COVID vaccine for pregnant women: NYC doctor answers questions about what to expect

NEW YORK — Pandemic pregnancies have been a topic of concern since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, vaccines are widely available, and more health officials are encouraging people to get them — especially expectant moms.

Pregnant women who have gotten or are planning on getting the COVID-19 vaccine can protect their babies by passing on high levels of antibodies, according to new research from NYU Langone Health. However, additional research is needed to determine how effective the infant antibodies are and how long protection will last.

PIX11 spoke with Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double-board certified physician in OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine at New York City Health & Hospitals/Lincoln, about her recommendations for soon-to-be moms.

Given the side effects often associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, in your professional experience, is it safe for moms-to-be to get the vaccine?

Dr. Gaither: Common side effects are fatigue, low-grade fever, pain at the injection site, and muscle aches. Most of the symptoms can be relieved with hydration, Tylenol, and applying a cold pack to the affected area. As with anything else, it’s best to consult your physician FIRST with any issues such that you can be directed accordingly. 

For women that opt to receive the vaccine during pregnancy, will that guarantee protection for the baby from receiving COVID?

Dr. Gaither: Research that has been done thus far in this arena has confirmed that antibodies from the mom cross the placenta to the baby thus affording a level of protection. However, more research is needed is further back these findings.

For unvaccinated moms-to-be, what are some of the risks they face if they contract COVID while pregnant?

Dr. Gaither: Pregnancy creates room for altered immunity. The immune system is decreased to allow the developing fetus the ability to thrive and grow. COVID-19 has a predilection for attacking those with altered immunity. A patient that contracts COVID while pregnant can display a myriad of symptoms from asymptomatic to cardiopulmonary collapse to preterm labor and delivery to death — and all clinical presentations in between. I have also seen patients whose babies have fluid around their hearts in utero (pericardial effusion). Each case is different.

What are delivery room protocols now in NYC?

Dr. Gaither: Many hospitals allow one person with the mother during labor and postpartum as long as they are wearing the appropriate PPE. I recommend conferring with the hospital where you plan to give birth as to what their specific protocols may be.

How can women boost their immune systems while pregnant especially during a pandemic? 

Dr. Gaither: I’m a firm believer in boosting your immune system from a holistic standpoint. Garlic, onions, and turmeric are great natural immunity boosters. Also, making sure your body is getting the right amount of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has many beneficial benefits for the body such as:

  • preventing pre-term labor
  • aiding with bone development
  • improving cardiovascular health
  • boosting immune competence

For people and pregnant women of color, it’s prudent to know what your Vitamin D level is, as due to the melanin in the skin, there could be a deficiency. Ask your doctor to assess your level, and begin supplementation if needed.

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