The second wave of Covid 19 has hit the society hard with many people getting affected with this virus. Though the infectivity rates in pregnancy are the same as in general population there is no need to panic as less than 10% progress to severe illness. The currently available vaccines for administration in India, Covishield and Covaxin have been restricted for use in pregnancy due to safety concerns and need for further trials.
While the COVID-19 vaccine research and regulatory approvals are rapidly progressing, studies have shown that COVID vaccination produces a great immune response in pregnant and lactating women with dual benefit to both the mother and the neonate. Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have already been vaccinating their pregnant women and new mothers for some time now. With fears and concerns of third wave looming large it is a welcoming sign that vaccination in lactating women in India is addressed at about the right time. The much awaited vaccination in pregnancy is yet to get a nod, but is not too far away with ongoing trials.
Myth: It is not safe for a pregnant woman to visit medical facility to seek advice.
Fact: It has been increasingly noted that there is a hesitancy on behalf of pregnant women to visit healthcare facility. Use of double masking should ensure Covid safe precautions and women should not hold back their antenatal visits as there is a high probability of missing out on crucial check ups. Any Covid like symptoms should be reported to the treating obstetrician and necessary testing / treatment initiated at the earliest.
Myth: Vaccine should not be taken by women wanting to have baby.
Fact: Women should take the vaccine prior to planning a pregnancy and it should be 4 weeks from their second dose to ensure adequate immune response against Covid. There is no evidence that vaccine administration affects fertility or miscarriage rates.
Myth: If vaccine is taken unaware of pregnancy, the baby will be affected.
Fact: The vaccine does not have any known teratogenic effects as per available evidences so far. Women who are vaccinated in this manner should not be advised to terminate the pregnancy based only on this criteria. However it is better to avoid vaccination for now if the woman has missed her periods and those planning pregnancy can first take the vaccine and then plan pregnancy after 4 weeks from the last dose.
Myth: Breastfeeding is not to be done if the mother is Covid positive.
Fact: A Covid positive mother can safely breastfeed her baby with appropriate double masking and sanitizing her hands each time before doing so.
Myth: Covid vaccine impacts fertility.
Fact: Covid vaccine does not have any impact on fertility potential in various studies conducted so far. There is in fact, no data or evidence to support any link between female fertility and the vaccine.
Myth: It is not safe to get the vaccine during menstrual cycle.
Fact: There is no physiological, endocrine or immunological basis for such a consideration. Women can receive the vaccine on any day of the menstrual cycle, even during menstruation. One may experience slight soreness or fever which is not associated with menstrual cycle.
Myth: Lactating mothers should not take the vaccine.
Fact: Women can take the shot any time after delivery.
Lately, with increase in the number of cases of COVID infected pregnant mothers and problems faced by such women, many fertility clinics have been seeing pregnant and lactating women seeking advice on taking the vaccine fearing the deadly virus.
By Dr. Sunitha Mahesh, Medical Director, Milann IVF & Fertility – JP Nagar and Dr. Smitha. A.P, Senior Consultant-Foetal Medicine, Milann IVF & Fertility – Kumara Park