Pregnant women are advised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
An MRNA vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna is the preferred COVID-19 vaccines for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy. Research shows these vaccines are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and they can receive the vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.
The risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19 is higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby.
Pregnant women who get COVID-19 have a higher risk of needing to go to hospital or needing intensive care. Their unborn baby has a slightly higher chance of being born prematurely (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and needing to go to a hospital for care.
It is preferable to have the two doses 8 weeks apart, but the interval between doses can be reduced to 3 weeks for Pfizer or 4 weeks for Moderna. A shorter interval may be recommended for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised or who have a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or in an outbreak setting.. Then a booster dose 3 months after their second primary dose.
There is evidence available from other countries about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy. Reports show that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for use by pregnant women.
Research shows that pregnant women and non-pregnant women get similar protection from COVID-19 vaccination.
The chances of complications such as premature delivery, stillbirth, small for gestational age infants and congenital anomalies does not increase after vaccination.
A US study of more than 35,000 pregnant women showed the side effects after vaccination were very similar in both pregnant and non-pregnant women.
As data on pregnant women increases, we will continue to update our advice.
Common side effects following the Pfizer vaccine include:
- sore arm
- muscle pain
- joint pain
If you have any of these side effects after your vaccination, you can take paracetamol to reduce these common side effects. Paracetamol is safe in all stages of pregnancy.
Studies from around the world have not found any side effects specific to pregnant women or their babies. However, it is possible that there are very rare side effects that have not been found yet.
Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of stillbirth or premature (early) delivery.
Their babies are also more likely to show distress during delivery, or to need treatment in a newborn intensive care area in the hospital.
Vaccination is the best way to reduce these risks.
Scientific evidence suggests that the antibodies created by pregnant women after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can cross the placenta, particularly in women vaccinated early in pregnancy and who have received all doses prior to the baby being born.
These antibodies may provide the baby with some protection against COVID-19 for the first few months of life.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are recommended for women who are breastfeeding.
If they cannot have these vaccines, they can have the Nuvaxovid (Novavax) or Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine.
Women can receive the vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.
It is safe to continue breastfeeding before or after a vaccination.
These vaccines are also recommended for women who are planning pregnancy. Getting vaccinated before conceiving means you are likely to have protection against COVID-19 throughout your pregnancy.
Protection from vaccines reduces over time.
All pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended to have a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if they:
- are 16 years or older and
- received their first 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at least 3 months ago.
All pregnant women who are severely immunocompromised are recommended to receive a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 2 months after their second primary dose. They should then receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine 3 months after their third dose.
Some pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended to receive a winter booster dose (4th dose) if they are:
- have or survived certain cancers
- have an autoimmune disease requiring treatment
- have a chronic or severe disease that affects your lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, or heart
- have diabetes requiring medication
- have a disability with significant or complex health needs
- are severely overweight or underweight
Speak with your doctor if you are not sure if you should receive a winter booster dose.
Please note that:
- You do not need to avoid becoming pregnant before or after a COVID-19 vaccination.
- Vaccination does not affect fertility.
- You are not required to have a pregnancy test before getting vaccinated.
If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, speak to your doctor.