Thousands of pregnant women in the UK have not got their Covid-19 vaccinations, and with 98% of those ending up in hospital for Covid being unvaxxed, public officials are calling on them to get the jab.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, chief medical officer Chris Whitty said there were some “stark facts” surrounding the Covid risk in unvaccinated pregnanct women.
“From February 1 to September 30, 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid. Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98%, had not been vaccinated,” he said. “And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98% – had not been vaccinated.”
The top government scientist said all the medical opinion was “really clear” that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. But there are still some myths that are circulating, which are preventing some expectant families from getting the vaccine.
To help you make an informed decision, we’ve broken down some of these common claims, telling you what the research really shows.
Myth 1: The covid jab increases your risk of miscarriage
There is no pattern from any reports so far which suggest any of the vaccines used in the UK, or reactions to them, increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said.
It said the numbers of reports of miscarriages and stillbirth are “low in relation to the number of pregnant women who have received Covid-19 vaccines to date and how commonly these events occur in the UK outside of the pandemic”.
Myth 2: The jab will affect your fertility
The rigorous evaluation completed to date did not show a link between changes to menstrual periods and related symptoms and Covid-19 vaccines.
The number of reports of menstrual disorders and vaginal bleeding is low in relation to both the number of people who have received vaccines to date and how common menstrual disorders are generally.
The menstrual changes reported are mostly transient in nature. There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility and the ability to have children.
Myth 3: The vaccine will affect birth outcomes
The research – which was the first from the UK focusing on safety outcomes for pregnant women – found similar birth outcomes for those who have had a Covid-19 vaccine and those who have not. Similar studies have been conducted abroad.
There were no statistically significant differences in the data, with no increase in stillbirths or premature births, no abnormalities with development and no evidence of babies being smaller or bigger, the research team at St George’s, University of London said.
Thousands of pregnant women in England have been vaccinated against coronavirus, with no safety concerns reported.
Myth 4: The vaccine is riskier than Covid
Some parents-to-be are worried about what the vaccine will mean for their unborn child. However, several studies have shown that the vaccine is safe for pregnant mums and their babies, especially as the vaccine does not include a live strain of the virus.
In fact, if mums choose not to get vaccinated but catch Covid, this is more likely to affect the baby.
Pregnant women who do get symptomatic Covid-19, particularly in the third trimester, are two to three times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely, according to data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System. Premature birth remains the leading cause of death, illness and disability in babies.
Myth 5: There are too many ‘mixed messages’ about the vaccine
Over half of pregnant women (58%) have declined the Covid-19 vaccination, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). The groups blame “mixed messages” about the vaccine and pregnancy earlier in the pandemic.
However, both the NHS and CDC (US Centres for Disease Control), plus the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), all recommend vaccinations for pregnant people.
Earlier in the pandemic, when the vaccine was newer and research only emerging, healthcare officials did warn against vaccinations for expectant mums. However, we now know far more about the virus and the vaccines, and earlier on in the year, healthcare officials said it was safe for this cohort to get the jab and actively encouraged them to do so.
So, there are plenty of reasons to go for the jab. If you have any other concerns about the jab while pregnant or trying for a baby, chat to your doctor or midwife.