Pregnant women have double the risk of getting and being hospitalized by COVID-19 and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, unvaccinated women have a 70% chance of dying if they end up in the hospital. Yet only one in four expectant moms have gotten vaccinated in the United States. It's leading health professionals to question the disconnect.
Fear of the unknown is what initially gave mom Kirsten Wightman pause. She's a doctor who specializes in women's health and had no problem getting the flu shot and pertussis vaccine but, when the COVID vaccine became available during her second trimester, she had some worries.
"Anytime you are introducing something into your body I feel like there is an element of worry," said Dr. Wightman. "We're cautioned as moms, for good reason, to be so careful and avoid things such as nitrates and unpasteurized milk."
Dr. Wightman says she turned to science and fellow doctors researching the point that most concerned her.
"What really helped me decide was an understanding that no part of the vaccine becomes part of your genetic material or your baby's genetic material. At the end of the day, we know more about vaccines than we do about COVID," she said.
Many expectant moms are still on the fence and the CDC is sounding the alarm. It reports:
- 69% of pregnant women at this moment are unvaccinated
- 125,000 have gotten COVID
- 22,000 of the women infected have been hospitalized and, of those, 161 died
Misinformation also seems to be swaying many expectant moms so ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Shad Marvasti is helping sort out the facts about the vaccine based on the studies that have been done so far.
The baby's development is a major point of concern.
"There's no evidence whatsoever that there will be any impact on the baby's development," said Dr. Shad. He also points out it will not affect a woman's fertility and won't prevent a woman from getting pregnant in the future.
"In fact, the opposite is true, that an [COVID] Infection has the potential to impact fertility both in males and females."
What the baby does get — if mom is vaccinated while pregnant — is some immunity from COVID.
"A recent study they found 100% of infants in pregnant women that had been vaccinated had protective antibodies at birth."
Now five months old, Dr. Wightman's daughter is happy, healthy, and strong. She says she also got the booster while breastfeeding and hasn't seen any adverse effects in her baby.