COVID-19 vaccines found safe for pregnant women, will not damage the placenta

CHICAGO, Ill. — A new study finds no evidence whatsoever that COVID-19 vaccines can prove problematic for pregnancies. Researchers at Northwestern Medicine studied placentas from patients who received the COVID-19 vaccine during their pregnancies; finding no negative side-effects for the babies.

“The placenta is like the black box in an airplane. If something goes wrong with a pregnancy, we usually see changes in the placenta that can help us figure out what happened,” says corresponding author Dr. Jeffery Goldstein, assistant professor of pathology at the Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine pathologist, in a university release. “From what we can tell, the COVID vaccine does not damage the placenta.”

“We have reached a stage in vaccine distribution where we are seeing vaccine hesitancy, and this hesitancy is pronounced for pregnant people,” adds study co-author and maternal fetal medicine physician Dr. Emily Miller. “Our team hopes these data, albeit preliminary, can reduce concerns about the risk of the vaccine to the pregnancy.”

Study authors collected placenta samples from 84 vaccinated patients and 116 unvaccinated women delivering their babies at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago. Most of those mothers received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines during their third trimester.

Growing evidence the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for all patients

Notably, last year Northwestern researchers had collected evidence suggesting that a COVID-19 infection while pregnant may lead to injury — such as abnormal blood flow between mother and baby in utero. With that in mind, these findings are that much more important. Study authors conclude expectant mothers shouldn’t worry about getting vaccinated; it is generally safe and can help them avoid such complications.

“We are beginning to move to a framework of protecting fetuses through vaccination, rather than from vaccination,” Miller says.

Just last month a study discovered vaccinated pregnant women start passing their antibodies onto their children quickly.

“Until infants can get vaccinated, the only way for them to get COVID antibodies is from their mother,” Goldstein notes.

The first organ to develop during pregnancy, the placenta, does a whole lot for the developing fetus including providing oxygen and nutrition. Additionally, the placenta also manages the immune system, telling mom’s body that the fetus is a welcome guest and not something that should be treated as an intruder.

“The Internet has amplified a concern that the vaccine might trigger an immunological response that causes the mother to reject the fetus,” Goldstein explains. “But these findings lead us to believe that doesn’t happen.”

The study appears in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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