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Appeal for pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccination

20/07/2021

This article is from 20 July 2021 - the situation may change with time.

Pregnant women who have received at least their first COVID-19 vaccination are urging others to do the same to protect themselves and their babies.

The NHS in Oxfordshire is offering reassurance to women that they can have the COVID-19 vaccine while trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, or breastfeeding – and that it will not impact on their fertility.

Mother-of-two Laura Brunton is expecting her third child in November and has received her first jab.

The 38-year-old, who is being cared for by Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, made the decision to get the vaccine to give her and her unborn child the best possible protection against COVID-19. 

Laura said: "I initially didn't want the vaccine as I was worried about the effect it could have on my unborn child. However, once I reached the 20-week mark and realised that the virus isn’t going away anytime soon, I knew I had to do my own research and make up my own mind.

"I realised there was a lot of scare-mongering and click-bait out there that was unsubstantiated with facts or research. I was reassured by the advice of health professionals and available research and took the decision to get vaccinated as I knew it would provide the best possible defence for me and my unborn child.

"I hope to breastfeed again so either way my baby and I are going to be physically connected for some time and I need be to be as fit and healthy as I can be to do this.  

"The vaccination itself was painless. A doctor at the vaccine centre took me to one side and answered any questions I had. I had a sore arm for a few days but no other side effects."

Laura and her family, from Witney, were ill with COVID-19 in March 2020 and she was bed-bound for nearly two weeks.

She added: “Seeing my two-year-old at the time in so much discomfort with COVID-19 broke my heart. I don't want any of us to risk experiencing that again, either while I'm heavily pregnant or with a newborn.

"I can't wait to have my next jab and to continue to try and work through the anxiety I'm sure all expectant mums are feeling at the moment and try to enjoy this magical experience as much as possible."

Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, an OUH Consultant Anaesthetist and councillor at Oxford City Council, received her first vaccine in January, the final month of her pregnancy, and her second while breastfeeding.

She said: "For me, it was so important to get vaccinated because the risk of suffering the horrendous effects of COVID-19 is greater than the mild risks from the vaccine.

"I am so relieved that I was able to protect myself and my baby by getting vaccinated. It must be such a worrying time for so many pregnant mums out there with cases on the rise and the lifting of restrictions.

"Thank you to the colleagues who helped me make an informed decision about my baby and vaccination. Baby Emaan is happy, healthy, and currently trying to learn to crawl.

"There is a lot of conflicting information out there so it is understandable to be confused or uncertain. If anybody is unsure, I would urge them to speak to their GP or maternity team – you are not alone."

'One of our most important tools'

Pregnant women and health professionals are encouraging young women over the age of 18 to book their vaccination via the NHS website to help protect not only themselves and their baby, but also their families.

It is important that pregnant women get vaccinated because the numbers of people contracting COVID-19 in Oxfordshire, particularly in Oxford, is continuing to rise and young women were among the last groups to be offered the vaccine.

Dr Brenda Kelly, a Consultant Obstetrician at OUH, said: "It is essential that all sections of the community receive the COVID-19 vaccine to reduce serious illness and help protect each other. 

"Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most effective way of preventing infection. Vaccination is one of our most important tools to help reduce the spread of the virus.

"Most pregnant women who contract the virus will experience a mild flu-like illness. Some may go on to develop long Covid and long-term symptoms such as extreme fatigue. The risk of serious infection increases if pregnant women are in the later stage of pregnancy. 

"In this group we see higher rates of admission to intensive care and increased risk of prematurity, which can have lasting consequences for a baby. Contracting COVID-19 also doubles the risk of stillbirth. The vaccine can help these risks."

She added: "Many pregnant and breastfeeding women worry about the potential impact on their baby, which is understandable.

"There is currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy from clinical trials as pregnant women were not recruited into these. However, real-world data indicates that there is no evidence that the vaccines cause harm to women or their babies if pregnant or breastfeeding. 

"In the USA, more than 130,000 pregnant women have now been vaccinated and no safety concerns were identified.

"Ultimately, however, it is a woman's decision whether to get the vaccine, and I would strongly recommend that all pregnant women consider vaccination and discussing it further with their GP or maternity team."

Pictured: Laura Brunton

Guidance

Current UK guidelines state that:

  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant
  • COVID-19 vaccines offer people the best protection against COVID-19 disease which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women
  • Vaccines can be received while breastfeeding
  • Couples do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination

Dr Kelly has recorded a series of videos with information about what pregnant women should expect when considering the vaccine. These can be watched on YouTube.

The Royal College of Gynaecologists produced this useful decision aid, and there is more information on their website, as well as via the NHS website.