The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Friday, 2 July, approved the vaccination of pregnant women against COVID-19, permitting them to now register on CoWIN or walk-in to the nearest COVID Vaccination Centre (CVC) to get themselves inoculated.
The MoHFW had on 28 June issued fresh guidelines for the same, stating that vaccines are safe and they protect pregnant women against severe infections.
But do we know if there will be any possible side effects for the mother and the baby after vaccination? Does being pregnant increase the risk of infection? Here’s what we know, based on guidelines issued by the Centre.
Does pregnancy increase the risk of getting infected?
No, pregnancy does not increase the risk of being infected by COVID-19, say the guidelines issued by the Centre
It reiterated that pregnant women should remain asymptomatic or have mild infection
However, pregnant women are at the risk of infection deteriorating quickly, which may affect the foetus as well.
I am pregnant. Is it advisable for me to take the vaccine?
Yes. Taking precautions against COVID-19 is extremely important for pregnant women, and so, it is advised that they take the COVID-19 vaccine. Multiple studies and experts have maintained that vaccines available are safe for pregnant women to take.
How does COVID-19 affect the health of pregnant women?
Over 90 percent pregnant women recover without any need for hospitalisation. A recent study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed that the case fatality rate (CFR) in pregnant and postpartum women was 5.7 percent in the second wave as compared to just 0.75 percent in the first wave.
Moreover, 28.7 percent of pregnant and postpartum mothers had severe symptoms in the second wave, as compared to 14.2 percent who showed any symptoms in the first wave.
Those who are symptomatic appear to be at a higher risk of severe infection and death. In case of severe disease, they will need to be hospitalised.
Pregnant women who are older than 35 years of age, and those who have underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, are at higher risk of getting severe illness.
Are some pregnant women more at risk than others?
Those older than 35 years of age
Those who are obese
Those who have pre-existing illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure
Those who have a history of clotting in the limbs.
How does COVID-19 affect the baby?
Over 95 percent of newborns of mothers infected by COVID-19 have been in good condition at birth
In some cases, COVID-19 in pregnant women may increase the chances of premature delivery, and the baby may weight less than 2.5 kg. In rare situations, the baby may die before birth.
I am pregnant, and I have already had COVID-19. When should I get vaccinated?
If you have been infected by COVID-19 during your current pregnancy, you should get vaccinated soon after the delivery.
Is the process of registering for the vaccine different for pregnant women?
No. All pregnant women must register on the CoWIN website, or register on-site at a COVID-19 vaccination centre.
Are there any side effects of the vaccine that I should be worried about?
A vaccine normally has mild side effects
Mild fever, pain at the site of injection, or feeling unwell can last for one to three days
Long-term adverse effects of the vaccine and its safety for the foetus and child is not established yet.
In very rare situations (one in 1-5 lakh people), the pregnant woman may experience some of these symptoms within 20 days of getting vaccinated, and this may require immediate attention:
Difficulty in breathing
Persistent abdominal pain, with or without vomiting
Pain in limbs/pain when the limbs are pressed, or swelling in the arms or calves
Small pinpoint haemorrhages or bruising of the skin beyond the site of injection
Weakness/paralysis of limbs or a particular side of the body
Seizure with or without vomiting, when there is no history of seizures
Severe and persistent headaches with or without vomiting, when there is no history of chronic headaches or migraines
Persistent vomiting without obvious reason
Blurred vision or pain in the eyes
Any other symptoms or health conditions that are of concern to the pregnant person or the family.
What precautions need to be taken after I get vaccinated?
Pregnant women and their family members must continue practicing COVID appropriate behaviour even after taking the vaccine:
Wear a double mask
Wash your hands frequently
Keep physical distance and avoid crowded places.