Getting Vaccinated While Pregnant was the Most Important Thing I’ve Done for My Baby
This is a different type of blog post. You’ll find this one is a personal story from one of our staffers. Upon reading that currently only about 40% of pregnant people were fully vaccinated either before and/or during pregnancy, she asked to share her story to help encourage people who are pregnant to get vaccinated.
I saw two pink lines. No, actually six pink lines. Four days, three pregnancy tests, six lines, one cluster of cells rapidly growing in my body. In just over nine months that cluster would be a fully formed baby. I smiled to myself and held my hand gently, protectively against my abdomen.
That was early January 2021, and this was my first pregnancy. My spouse and I were thrilled with the news and immediately started doing all the things expectant parents do: making prenatal appointments, reading pregnancy books, getting rid of clutter, managing first trimester nausea, and writing lists of things we’d need for the baby. These preparations were exciting and kept me busy, but I also felt this sense of unease about giving birth to a baby during a pandemic. Would the pandemic be over by the time I gave birth? (It wouldn’t!) People were just starting to get the vaccine; when it’s my turn to get vaccinated, will it be safe for my baby?
At that time of the pandemic, the guidance for pregnant people was less than ideal. While medical and public health authorities at the time said the vaccine should not be withheld from pregnant people, there wasn’t a clear cut recommendation of “Yes, you should get vaccinated” or “No, you should wait to get vaccinated”. Pregnant people were told to talk to our providers about the risks and benefits.*
As a pregnant person, this was very frustrating. My books and online forums were annoyingly prescriptive about everything I should and shouldn’t be doing: Get plenty of sleep! BUT NOT ON YOUR BACK. Sushi? NO! Brie? NO! That runny egg breakfast sandwich you’re desperate to eat? FORGET ABOUT IT. But because pregnant people weren’t included in the vaccine trials, when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine, there was no such recommendation. This was the one instance where I just wanted to be told what to do.
I read information from reputable sources, gathering as much as I could ahead of my first prenatal appointment. I read about how dangerous COVID-19 is for pregnant people. I read about how some people in the vaccine trials had become pregnant and did not have known negative outcomes. I read about how the vaccine works and that while it was new, it was built on an approach that had been researched for decades. I read tools to help me gather information and aid in decision-making.* My spouse and I had many conversations about what to do, and he reiterated he was supportive of whatever I chose to do with my body.
The more I read, the more I realized that we do know how dangerous and deadly the virus is for pregnant people, and we have no reason to believe the COVID-19 vaccine would harm my baby or me. I was feeling more confident but still wanted to talk to my provider.
I had my first prenatal appointment in mid-February when I was about eight weeks pregnant. I told my midwife I had read a lot about getting the COVID-19 vaccine and that I was leaning towards getting it once I was eligible but wanted her opinion. She said, “I would do the exact same thing in your position.”
On a cold and gray Saturday in March 2021, when I was about 11 weeks along, I drove into Alliant Energy Center and rolled up my sleeve to get my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Afterwards, as I waited in the parking lot for the requisite 15-minute waiting period, I didn’t feel unease or nervousness. I felt relief. Relief that I had taken the first step in protecting myself and my baby from this dangerous virus. Relief that I had made the right call. Relief that I had made my first of many big parenting decisions.
I used my 15-minute wait to register for v-safe so I could share information with researchers about my experience getting vaccinated while pregnant. I didn’t want my friends, family, and community members to grapple with this decision the way I did; I wanted to be part of building the evidence base and getting us all better data on COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy.
Over the next several months, I had (thankfully) a very boring pregnancy. Aside from some nausea in the first trimester and some mild joint pain—both very common—I had an uneventful pregnancy. I was comfortable and healthy, though I would advise against your third trimester coinciding with the hottest part of the summer.
Late in September, a few days past my due date, I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby. She has strong lungs, her dad’s feet, and my COVID-19 antibodies.
At my follow-up appointment some weeks later, I asked my provider when I could get my booster. I don’t think I had even finished getting the words out of my mouth before she said, “As soon as you can.” I made an appointment at Alliant Energy Center in the car, and we drove directly there from my appointment.
Medical and Public Health Authorities Strongly Recommend COVID-19 Vaccination for People who are Pregnant
While it felt like I was somewhat flying blind in early 2021, the great news is there is now a clear recommendation that people who are pregnant or considering getting pregnant should get the COVID-19 vaccination. This recommendation is echoed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and many other health experts. There are a slew of studies looking at pregnancy and birth outcomes among people who were vaccinated if you’d like to read more (see the References section on this page).
Since my daughter was born, I’ve had a lot of time to read things while breastfeeding, pumping milk, and rocking her into a nap. I’ve read truly horrific articles about unvaccinated pregnant people who have gone through absolute hell. The lucky ones are those who survive with their babies and then face the trauma of caring for a newborn while also recovering from severe COVID-19. There are stories of unvaccinated people who had to deliver extremely early because COVID was tearing their bodies apart. There are stories of unvaccinated people who lost their babies. There are stories of people who lost both their unvaccinated partner and their baby.
The thought of going through the emotional and physical exhaustion of caring for a newborn while also recovering from childbirth and COVID-19 brought me to tears.
Getting my COVID-19 vaccination was the most important thing I’ve done for my baby. Had I gotten COVID while pregnant without being vaccinated, I might have lost her. She might have lost me. My spouse might have lost us both.
Please, please get vaccinated.
If you are pregnant and have questions about COVID-19 vaccine
If you would like to speak to someone about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, you can contact MotherToBaby whose experts are available to answer questions in English or Spanish by phone or chat. The free and confidential service is available Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm (local time). To reach MotherToBaby:
- Call 1-866-626-6847
- Chat live or send an email MotherToBaby
*These linked resources were as I saw them in early January 2021 (via archived webpages when applicable), before there was a clear recommendation that people who are pregnant or considering getting pregnant should get the COVID-19 vaccination.
- ACOG Guidance – January 2021
- CDC Guidance for Pregnant People – January 2021
- Pfizer Vaccine Trial Information About Pregnant People – December 2020
- Moderna Vaccine Trial Information About Pregnant People – December 2020
- Journal of the American Medical Association article about how the COVID vaccines were built on decades-old science – September 2020
- Baystate Health & University of Massachusetts Medical School decision tool for pregnant people – December 2020