF

Breastfeeding

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for people who are breastfeeding; it is not necessary to delay vaccination for people who are breastfeeding. As COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any live SARS-CoV-2 virus, COVID-19 cannot be passed through breastmilk after vaccination and there are no safety concerns for mother or baby. Individuals can continue to breastfeed their children after vaccination and do not need to stop breastfeeding to receive their vaccinations.

Fertility

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines can affect fertility in either women or men. There is also no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can increase risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or congenital abnormalities if given before or during pregnancy. There is no need to delay COVID-19 vaccination for individuals trying to become pregnant.

IVF and Fertility Treatment

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for those who are currently undergoing, or plan to undergo IVF. It is not necessary to delay either vaccination or fertility treatments.

However, the British Fertility Society suggests those undergoing fertility treatments may wish to consider the timing of their vaccination around treatments. As side effects such as sore arm, fever, headache etc. can occur following vaccination, individuals may wish to schedule their vaccination at least a few days before any fertility treatment. Those undergoing other fertility treatments such as egg freezing, embryo transfer or intrauterine insemination can also receive their COVID-19 vaccines.

How to Book COVID-19 Vaccines

Those who have not already received their COVID-19 vaccines and are eligible in the UK can book their vaccination on the NHS website or find and attend a walk-in vaccination centre.

More information

For more general information see our pages on COVID-19 vaccines and Vaccination in Pregnancy. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, visit the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.

Resources for Healthcare Workers

The Royal College of Midwives have produced some helpful resources for discussing and supporting pregnant people when deciding to have the vaccines.

Page last updated: 
Friday, May 27, 2022