COVID-19 and pregnancy

 At the forefront of the advancement of knowledge between COVID-19 and pregnancy is Borne funded lecturer in Reproductive Immunology, Dr Viki Male. Here, we share with you a Q&A and relevant resources from a variety of sources.

We are now almost 2 years on from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccine programmes are being rolled out across the world. The importance of scientists and researchers in our society has never been clearer – progress has been made towards understanding the virus, and they are playing a key role in taking steps towards global recovery.

Our Borne funded lecturer, Dr Viki Male is at the forefront of this advancement of knowledge – particularly in relation to the relationships between COVID-19 and pregnancy. Here, we share with you a Q&A, along with relevant resources from a variety of sources.


Why did you become interested in Covid-19 and pregnancy?

Back in December of 2020 misinformation started to circulate claiming that the Covid-19 vaccine would cause an immune response against the placenta and that this would lead to infertility and miscarriages. As someone who works on the immune response to the placenta, I felt a responsibility to explain why this wasn’t the case. From there I started collating the evidence on Covid-19 vaccination, fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, to help people make an informed decision. This is particularly relevant to Borne’s mission because Covid-19 infection doubles the risk of preterm birth, and about 1% of all the preterm births that occurred in 2021 were Covid-related. Every one of those preterm births could have been prevented by vaccination.

So Covid-19 isn’t safe during pregnancy, but naturally, people are also worried about whether the vaccine is safe. We now have formal safety studies on more than 135,000 people vaccinated during pregnancy, showing that there is no increased risk of any pregnancy complication following Covid-19 vaccination. This is why the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives recommend getting the vaccine if you are pregnant, and the UK government has recently decided to prioritise anyone who is pregnant for vaccination.

Does the vaccine impact fertility?

No. In the clinical trials, participants were asked not to become pregnant, but because the trials were large there were a significant number of accidental pregnancies – 65 across the trials of all the vaccines approved in the UK. These pregnancies happened equally across the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, telling us that vaccination doesn’t reduce the chance of becoming pregnant. We also have data from IVF clinics, showing that pregnancy rates are the same whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated, and I’m currently involved in a study looking at pregnancy rates following vaccination in couples who are trying to conceive the old-fashioned way.

Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you are a mother currently breastfeeding?

Yes. Studies have been done showing that the vaccine doesn’t get into breast milk, so the baby is never exposed to it, and no safety signal has appeared in monitoring.

It’s worth mentioning that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding there’s an added bonus to getting vaccinated. Although the vaccine itself doesn’t cross the placenta or get into breast milk, the antibodies your body makes do, and this is thought to offer your baby some protection against Covid-19.


MedCram Lecture – COVID-19 and Pregnancy

Dr. Viki Male discusses key issues related to COVID and pregnancy including coronavirus vaccine safety, fertility questions, breastfeeding, antibodies, and more.

Review on Covid-19 infection and Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy

This is an up-to-date review published in Nature, March 2022.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists FAQ

This information is regularly reviewed and updated as new information and advice emerges.

BBC Woman’s Hour – Covid Vaccines and women

Dr. Male discusses women, pregnancy, and unusual symptoms after Covid vaccines.

BBC’s Inside Health – COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy

Dr. Male discusses the data around the risks and benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.

British Society for Immunology – Instagram Q&A

In this shorter Instagram Q&A, Dr. Male addresses concerns including the long-term effects of vaccines on fertility, vaccine safety during pregnancy and more.

Nature article – Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in pregnancy?

Recent rumours have caused concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine could have an effect on fertility, or may be unsafe during pregnancy. In this article, Dr. Male summarises the data so far to help facilitate informed decisions.

Up-to-date ‘Explainer on COVID19 vaccination, fertility and pregnancy’

In this regularly updated GoogleDoc, Dr. Male summarises what we know so far and answers a selection of frequently asked questions.

Find out more about Viki’s work through our blog series or follow her on Twitter @VikiLovesFACS for updates about her work.

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