This blog aims to address the questions that have been asked by parents within our community. Our goal is to offer information to help parents to make an informed decision that is best for their family. It is not intended to replace advice from a health care professional.
With the rollout of the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations for high-risk groups underway, it's no surprise and the vaccine has become a hotly debated topic in the parenting world on Instagram and in Facebook groups.
Our community have been asking, is the COVID vaccine safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women? We’ve done our research and have put together the latest advice to help parents make an informed decision.
The Covid-19 Vaccine & Breastfeeding
Firstly, we’d like to remind our community that it’s completely normal for a breastfeeding mum to have concerns about what’s being passed from their breastmilk to their baby. We’re asked questions all the time about breastfeeding while drinking alcohol and caffeine, eating certain foods, and even while using some skincare products!
Of course, the new COVID-19 vaccines are no exception to this! At Mamamade, we understand the concerns that some parents may have.
What are the current guidelines for breastfeeding women?
If you are breastfeeding, current guidelines state that you can be offered any of the three vaccines currently authorised for use in the UK as long as you meet other conditions for receiving the vaccine. For example, if you’re a frontline NHS worker or have a serious underlying health issue.
There has been no blanket recommendation for all breastfeeding women to get vaccinated, and the decision of whether pregnant women should get the vaccine or not is considered to be a personal choice.
The most recent statement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states:
“There is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines whilst breastfeeding. JCVI advises that breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the woman’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19, and the woman should be informed about the absence of safety data for the vaccine in breastfeeding women” JCVI Statement, 30th Dec 2020
No breastfeeding mums were included in the studies that were carried out prior to the vaccines being authorised for use, hence the lack of data. The decision to allow breastfeeding mums to receive the vaccine was based on an understanding of the way other vaccines have behaved within a breastfeeding mum’s body, where only the antibodies are passed to her baby through her milk. Remember pregnant and breastfeeding women are routinely offered other vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, which acts in a very similar way.
While senior public health officials, medical experts and scientists are confident enough with science that backs allowing breastfeeding mums to receive the vaccine, further studies are underway to confirm the current guidelines for breastfeeding mums.
I'm breastfeeding and have been offered the vaccine - I can't decide whether to have it or not!
If you’re breastfeeding and have been offered the vaccine but can’t decide whether to have it or not, the best thing to do is to talk to your GP or health visitor about your concerns. They’ll help you understand the pros and cons, which will always be unique to your individual circumstances.
For example, if you’re an intensive care nurse, you’ll be more likely to come into contact with the virus. If you’re also breastfeeding, a GP may recommend that the benefits of getting the vaccine (protecting yourself + your family) and continuing to breastfeed outweigh the risk of not getting the vaccine or stopping breastfeeding.
But ultimately, the final decision is yours!
The Covid-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy
Like the breastfeeding guidelines, the decision to get the vaccine during pregnancy or not is considered to be a personal choice.
The lack of data because the virus is so new means that there simply isn't a lot of information out there about the effects of the vaccine on pregnancy, or when the best time to have the vaccine during pregnancy is. This can seem pretty daunting for expecting mums!
Currently the JCVI advise that:
There is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines during pregnancy. These vaccines cannot replicate, so they cannot cause infection in either the woman or the unborn child.
Although the available data do not indicate any safety concern or harm to pregnancy, there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.
This means that you won't be offered a vaccine unless you also meet other at-risk criteria.
It's been advised my medical experts that pregnant women should consider getting vaccinated when they're in a job which puts them at risk or are at risk of serious complications. Generally if you are offered a vaccine, it means the benefits of being protected from COVID-19 infection outweighs any risk.
There is also some early evidence that pregnant women are more likely to suffer from severe complications of COVID-19 infections, so this may be something to consider if you are offered the vaccine. But the pros and cons depending on your individual circumstances should be discussed with your GP or midwife.
There is also no evidence to suggest that the vaccine has any impact on fertility, and if you are trying to conceive then you don't need to delay doing so after having the vaccine.
At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, more evidence is needed before all pregnant and breastfeeding women can be offered the vaccine.
Mamamade do not take a stance for or against vaccination during pregnancy or breastfeeding and consider this to be a personal choice dependent on a mother's individual circumstances. We support parents in making the decision that is best for their family.
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