Pregnant women are being reassured by the NHS in Devon that having the COVID-19 vaccination is the best and safest way to protect them and their baby from the serious complications that can be caused by the virus.
Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of intensive care admission than women of the same age who are not pregnant.
The risk of serious complications is low but a recent study of more than 340,000 births in England by the National Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Audit found:
- Women who tested positive for COVID-19 around the time of birth were twice as likely to have a stillbirth (8.5 in every 1000 births, compared with 3.4 in every 1000 births)
- The rate of premature birth was twice as high when the mother had COVID-19 at the time of birth (12% compared with 5.8%)
- Women who tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to have an emergency caesarean birth compared with those who didn’t have COVID-19 at birth (27.6% compared to 18.5%)
Research by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System found that none of the 742 pregnant women who were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 between 1 February and 11 July 2021 were fully vaccinated. Four women had received one dose and the other 738 were unvaccinated.
During the same time period at least 55,000 pregnant women had received one or more doses in the UK
Devon Public Health consultant Sarah Bird is pregnant and had both vaccine doses. Shortly after her second dose, her husband caught COVID-19. Sarah said: “Seeing my husband feeling so poorly with COVID-19 made me feel even more relieved that I had got both doses as soon as possible. He had a cough, shortness of breath and fatigue for weeks, but I tested negative and felt completely fine. I hate to think what it could have been like if I’d been severely ill from COVID during my final trimester.
“There’s lots of good data now that shows that the vaccines are just as safe and effective for pregnant women as for anyone else, whereas we know that catching COVID-19 can be very serious for mum and baby. If you have any personal concerns, talk to your GP or midwife or look online, just make sure it’s a trusted source of information.”
NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group Deputy Chief Nurse Susan Masters added: “It is important for all sectors of the community to receive the vaccine to reduce the number of people who are seriously ill with Covid. This is no different in pregnancy and the COVID-19 virus can make women very unwell in the later stages of pregnancy.
“It is really important to discuss having the vaccination with your GP, midwife or at your appointment so that you can make an informed decision.”
Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?
Public Health England states that the COVID-19 vaccines available in the UK have been shown to be safe and effective during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding.
The vaccine does not contain live coronavirus and therefore cannot cause COVID-19 infection in a pregnant woman or in her baby.
How can I get the vaccine?
- Pregnant women aged 16 and over can have the vaccine.
- It’s preferable for you to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
- If you’re over 17 and 9 months you can book into a clinic offering an appropriate vaccine using the National Booking System or by calling 119
- If you're aged between 16 and 17 and 9 months, the NHS will contact you when it's your turn to get the vaccine. You cannot book your appointment online.
- You'll be able to discuss the benefits and potential risks of having a COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy at your vaccination appointment.
- You can also speak to a GP or your maternity team for advice.
Where can I find out more?
- NHS advice on vaccine / pregnancy: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/pregnancy-breastfeeding-fertility-and-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination/
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists information sheet https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/2021-02-24-combined-info-sheet-and-decision-aid.pdf
- Video featuring University Hospitals Plymouth NHS trust acting Head of Midwifery Charlotte Wilton: https://youtu.be/Mt8rILNYMsM
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding webinar for women in Devon: https://youtu.be/CAacqaUcDhw
- Video featuring local GP Ailie, who is seven and a half months pregnant, speaking about her experience of getting the Covid vaccine in pregnancy https://youtu.be/xnT9b_d71es
- Public Health England resources on vaccine / pregnancy https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/covid-19-vaccine/resources/explainer-videos-NK/