My Vaccine Choice: How I Decided to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy
Dr. Chelsea K. Chandler discusses her choice to get vaccinated while pregnant.
August 2021: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully licensed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, also known as Comirnaty. This is a permanent approval that goes beyond emergency use status. Full FDA licensing shows that the vaccine continues to meet high safety and effectiveness standards. Read more about this update from the FDA.
July 2021: ACOG now recommends all pregnant women get a COVID-19 vaccine. Read the latest at Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients.
I found out I was pregnant with my first child in early summer 2020, just as our country was emerging from the first COVID-19 lockdowns. With warmer weather came optimism, but in the fall coronavirus cases started increasing again in my area.
Then data came out that confirmed COVID-19 is more dangerous for pregnant women. As an ob-gyn, I was at high risk for exposure to the virus. And now we knew the virus could cause severe complications for me and my fetus.
It’s hard to put into words how nerve-wracking this was mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I was concerned about what the pandemic might mean for my health and my ability to do my job and take care of my patients. Working from home is rarely possible when you’re an ob-gyn who performs surgery daily.
When I first heard about the new vaccines, I decided that I needed to dig into the research. When my hospital began offering the vaccine to its health care workers, I wanted to be informed and ready.
Following the science
So here’s what I learned: The COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and highly effective. All of the vaccines went through intense testing and reviews, and they worked even better than researchers had expected. The vaccines will help us prevent illness and protect loved ones.
I also learned how the vaccines were developed so fast—it really came down to researchers’ dedication, collaboration, and efficiency. Amazing things can be accomplished for the benefit of society when many brilliant people work together with enough resources.
Studies of the vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding women had not been done at the time. They are in progress now, and we are starting to see encouraging data. By now, thousands of pregnant women have received the vaccines without problems.
It also helped for me to remember that most vaccines are safe during pregnancy. Like those for flu and Tdap, the COVID-19 vaccines train your immune system to mount a response to the virus.
I was even more reassured when large professional organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), came out in support of giving pregnant women the choice to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This is one of the places I look to when I’m deciding how to a manage a patient’s care. As both a doctor and a patient in this circumstance, I was grateful for their guidance.
The more research I did, the more comfortable I became. The science led me to choose the vaccine. I believed not only that it is safe, but that it would protect me from severe illness if I am exposed to COVID-19. And I knew my own health was essential for a healthy pregnancy. Plus, the vaccine’s benefits would last long after I gave birth.
I received my first dose at 31 weeks of pregnancy. My only side effects were from the second shot. I managed my sore arm and minor chills with acetaminophen, and I was able to return to work the next day.
A sigh of relief
Our daughter was born in February 2021. When people learn that I thought it was OK to get the vaccine as a pregnant ob-gyn, they’re always curious to know more. I feel an immense responsibility to share my story and advocate for the science, whether I’m talking with a patient, colleague, or friend. In fact, my relief at being vaccinated often seems to fuel their relief.
Whether to get vaccinated is a personal choice. If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy, ask your ob-gyn. We’re here to help you be your healthiest self.
We all share the universal desire for life to return to normal. Every person who chooses the vaccine brings us closer to putting this pandemic behind us. For that, I am both relieved and thankful.
Published: May 2021
Last reviewed: May 2021
Copyright 2021 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.