‘What poses the greatest risk to women and their babies is not the vaccine, it is the COVID-19 infection itself’

Health experts are urging new mothers, pregnant women and those planning to conceive, to get vaccinated.

Dr Gauthami Bhagwanani, Birthing Unit Director at Liverpool Hospital, spoke at today’s NSW COVID-19 media conference and said the Pfizer and incoming Moderna vaccines are encouraged for pregnant women and there is no evidence to suggest they will harm you, your child or your attempts at having a healthy pregnancy.

We have republished Dr Bhagwanani’s full statement from the media conference below.

“I’m an obstetrician and I’ve been caring for pregnant women throughout this pandemic, including women who have been very unwell from the COVID-19 infection.

I am here today to encourage all women who are planning pregnancy, who are currently pregnant and those who are breastfeeding to please get their COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently the two vaccines recommended for pregnant women are those from Pfizer, which is already available, and the one from Moderna, which will be available soon.

Outside of pregnancy, all of the vaccines are safe and this includes AstraZeneca and you can have this if you planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding.

The concept of vaccination for women in pregnancy is not new. For many years, we have routinely vaccinated women against influenza and whooping cough.

I understand the concept of COVID-19 vaccination can be concerning to some and it seems we have approved and implemented the vaccine very quickly but the technology behind the development of the vaccine has been around for about 10 years.

Many women are worried that the side effects of the vaccine in pregnancy have not been researched enough. I want to reassure everyone that the safety profile of the vaccines in pregnancy has been studied extensively.

In Australia we have had the added advantage of seeing the effects of the vaccine in pregnant women overseas. Over 100,000 women were included in studies from the US and the UK.

Dr Bhagwanani said getting vaccinated would protect the entire family. (Getty images)

These have not demonstrated any adverse outcomes for your baby. The vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage or structural abnormalities for your baby. It does not affect your fertility.

What poses the greatest risk to women and their babies is not the vaccine, it is the COVID-19 infection itself. Having COVID-19 while you’re pregnant means you’re at double the risk of needing an ICU admission, you have an increased risk of needing invasive ventilation and you’re at increased risk of requiring a pre-term delivery.

It also doubles your risk of stillbirth. Most of the women who have been admitted at our hospital are unvaccinated and none of them have been fully vaccinated.

By receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy or when you are breastfeeding, not only are you protecting yourself but also your baby and the rest of why our family at home.

The antibodies you produce after having the vaccination can be passed on to your baby and offer some protection to your baby as well. The Delta variant of COVID-19 has been seen to be particularly contagious within households.

By receiving the vaccine, you will also help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 to your other children and other members of your family.

The mum-to-be didn't realise her husband was recording her therapy sessions
The antibodies you produce after having the vaccination can be passed on to your baby. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Likewise, other members of your family – including the support person who is coming with you at the time of delivery – need to be vaccinated in order to protect you and your baby. It has been heartbreaking to see women and their families separated due to COVID-19.

It has been heartbreaking to deliver babies pre-term because their mums have been so unwell. It has been heartbreaking to separate the babies from their mothers and fathers because they need admission to the nursery and their parents have been too unwell to visit them.

I am in new mum myself. Most of us spend a lot of time ensuring we are eating right things, exercising, doing all the things we can to provide our babies with the best start in life. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best thing that you can do to protect your baby in this climate.”

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