Pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility and the COVID-19 vaccination

Updated 3 February 2022

The Joint Committee on Vaccine Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be prioritised for vaccination alongside other groups at high risk from COVID-19.

This is because latest evidence shows that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe effects of COVID-19 infection – especially in the last three months of their pregnancy – and it can increase the risk of premature labour and stillbirth.

Like most adults, pregnant women should have two doses 8 weeks apart, followed by a booster vaccination 3 months after their second dose. The recommended vaccines in pregnancy are Pfizer or Moderna.

If you’re pregnant, you can book your vaccination online using the National Booking System or visit a convenient walk-in centre where you will be prioritised to avoid you having to queue.

If you have any questions or concerns about getting the jab, please discuss these with your midwife or GP. You may also find the information below helpful. 

Frequently asked questions

Why do I need to get vaccinated?

The immune system is reduced during pregnancy and the extra demands on the mother’s body in the third trimester puts them at risk of severe effects of COVID-19 infection.

 COVID-19 infection increases the risk of stillbirth and giving birth prematurely, as well as the risk of pre-eclampsia, so it’s really important that pregnant women get the vaccine to protect both them and their baby against the virus and its serious effects.

Benefits of getting the vaccine include:

  • Reduced risk of severe disease for the pregnant woman.
  • Reduced risk of stillbirth and prematurity for the baby.
  • Reduced risk of transmission to household members.
  • Provision of protective antibodies for the baby providing passive immunity after birth.

How do I know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for me and my baby?

The vaccines approved for UK use have met strict safety and effectiveness standards. They’ve been approved by an independent body (The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which follows international safety standards, and have gone through all the same clinical trials and safety checks that all other licensed medicines have to complete before use.

Over 55,000 pregnant women in England and Scotland have received a COVID-19 vaccine with no adverse effects recorded. Research from six studies in four countries, involving more than 40,00 pregnant women, has confirmed that the vaccine doesn’t increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, growth or any congenital abnormalities.

Why did they initially advise pregnant women not to have the vaccine?

As with all new medicines, the vaccine wasn’t routinely offered to pregnant women until further data became available, therefore advice has changed over time. Once data from research evidence was available, the JCVI confirmed that the vaccine was both safe and effective to take in pregnancy. This is supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, which have both recommended vaccinations as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe COVID-19 infection.

Can the vaccines cause miscarriage?

No, there’s absolutely no link between having the vaccine and miscarriage. The MHRA monitors all data relating to vaccines in pregnancy and has confirmed that there’s no increase in the numbers of miscarriages or stillbirths being reported in women who have had the COVID-19 vaccination.

Can the vaccine affect the placenta? 

No. A study has been carried out on this and shown there’s no evidence of any injury to the placenta in women who received the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy.

Can I get vaccinated during my first trimester?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy so you should have it as soon as possible.

Can I get vaccinated if I plan to become pregnant?

Yes. Getting vaccinated before pregnancy helps prevent COVID-19 infection and its serious consequences. There’s no need to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination and fertility experts recommend having the vaccine if you’re trying to conceive.

Can I get vaccinated during IVF treatment?

Yes. In fact fertility experts, including the British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists, recommend having the vaccine if you’re trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatment. Your medical team can advise you about the best time for your situation. If you have the vaccine at this time, you’ll help protect yourself and your baby from the effects of COVID-19 infection in pregnancy.

Will I experience side effects from the vaccine?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. These are usually mild and don’t last long. Very common side effects in the first day or two after your vaccine include: pain or tenderness in your arm where you had your injection, feeling tired and headaches, aches and chills. You may also have flu like symptoms and experiences episodes of shivering or shaking for a day or two. If you develop a fever (your temperature is 38C or above) you can rest and take paracetamol, which is safe in pregnancy.

Can getting vaccinated affect my fertility?

No. Medical experts agree that it’s not possible for the vaccines to affect fertility. Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines teach your body to fight the disease. They don’t have any ingredients that would affect fertility and the components leave the body within a few days. 

Can I get vaccinated when breastfeeding?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe to have when breastfeeding. The components leave the body within a few days and there’s no plausible way any vaccine ingredient could pass to your baby through breast milk.

Can I take my baby / breastfeed at a vaccination centre?

Vaccination centres welcome women who may need to bring their baby or children along in addition to a family member, friend or partner who may be offering support at this appointment. Women should feel reassured that facilities are available to support breastfeeding should it be required as well as access to information and support around vaccination.

More information