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Pregnant woman getting vaccinated.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Breastfeeding Moms and Moms-To-Be?

Author: Natasha Sriraman, MD
Published Date: Tuesday, March 9, 2021

By Natasha K. Sriraman, MD, MPH, FAAP, FABM, General Academic Pediatrics, Breastfeeding Medicine

Over the past few months, we have seen science work at rapid speed to create a safe and effective vaccine as we reach the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Physicians, like myself, as well as nurses and other healthcare providers, were both anxious and excited to get our first dose of the vaccine to build immunity against a disease that has afflicted so many of our patients and colleagues, as well as our own families.

As the vaccine rolled out, concerns have been raised from colleagues, resident physicians, nurses and patients:

Are the vaccines safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers?

Since the clinical trials did not include pregnant or breastfeeding women, we still don’t have all the answers; but we do know the following:

The COVID vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, which means they are made up of particles that teach cells how to make a harmless protein unique to the virus.

The protein then triggers an immune response that produces antibodies to protect the recipient from infection of the virus if it enters the body. After our cells make copies of the protein, it then destroys the mRNA from the vaccine. The vaccine will not alter human DNA, or cause any genetic changes. It cannot give you COVID-19 disease.

Recommendations and information continue to evolve as more vaccine data is collected. Up-to-date information for healthcare providers who care for pregnant women can be found at American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Continue to monitor these websites over time for the most recent updates and recommendations.

These two organizations recently issued a joint statement regarding pregnant women and COVID-19 vaccines:

Data has shown that pregnant women who contract COVID-19 and develop symptoms are at risk for more severe illness compared to non-pregnant peers. This risk also increases for pregnant patients who have medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes. That led the CDC to include pregnancy as a high-risk medical condition.

For this reason, ACOG and SMFM recommend that COVID vaccines authorized by the federal Food and Drug Administration should not be withheld from pregnant women.

Preliminary studies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have not shown adverse effects on fetal development or female reproduction. Both ACOG and SMFM are urging COVID vaccine manufacturers and federal agencies to collect and report data about COVID vaccine given to pregnant women.

Pfizer has started to enroll pregnant women from all over the world in COVID-vaccine trials to assess safety and efficacy of the vaccine, with some pregnant women in the United States receiving their first dose.

What about breastfeeding mothers?

Just like with pregnant women, there is no data available regarding the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to mothers who are breastfeeding. However, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reports that with the exception of smallpox and yellow fever, vaccines given to lactating mothers have not affected the safety of their breastfeeding.

Many of our nurses and physicians here at CHKD are, understandably, concerned about possible effects the vaccine may have on lactation.

Just like with any healthcare decision, the risks and benefits of the COVID vaccine should be discussed in depth.

For those lactating mothers who do receive the COVID vaccine, breastfeeding does not have to stop, and mothers do not need to “pump and dump.”

Even though breastfeeding mothers were not included in clinical trials, looking at the physiology of lactation and how the vaccine works, medical professionals who are experts in breastfeeding medicine conclude that the vaccine is unlikely to cause any harm. In fact, the antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 may help protect the infant who is breastfeeding.

So for those of you who are pregnant or breastfeeding, I highly recommend you consider both the risks of contracting the COVID-19 disease and the benefits of the vaccine as you make this important decision.

For additional questions, please speak to your physician and monitor the most up-to-date information at CDC.gov.



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About Natasha Sriraman, MD

About Natasha  Sriraman, MD Dr. Natasha Sriraman is highly active in the teaching of breastfeeding and treating postpartum depression, both locally and nationally. She is fluent in Spanish and Hindi and cherishes her work taking care of kids, moms and families. Away from the office she is a voracious reader, an active runner and tries her hand at yoga and kickboxing.