Dr. Xavier Pombar, D.O., a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at Women's Health Consultants and newly appointed Maternal Fetal Medicine Director for the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, is urging all women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID-19 now.
“This is the right time to get vaccinated, no matter if the patient is in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd trimester,” said Dr. Pombar, who specializes in Maternal-Fetal Medicine and high-risk pregnancies.
The Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, (SMFM), along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (ACOG), and other specialty societies released a joint statement on August 9 stating that pregnant individuals are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection. They stressed the best way for pregnant individuals to protect themselves against the potential harm from COVID-19 infection is to be vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined the call for pregnant patients to be vaccinated: “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”
“Women who are pregnant or recently pregnant are in a high-risk group for COVID-19 infections compared to those who aren’t or haven’t been pregnant,” warned Dr. Pombar.
“A pregnant woman’s immune system already is considered compromised which may be the reason that they are at greater risk for adverse outcomes,” Dr. Pombar said. “In addition, if they have diabetes, hypertension or other medical conditions, they would be at an even greater risk for serious complications related to COVID infection. All expecting mothers, especially those at highest risk, should get the vaccine shot immediately.”
While the risk of severe illness is low, Dr. Pombar said he and his colleagues have seen cases of pregnant women who have died due to the COVID infection while he was at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago at the height of the pandemic last year.
Still, Dr. Pombar understands why some pregnant women have been reluctant to be vaccinated. “From what I have seen, women who are pregnant are not being stubborn or political. They want to do everything they can to protect their baby. There were some early media reports that raised some concern about potentially harmful side effects related to certain COVID-19 vaccines.”
However, current data from thousands of reporting individuals show the COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective. The same appears to be true in women who have received the vaccine while pregnant and those who received it shortly before becoming pregnant. The data is equally reassuring when it comes to infants born to vaccinated individuals. Moreover, COVID-19 vaccines have no impact on fertility, according to SMFM and ACOG.
“Some women have wanted to wait until after their baby was born. But the truth is, the vaccine poses no danger of pre-term delivery, miscarriage, malformities or any other health concerns for mother or baby. Pregnant women who took the vaccine during their pregnancy or before their pregnancy delivered healthy babies.”
According to Dr. Pombar, those who get the COVID vaccine may experience temporary after-effects, such as fever, body aches and general fatigue which should go away within a day or so. “All three vaccines are beneficial for women who are pregnant, and also carry no problems with breastfeeding.” he said, “Mothers can be confident in choosing the vaccination during their pregnancy to protect themselves and their infants, because the immunity is believed to pass through the placenta protecting the baby.”