A new study, released this week by Northwestern Medicine, gives new insight into the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy and reiterates the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women and their babies.
In this study, published in the Journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers focused on the placenta, the first organ that forms during pregnancy and does most of the work for fetus while it is forming such as providing oxygen while the lungs develop and nutrition while the gut is forming. The placenta acts as a window into the pregnancy. If something is wrong with the placenta, it alerts doctors to investigate what may be going wrong in the pregnancy.
According to the study, researchers examined the placentas from 84 patients who received the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy and 116 unvaccinated patients. The study found no evidence of injury to the placentas after receiving the vaccine. Most of the patients received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines during their third trimester.
“This was a really interesting study and very well done,” said Dr. Shad Deering, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and serves as Associate Dean at Baylor College of Medicine. “Looking at the placenta was a really good way to see the effects of the vaccine. By looking for evidence of inflammation or damage to the placentas after vaccination, it gives you real data on how the vaccine could affect the development of the baby. The fact that they found no difference in the two groups is a big step forward to bring us the answers we need for our patients and more evidence that shows the vaccine is safe in pregnancy.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have learned that if a pregnant woman contracts COVID-19 they are at a higher risk of serious complications from the virus. Because of these potentially serious risks, Dr. Deering and his maternal fetal medicine colleagues at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio advise those who are pregnant should weigh the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine and consult with their physician if they have questions.
“While more long-term studies are in the works and need to be done, this study was a great step forward in giving us information we can feel comfortable sharing with our patients,” said Dr. Deering. “It’s basically another level of confirmation that the vaccine not only does what it’s supposed to in protecting the mom but does so without harming the baby.”
If you are pregnant and considering getting the vaccine, please consult with your physician. For more information on the things you should consider when talking with your physician, please see a blog from The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio written when COVID-19 vaccines became available in late 2020.
If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, talk to your doctor about a referral to the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care a program of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.