Pregnancy and COVID-19 Booster Shots: What You Should Know

It is safe for pregnant individuals to receive COVID-19 booster shots.

As of July 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that booster shots are recommended for individuals aged 5 and older, with two boosters shots recommended for those 50 or older or for individuals 12 and older who are considered immunocompromised.

Among those who are eligible to get those booster shots are pregnant individuals. Here's more about pregnancy and getting COVID-19 boosters.

Guidelines Related to Pregnancy and Getting COVID-19 Booster Shots

In general, the CDC recommends that those who are pregnant, trying to conceive or may conceive, or are breastfeeding should get vaccines and boosters if they are eligible. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also urges pregnant people to get a booster shot: "ACOG recommends that pregnant and recently pregnant people up to 6 weeks postpartum receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine following the completion of their initial COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series."

The CDC also has general recommendations for getting boosters that pregnant people should follow. Those who initially received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster dose at least two months after their initial dose, and those who received an mRNA vaccine should get a booster dose at least five months following the completion of their initial series. As of August 2022, those who have received a Novavax vaccine (a protein-based vaccine) are not eligible for boosters since the Novavax vaccine is not authorized for booster doses.

Why Is It Important for Pregnant Individuals To Get COVID-19 Booster Shots?

According to infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, pregnant people should think of themselves as "higher risk than the average person for complications from COVID."

Pregnancy is technically considered an underlying medical condition when it comes to COVID-19, according to the CDC. The reasoning: "Pregnant and recently pregnant people (for at least 42 days following the end of pregnancy) are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, compared with non-pregnant people," the CDC says.

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"I tell my patients that the COVID-19 vaccine, whether it's the first series or booster, is completely safe and recommended during pregnancy," Melissa Simon, MD, an ob/gyn at Northwestern Medicine, told Health. Kjersti Aagaard, MD, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, also told Health that her practice is "recommending the booster in pregnancy, just like we do for any high-risk group."

Dr. Aagaard noted that expectant parents should consider the benefits, not only for themselves but for their babies as well. "One of the things we do as pregnant moms is prepare babies to live in the outside world—and that has COVID in it," Dr. Aagaard said. The CDC notes that, in general, COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy produce protective antibodies for babies. Additionally, researchers of an Obstetrics & Gynecology study published in March 2022 found that there were higher antibody levels among pregnant individuals who had completed their series of vaccinations, had a prior history of COVID-19, and had a third-trimester booster dose.

Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida, urged pregnant people to consider all the risks, benefits, and alternatives in any medical situation—including the decision to get a booster shot. In Dr. Greves' opinion, that decision-making process offers up an answer that clearly points to getting the vaccine as well. "We're not seeing a whole lot of risks from the vaccine, but we do see a lot from getting COVID-19 and dying," Dr. Greves told Health.

Furthermore, getting booster shots allows for longer-term protection. "The bottom line is that, physiologically, your antibody response will wane," said Michael Cackovic, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "It just makes sense to get a booster during pregnancy given that there is data to support that immunity goes down after six months," Dr. Greves said—which is the reason behind booster doses, to begin with.

What To Do If You're Worried About COVID-19 Vaccines

If you're pregnant and have any lingering nerves—maybe you experienced some rough side effects after your first series, or you've heard others have had side effects from their booster—remember that it's OK (and even recommended) to take it easy.

Dr. Aagaard recommended having Tylenol handy (it's considered safe during pregnancy) in case you develop a fever and to drink plenty of fluids. "If you didn't feel well with that second dose in your first series, I would absolutely recommend taking it easy after your booster and maybe taking that day off if you can, just to be safe," Dr. Simon said. But, Dr. Simon pointed out, "A lot of people who get their booster don't have a reaction, even if they had a reaction during their initial series."

As always, talk to your ob-gyn about your decision, along with any hesitations. They should be able to answer any specific concerns you have and offer up personalized advice.

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