Pregnancy and Breastfeeding FAQ

We know you have many questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines during your pregnancy or if you’re breastfeeding. For general information about the COVID-19 vaccine, see the Vaccine FAQ.

Julie Braga, MD, talks about the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Should women who are pregnant or breastfeeding get the vaccine?

We recommend strongly that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding or are planning on becoming pregnant receive the COVID-19 vaccine. You do not need to have a conversation with your obstetric health care providers to make an appointment for the vaccine. We are very happy to meet with you to help you decide whether to take the vaccine.

What are the benefits of getting the COVID vaccine?

The vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19. It will dramatically decrease the chance of severe illness. You must get both doses of the vaccine for it to be fully effective. It’s not yet known whether getting the vaccine prevents passing the virus to others if you do get COVID-19 or how long protection lasts. Vaccinated people still need to follow local and national recommendations for ways to decrease infection such as handwashing, use of masks, and social distancing.

Are pregnant women at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

There is abundant evidence now that pregnant women with COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness, including illness that results in intensive care unit (ICU) admission, mechanical ventilation, and death. Additionally, pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth, which could cause the baby harm and possible other outcomes such as stillbirth.

Were pregnant and breastfeeding women included in the vaccine trials?

Pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in the vaccine clinical trials. At present over 130,000 pregnant have been vaccinated and no increased risk for problems for the mother and baby has been found.

Is the vaccine a live vaccine?

The vaccine is not a live vaccine. It is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is like the flu shot, which exposes the body to something that looks like the part of the virus so our bodies do the natural process of making antibodies to protect against disease.

What are the side effects and when may they occur?

Side effects may occur in the first 3 days after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. These include minor side effects like tiredness, mild to moderate fever, headache, and muscle aches and pain where the shot was given. Having symptoms is a sign that the vaccine is working and antibodies are being made.

Pregnant women who experience fever after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat the fever, since very high fever can harm a baby. Acetaminophen is safe to use during pregnancy and does not affect how the vaccine works if it is taken when symptoms occur after the vaccination.

Is it safe for breastfeeding women to get the vaccine?

Although lactating individuals were not allowed in the clinical trials, we know from lots of experience with other vaccines the benefits of vaccination outweigh the very small safety concerns. You don’t have to delay or stop breastfeeding just because you get the vaccine.

What if I choose not to get the vaccine while I am pregnant?

If you choose not to get the vaccine while you are pregnant, you can get it after you have your baby. No matter what you decide, it is important that you continue to follow COVID-19 infection prevention steps such as wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, and maintaining physical distancing of at least 6 feet.

What should I do if I choose to get the vaccine while I am pregnant?

When you receive your first dose, you will also receive a COVID-19 vaccination record card. Bring your COVID-19 vaccination record card when you return for your second dose to ensure you are getting the appropriate vaccination. You should be sure to return to the same location where you received your first dose. It is important to store the card safely. Consider signing up for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) V-safe program to allow us to collect more information about outcomes during pregnancy and breastfeeding.