Written by 9:00 am Baby & Toddler, Pregnancy

Doctor Q&A: COVID-19 Vaccine during Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and TTC

Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is well underway. As of 10 May, almost 1.3 million people have completed their two-dose regimen of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Another 1.8 million are awaiting their second dose, and the vaccines may soon be rolled out to children under 16 years old too. However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has stated that the COVID-19 vaccine is not for everyone.

We pose some questions from your point of view to Dr Michelle Chia from the DTAP Clinic Group regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in conjunction with conception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Here’s what she had to say:

Editor’s note: As of 31 May 2021, MOH has updated their guidelines on the COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women, breastfeeding mums, and children aged 12 years and up. For the latest information, please visit www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/vaccination.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Couples Trying to Conceive

COVID-19 Vaccine when trying to conceive

1. Can getting vaccinated affect our fertility and chance of conceiving?

No, it will not affect your chance of conceiving. There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in men or women. In fact, getting it will be a good way to ensure you are protected before trying to conceive.

2. How soon after getting the vaccine can we try to conceive?

Given that the COVID-19 vaccines are still very new, the data on the safety with pregnancy is still not clear. The current recommendation is to try conceiving only at least one month after you have completed both doses of the vaccination. This does not apply to men.

(See also: Are you Pregnant? Check these 9 Early Signs of Pregnancy to find out)

COVID-19 Vaccine during Pregnancy

COVID-19 Vaccine for pregnant women

3. Should I be vaccinated if I’m pregnant?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine is NOT recommended for pregnant women. There is currently not enough evidence on its safety and suitability during pregnancy. Additionally, pregnant women may have changes in their immune system, which can also affect how they react to the vaccine.

** Please see editor’s note above **

4. What if I discover I’m pregnant after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

There is currently no evidence that the vaccine would severely affect the pregnancy or the foetus. However, with so little data available either way, it’s better to play it safe. Women should be extra careful to avoid getting pregnant within the timeframe when they are receiving the vaccine. If you discover that you are pregnant after the first dose, then you will have to defer getting the second dose until after you give birth.

** Please see editor’s note above **

5. What potential risks could mother and foetus be exposed to if I get vaccinated when I’m pregnant? Could the COVID-19 virus infect my foetus?

The potential risks are still unknown as not enough studies have been done. However, it is extremely unlikely that receiving the vaccine would result in you or your foetus getting COVID-19. The vaccine does not cause infection in its recipient as it only contains an inactivated form of the virus.

6. Can I choose to get vaccinated if I’m pregnant despite the MOH recommendation?

You will not be able to get vaccinated if you are pregnant. MOH will not allow it and the vaccination centres will also not administer the vaccine to a pregnant woman. You can schedule your vaccination after giving birth.

** Please see editor’s note above **

(See also: Expecting my first Baby during the Covid-19 Pandemic Lockdown)

COVID-19 Vaccine for Breastfeeding Mums

COVID-19 Vaccine for breastfeeding mums

7. Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for a breastfeeding mum and her baby?

Yes, the current recommendation allows for breastfeeding mothers to receive the vaccine.

8. If I get the vaccine, how long should I wait before continuing to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding mothers are advised to stop breastfeeding for five to seven days after receiving the vaccine. However, that’s more for extra peace of mind. Even if you choose not to suspend breastfeeding, you can still get vaccinated.

** Please see editor’s note above **

9. Are there any post-vaccination side effects that may be of concern to breastfeeding mums in particular?

Common side effects include injection site pain, fever, and headaches. These may occur whether you are breastfeeding or not and are not a source of extra concern.

10. Will my breastfeeding baby also receive immunity to COVID-19 if I have been vaccinated?

There is no evidence to suggest this at the moment.

(See also: COVID-19: On Transmission in Kids, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding)

While there is still no evidence that babies enjoy secondhand immunity to COVID-19 if mums are vaccinated before they conceive or during breastfeeding, we at SingaporeMotherhood are keeping our fingers crossed! Especially since the vaccine isn’t recommended for babies and kids under 16 years for now. As time goes on, researchers will have more answers, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated. But in the meantime, for more facts about Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, visit www.vaccine.gov.sg or the MOH website.

Expert Resource

Dr Michelle Chia is the medical doctor at DTAP Clinic, specialising in women’s health. She has extensive experience in gynaecology and antenatal care. Dr Chia is also a recipient of the prestigious SingHealth OBGYN Academic Clinical Program research grant in 2017 for her research work in contraception awareness and practices among women in Singapore.

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