Reading Hospital: COVID-19 vaccines are critical for pregnant women and their unborn children – Reading Eagle

As COVID-19 remains in our communities, the medical community continues to learn more about the virus, vaccines and therapy each day. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve learned and refined treatment options, adapted to masking, social distancing and proper hand hygiene to help prevent the virus from spreading, and we know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

Recent reporting shows that in Pennsylvania, 94% of COVID-19 cases, 95% of hospitalizations and 97% of deaths were among those that have not been vaccinated.

Physicians are also closely monitoring the virus’s impact on individuals who may be at increased risk for more serious illness if they contract COVID-19, including pregnant women.

According to statistics, pregnant women are at a higher risk for more severe illness than non-pregnant women. This is particularly worrisome for OB/GYN physicians because we are caring for the mother and the baby. If a mother is at risk of a virus, her baby is also at risk.

At Reading Hospital, we have treated hundreds of pregnant women with COVID-19 since the pandemic started, and as first responders, we have seen the serious health impacts on women and their pregnancies caused by the virus. If a pregnant woman contracts COVID-19, she is at an increased risk for fetal death and preterm birth resulting in the need of advanced care in the NICU.

The CDC recently shared that only 31% of pregnant women have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Their data also show that at the end of September 2021 there were more than 125,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pregnant women, more than 22,000 hospitalized and 161 deaths.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the CDC and the World Health Organization all recommend and support pregnant women and breastfeeding women receiving a vaccination for COVID-19.

In conversations with patients, colleagues and the community, I remind them that we have been providing a variety of vaccines to expectant mothers for a very long time. Decades of research shows us that when a vaccine is administered during pregnancy it is the mother, not the baby, that experiences any associated reaction.

The most common reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. Others have experienced tiredness, muscle pain, nausea or headache. These effects usually resolve within 24 hours.

Pregnant women who have been vaccinated are reporting the same side effects from the vaccine as non-pregnant individuals. We have also learned that the only thing the mother passes to the baby through the placenta is the antibody her body has made in response to receiving the vaccine. These antibodies help protect the baby both before and after birth.

Here are some additional facts women should know:

• Every major professional medical association focused on obstetrics and maternal-child health supports vaccination for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and women of child-bearing age.

• Pregnant women are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at any vaccination site including pharmacies, physician offices or community clinics. No prescription from your caregiver is required.

• There is absolutely no scientific evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes fertility issues; in fact, it is recommended to get prior to fertility treatment.

• Pregnant women should receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for optimal protection from the virus.

• It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.

If you receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of your preferred health system. tell your physician at your next appointment so it can be document in your health record. If you have additional questions, please contact your primary care physician or obstetrician.

I’ve been an obstetrician for more than 30 years, and I know expectant mothers work very hard to take care of themselves and their unborn child. That is why receiving the COVID vaccine is so important — it protects you and your baby.

Dr. Mark B. Woodland is chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at Reading Hospital and chair, Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine.