BUFFALO, N.Y. — For pregnant women, new moms, or individuals who are planning to become pregnant in the near future, figuring out when to get the COVID-19 vaccine can be a heavily weighted decision.
"Before, during, and after is a good time to get vaccinated," said Dr. Sarah Berga, the medical director of OB/GYN and Women’s Health Program Development at Oishei Children’s Hospital.
She added, "For baby to be healthy, mom has to be healthy, and this is whether the baby's inside or the baby's just come outside."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said getting vaccinated is a personal choice and states on its website, "Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant."
However, data is still limited.
Experts believe one of the many reasons to get vaccinated is that people who are pregnant are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
"Pregnant women, because their pulmonary, their breathing function, is compromised by having a baby inside, you can't breathe as well. So if you get a pulmonary or lung infection when you're pregnant, it's a bigger deal than when you're not pregnant," said Dr. Berga, who is also a professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine.
She also explained there may be benefits to both parents getting vaccinated prior to becoming pregnant.
"Get vaccinated. It's really gonna help. It's not going to hurt, because if you get COVID-19 and you get sick, it will actually make it less likely that you are going to be fertile both for men and women," Dr. Berga said.
While there's still a lot more to learn, new studies indicate that vaccinated moms may be able to pass along COVID-19 antibodies through breast milk.
"First, we say there's no harm. There's no harm in getting vaccinated while you're lactating, and there may be some good," Dr. Berga said.
MotherToBaby, a site recommended by the CDC, said on its website, "More research is needed to know if these antibodies might protect a breastfeeding child against the virus or how long that protection might last. Researchers will continue to study COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding."
Dr. Berga told 2 On Your Side, "If it benefits the baby by passing antibodies into the baby, that's great too, but where we start this is keeping mom healthy."
For specific questions about what's best for you, the CDC and MotherToBaby recommend reaching out to your healthcare provider.
"You can always start by calling Oishei and getting information and getting help. That's what we're here for," said Dr. Berga.
Find more information from the CDC here.
Find more information from MotherToBaby here.