Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Pregnant People?

pregnant woman standing in a park holding her belly

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Key Takeaways

  • Drawing on a growing body of safety data, top U.S. health organizations now recommend pregnant people be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) support the use of any of the three vaccines now available in the U.S. but note that pregnant people should discuss options with their doctor.
  • Research shows that COVID-19 infections during pregnancy put both expectant parents and their babies at risk for serious health problems, but vaccination may have protective benefits.

All pregnant people should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest recommendations from the nation's leading health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

"Pregnant individuals are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection, including death," reads a statement representing 23 public health, medical, and scientific groups. "Data from tens of thousands of reporting individuals have shown that the COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective when administered during pregnancy."

Safety Data on the COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy

Pregnant people were excluded from early clinical trials of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines now available in the U.S. But scientists have been tracking the health of people who received COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, and mounting data show they are safe.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed reports from the CDC's V-safe smartphone-based surveillance system and Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Preliminary findings based on data from 35,691 pregnant people showed that individuals who received an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer's or Moderna's in 2021 did not have higher rates of pregnancy and newborn health problems than those pregnant prior to the pandemic.

Another recent study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found no evidence of placental damage in women who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine 22 to 70 days (average 46 days) before pregnancy.

Fewer studies so far have tracked pregnancy outcomes in people who have received the J&J vaccine, however, the CDC notes that similar vaccines using the same immune-system-stimulating virus have been shown to carry no additional risks for pregnant people or their babies.

Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are all in the initial stages of clinical safety trials in pregnant people, specifically. Those studies aim to add to growing research that the vaccine is safe for pregnant people and also help clarify whether it induces the same immune response that protects non-pregnant people, says Yvonne Maldonado, MD, professor of pediatrics and health research and policy at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Yvonne Maldonado, MD

We believe that pregnant women, who make up a large share of the healthcare workforce and the general population, should be protected against infection with SARs-CoV-2 with a vaccine that has been shown to be safe and effective among pregnant women.

— Yvonne Maldonado, MD

Are Some Vaccines Better Than Others During Pregnancy?

It's possible that some vaccines are more suitable for pregnant women than others. "There are various committees with a mix of expertise and experience in infectious disease in pregnancy, obstetrics, pediatrics, and ethics who are assessing the available evidence to guide these decisions for particular vaccine products," says Carleigh Krubiner, PhD, one of the leaders of the Pregnancy Research Ethics for Vaccines, Epidemics, and New Technologies (PREVENT) project at Johns Hopkins University. 

Right now, both the CDC and ACOG support the use of the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines, noting that current safety data shows the benefits of all three in pregnant people outweigh the risks. Both organizations do note that the J&J vaccine, while safe, does pose a rare risk of thrombocytopenia, a rare blood clotting disorder. Therefore, pregnant people may want to consider talking to their doctors about receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines instead.

Reasons To Get the COVID-19 Vaccine in Pregnancy

"We have to think about the risks that coronavirus infection may pose to the mother and baby if they remain unprotected or if they are unable to access a highly effective vaccine,” says Carleigh Krubiner, PhD, one of the leaders of the Pregnancy Research Ethics for Vaccines, Epidemics, and New Technologies (PREVENT) project at Johns Hopkins University. 

Research shows that COVID-19 is dangerous for both mothers and babies. Pregnant people get sicker with COVID-19 than non-pregnant people, becoming more likely to be hospitalized or need a ventilator as a result of the illness. Those with symptomatic COVID-19 while expecting are also more likely than other pregnant people to have preeclampsia or eclampsia, require intensive care, or even die.

Babies of people diagnosed with COVID-19 are at higher risk to be born prematurely, be delivered by cesarean section, and require a NICU stay of a week or longer.

Meanwhile, all three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been shown to effectively combat COVID-19, including the predominating Delta variant. Even though breakthrough infections in vaccinated people can happen, they are less severe.

Additionally, a pregnant person has more antibodies in their blood and breast milk after a vaccine than after a COVID-19 infection, leading researchers to speculate that those virus-fighting proteins will be passed to infants. This bolsters evidence that as the pandemic continues and more dangerous variants circulate, immunization is the best way to protect not just yourself, but your baby, too.

What This Means for You

It's right to be concerned about what you are putting into your body when you're expecting, from food to vaccines. This is why scientists have been working hard to study the safety of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy. While more research on specific vaccines still needs to be done, early findings show there are minimal risks to being vaccinated during pregnancy but considerable risks associated with contracting the virus. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, be sure to talk to your doctor about getting immunized and which of the three FDA-recommended vaccines may be best for you.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Statement of Strong Medical Consensus for Vaccination of Pregnant Individuals Against COVID-19. Published August 9, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Covid-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding. Updated August 11, 2021.

  3. Shimabukuro TT, Kim SY, Myers TR, et al. Preliminary findings of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine safety in pregnant personsN Engl J Med. 2021;384:2273-2282. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2104983

  4. Shanes E, Otero S, Mithal L, Mupanomunda C, Miller E, Goldstein J. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) vaccination in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2021;138(2):281-3. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000004457

  5. Villar J, Ariff S, Gunier RB, et al. Maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality among pregnant women with and without COVID-19 infection: the INTERCOVID Multinational Cohort StudyJAMA Pediatr. 2021;175(8):817-26. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.1050

  6. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Delta Variant: What We Know About the Science. Updated August 26, 2021.

  7. Gray K, Bordt E, Atyeo C, et al. Coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine response in pregnant and lactating women: a cohort studyAm J Obstet Gynecol. 2021;225(3):E1-E17. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2021.03.023

By Claire Gillespie
Claire Gillespie is a freelance writer specializing in mental health. She’s written for The Washington Post, Vice, Health, Women’s Health, SELF, The Huffington Post, and many more. Claire is passionate about raising awareness for mental health issues and helping people experiencing them not feel so alone.