We get some advice from an ob-gyn...

pregnant woman taking covid-19 vaccination

As expectant parents, your top priority is to ensure that your growing baby stays healthy during pregnancy. With the coronavirus raging on in Singapore and across the world, COVID-19 vaccination has become the new norm and you might be wondering if it's safe for mum and baby.

Obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Tan Toh Lick, who practises at Thomson Women’s Clinic (Jurong), gives us the lowdown.

Is it okay for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine while I’m pregnant?

COVID-19 vaccination can prevent serious illness in pregnant women as with non-pregnant women. In turn, this potentially reduces the risk of preterm birth and stillbirth associated with COVID-19 infection. 

COVID-19 antibodies have also been found in infant cord blood and breast milk of vaccinated women. However, it is not known if these antibodies are enough to protect the newborn.

COVID-19 vaccines were not tested on pregnant and breastfeeding women before they were made available for the general population in December 2020. However, large numbers of pregnant women in countries with extensive COVID-19 transmission took the vaccine. Observational data of such women in the United States was published in April 2021. The study found no obvious increased risk of stillbirth, preterm birth, small babies and neonatal death. The women mainly took mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and all of them completed their pregnancies. 

Information for pregnant women vaccinated in early pregnancy however is not available as most of those pregnancies were not completed at the time of publication. Nevertheless, adverse reaction reporting has not identified concerns for the vaccine to be taken at any point of gestation.

When should I take the COVID-19 vaccine?

While the vaccine can be taken anytime during pregnancy, it is suggested that it should be completed before the third trimester as COVID-19 infection can be more serious during that trimester.

Will I get worse or different side effects?

Side effects of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination are similar for both pregnant and non-pregnant women. In general, while pregnant women reported more pain, they also reported less fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills and fever, compared to those who are not pregnant. 

Serious side effects such as allergic reactions are rare. Paracetamol, if not contraindicated, is safe to take during pregnancy.

Am I more susceptible to COVID-19 and will I take longer to recover? 

Pregnant women are not more or less likely to get COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women. However, pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to have a severe illness, especially in the third trimester. This may result in hospitalization, premature delivery of the baby and the risk of stillbirth

Nevertheless, the majority (about 3 out of 4) will be asymptomatic. It is not clear whether pregnant women are more likely to have prolonged signs and symptoms (“long Covid”) after acute COVID-19 infection.

Dr Tan Toh Lick
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

Thomson Women’s Clinic (Jurong):
50 Jurong Gateway Road, #04-18 JEM, Singapore 608549

Thomson Surgical Centre:
339 Thomson Road, #03-01 Thomson Medical Centre, Singapore 307677

Photos: iStock

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