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Pregnancy, breastfeeding and the COVID-19 vaccine

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Pregnancy & First Days Pregnancy tips

The COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended in pregnancy, so if you haven't had all the doses you're eligible for, it’s important to get these as soon as you can. Pregnant women are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination.

Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for you and your baby. This includes reducing the risk of you being admitted to intensive care and the risk of your baby being born prematurely.

There is lots of helpful information available on NHS Inform and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website to help you.

In this video, Professor Sarah Stock, Consultant Obstetrician and Researcher at the University of Edinburgh, explains why it's important to stay up to date with all the vaccines offered to you when you're pregnant.

Pregnancy and COVID-19

Pregnant women are at increased risk from COVID-19.

  • Some pregnant women have become seriously unwell and have needed hospital treatment.
  • Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of being admitted to intensive care than women of the same age who aren't pregnant. 
  • If you have COVID-19 in pregnancy, you are twice as likely to have a stillbirth, and it's twice as likely that your baby will be born prematurely, which can affect their long term-health. 
  • Data from Public Health Scotland showed that 98% of pregnant women with COVID-19 who required intensive care in Scotland were unvaccinated.

In addition, if you're pregnant you're more likely to have severe COVID-19 infection if you: 

  • have underlying health conditions (for example diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma) 
  • are overweight 
  • are of Black and Asian Minority Ethnic background
  • are aged 35 years or over. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women of any age should be prioritised as a clinical risk group for COVID-19 vaccination. So if you're pregnant it's really important that if you get all the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. 

The vaccine can be given at any stage during pregnancy. 

COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the UK have been shown to be effective and safe. You and your unborn baby cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccines. Evidence shows there are no pregnancy-related safety concerns following COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy. Therefore it’s recommended that everyone who's pregnant should have the coronavirus vaccine, if they haven’t yet had all the doses they are eligible for. 

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are the preferred vaccines for pregnant women, because they’ve been used more extensively in pregnancy.

You can find out more about this on the NHS Inform website.

Having all the recommended doses of the vaccine is important for longer-term protection against COVID-19.

If you'd like to know more, please read the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists information about the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination before attending your appointment. You may wish to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with your midwife, GP or other clinician who’ll be happy to help.

Breastfeeding advice

Photo of a 6 month old baby breastfeeding

Photo of a 6 month old baby breastfeeding

If you’re breastfeeding, or planning to breastfeed, you can still get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine you’ll be offered will be clinically appropriate for you, and will follow recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The benefits of breastfeeding are well known, and the COVID-19 vaccine can safely be given to women who are breastfeeding. The antibodies you make following vaccination can pass into your breast milk. These may give your baby some protection against COVID-19.

You shouldn’t stop breastfeeding to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and you can continue breastfeeding after vaccination.

Likewise, if you get coronavirus, the advice is to keep breastfeeding if you can. While you could pass it to your baby in the same way as anyone close to you, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks. Breastfeeding is good for the health of both of you. Breast milk contains antibodies which boost your baby's immune system and helps them fight viruses and infections.

You can find more breastfeeding information and tips here

COVID-19 and fertility

There’s no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility in women or men. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant, the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy.

You don’t need to avoid trying for a baby after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

More information

The COVID-19 vaccine - Pregnancy leaflet has more information about the coronavirus vaccination programme if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

This short video also tells you more about getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re pregnant. 

You can find out more about vaccines in pregnancy at NHS Inform.

Last updated: 7 Nov, 2023