The COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy
Monday 22 March 2021
This article was written during the Queensland response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the information available at the date of publication. The content is based on the Australian Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning pregnancy. Please check the Australian Department of Health COVID-19 webpage for updated information and current health advice regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations in Queensland.
There is a lot of misinformation circulating online about the COVID-19 vaccine affecting fertility and being unsuitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Much of this information is unscientific and factually wrong, causing unnecessary worry for many.
Based on research and common questions we see on our social media channels, we’ve pulled together answers around the vaccine, fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding to give you the facts you need.
About the COVID-19 vaccine
Queensland has two different COVID-19 vaccines available: Pfizer (also called Comirnaty) and AstraZeneca. Both vaccines are safe and offer strong levels of protection against COVID-19.
Can the vaccine affect my fertility?
No. There is no evidence to suggest any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, have any effect on male or female fertility.
According to a joint statement issued by the UK’s Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, there are no believable biological ways that the current COVID-19 vaccines would cause any impact on fertility.
If you are pregnant, planning pregnancy or breastfeeding
The Pfizer vaccine is now routinely recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and women planning pregnancy. Receiving a vaccine before conceiving means you are likely to have protection against COVID-19 throughout your pregnancy.
You do not need to avoid becoming pregnant before or after vaccination. You are not required to have a pregnancy test before getting vaccinated.
What do we know about COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy?
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe in pregnant women, based on accumulated real-world evidence from other countries. Studies show that the side effects following vaccination were very similar in pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant women.
No safety concerns have been identified for women who received a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy.
Benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy
The Pfizer vaccine can be given at any stage of the pregnancy and will protect you against the severity of the COVID-19 disease.
This means, if you have the COVID-19 vaccine, and later get infected with COVID-19, the severity of illness that you experience is likely to be significantly reduced.
Possible harms from COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy
All medicines and vaccines can cause side effects. If you do experience any side effects, most of them are minor and temporary. However, some side effects may need medical attention.Read about potential COVID-19 vaccine side effects
Other vaccines given during pregnancy such as influenza vaccine or whooping cough vaccine, do not cause more side effects in pregnant women or their babies. They do protect newborn babies from these diseases.
Much like other vaccines routinely given during, COVID-19 vaccines are equally effective in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women.
Factors to consider when deciding the timing of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy
To ensure adequate protection, pregnant women are recommended to receive both doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine between 21-42 days apart.
Timing in relation to other vaccines:
- There should be an interval of at least seven days between a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine. This applies to both doses.
- This may affect the timing of the two vaccines medical professionals routinely recommend during pregnancy:
- Influenza vaccine, which can be given at any time.
- Whooping cough vaccine, which is ideally given between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. The influenza and the whooping cough vaccines can be given together on the same day.
- If you want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your immunisation provider about making a schedule for each vaccine dose you will receive during pregnancy. This will avoid any unnecessary delays.
- If you have any questions about this information, ask your immunisation provider, doctor, pharmacist or midwife.
- If you are breastfeeding, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine at any time, and do not need to stop breastfeeding after vaccination.
- If you are planning a pregnancy, you can receive COVID-19 vaccine at any time.
- If you have an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, or of having severe illness, you should consider having a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy.
- You can choose to have a COVID-19 vaccine at any time during pregnancy; your immunisation provider can help you to decide the best time.
Making the decision – a summary
- seven days apart from any other vaccine
- 21-42 days between two doses of Pfizer.
Am I more at risk of getting COVID-19 if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
The World Health Organisation says pregnant women who are older, overweight, and have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes seem to have an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Possible complications of COVID-19 in pregnant women and their babies
Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of certain complications compared to non-pregnant women with COVID-19 of the same age, including:
- An increased risk (about 3 times higher) of needing admission to an intensive care unit.
- An increased risk (about 3 times higher) of needing invasive ventilation (breathing life support).
COVID-19 in also increases the risk of certain pregnancy complications including:
- A slightly increased risk (about 1.3 times higher) of having their baby born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
- An increased risk (about 3 times higher) of their baby needing admission to a newborn care unit
Pregnant women with certain underlying medical conditions are more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19 compared to pregnant women without these conditions. The conditions are:
- Being older than 35 years
- Overweight or obese (body mass index above 30 kg/m2)
- Pre-existing (pre-pregnancy) high blood pressure
- Pre-existing (pre-pregnancy) diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning pregnancy
- Statement from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on COVID-19 vaccination
- Information on COVID-19 Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine
- Preparing for COVID-19 vaccination
- After your COVID-19 vaccination.
- COVID-19 vaccines: everything you need to know
- What’s really in a COVID-19 vaccine?
- Queensland Health
- Department of Health