COVID-19, fetal health, and development: Your questions answered

The pandemic has left us all with a lot of questions. Here, the Ovia Health clinical team answers your questions about COVID-19, fetal health, and development.

If I am pregnant and have COVID-19, will my baby develop normally?

While research is still emerging, most pregnant people who have given birth while infected with the coronavirus have had normal deliveries and healthy babies. However, studies show that people who tested positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy may be more likely to have complications, such as preterm birth, blood clots and preeclampsia [1]. Pregnant people are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, potentially requiring hospitalization, ICU admission, and mechanical ventilation.

If I get COVID-19, will I pass it to my fetus?

The most recent research on the topic says that transmitting COVID-19 while pregnant is very rare – for moms in North America, the rate was about 0.1%. This does not include the risk of passing it to your newborn during routine care postpartum. However, studies show that people who tested positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy are more likely to have complications, such as preterm birth [6]. There is no evidence that cesarean delivery reduces the risk of infection, so this is not recommended.

What effect would the COVID-19 vaccine have on my baby?

The Covid vaccine helps to protect you from serious complications and hospitalization. That means the risk to your baby of being born prematurely or having growth issues because of damage to your placenta both go down. In addition, emerging research suggests that infants under 4 months of age have significant protection when pregnant parents are vaccinated or boosted during second or third trimester.

The vaccine is available to and recommended for everyone over the age of 5 years old, including those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. 

All people who are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time should be able to get it, if they so wish. Multiple, well-respected clinical organizations including the CDC and ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommend the vaccine to people who are trying to conceive, pregnant, and breastfeeding [4]. And the vaccine is free to anyone in the U.S. regardless of your insurance status!

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain “live” virus. This means you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines. In general, vaccines that do not contain “live” viruses are safe during pregnancy and do not have increased risks for infertility, miscarriage, fetal anomalies, or stillbirth. Side effects for the COVID-19 vaccines include pain at the site of injection, fever, fatigue, and chills. These typically go away after a couple of days. These side effects are normal and expected. They are indicators of your immune system doing its job to learn to protect you from the virus. There have been reports of very rare, unexpected, adverse reactions to the vaccines. A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can happen in very rare cases.  The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been linked with rare cases of dangerous blood clots [5], so should only be used in certain circumstances.The incidences of these adverse events are so low, getting vaccinated remains safer than potentially getting infected with COVID-19.

The CDC is encouraging pregnant women to contact Mother To Baby experts at https://mothertobaby.org/ for help answering questions regarding the vaccine in pregnancy. Also, your midwife, doctor, or other healthcare professional is a great resource for more information about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
Updated June 8, 2022

Your COVID-19 guide

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