Tommy's PregnancyHub

The COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy and breastfeeding

The UK has started giving people the Pfizer and the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines as part of the mass vaccination programme. Here, we explain what this means for you if you are trying to get pregnant, you are pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Updated in line with The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice from 30 December 2020

Will I be offered COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant? 

There is currently no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine is unsafe during pregnancy. But Public Health England and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance on COVID-19 vaccination have both said that pregnant women should not routinely receive a COVID-19 vaccine until more information on safety is available.   

However, there are exceptions to this guidance where the JCVI has advised that pregnant women should consider having the COVID-19 vaccine:

People in these groups should discuss their options of having the COVID-19 vaccination with your GP or midwife. Together, you can talk through the benefits and any potential risk. You may find it helpful to read this information sheet from the RCOG to help you make decision. Whether or not to have the vaccine is your choice but talking to a health professional can help you make an informed decision.

Current advice is that anyone who has been vaccinated should continue to social distance and follow government guidelines.

Can I have the vaccine if I am breastfeeding? 

There is no known risk in giving the COVID-19 vaccines to breastfeeding women. You will be offered the vaccine if you are eligible, for example if you are a frontline health or social care worker to help protect you against COVID-19. There is currently limited safety data for these specific vaccinations in breastfeeding, but if you would like more information about the benefits and any potential risks you should talk to your health visitor or GP. 

Should I have a Covid-19 vaccine if I’m trying to get pregnant? 

Women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after having the vaccine.

If you are eligible, getting vaccinated before you get pregnant will help prevent COVID-19 infection and its serious consequences. You may need to decide whether to delay getting pregnant until after you are offered a COVID-19 vaccine. We have more information about trying for a baby during the coronavirus pandemic. 

There is no evidence to suggest that these types of vaccines cause issues with fertility. 

I thought vaccinations were safe in pregnancy. Why am I being advised not to have this one? 

Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding are already routinely and safely offered vaccines in pregnancy, for example to protect against the flu and whooping cough. Many of these vaccines also protect their babies from infection. 

However, as with most pharmaceutical products, specific clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women have not yet been carried out. Different vaccines work in different ways, and for some of the COVID-19 vaccines, previous studies on similar vaccines (e.g. the Ebola vaccine) may provide some insight into effects in pregnancy and reassurance about safety. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, with leading academics across the UK, are calling on the UK government to fund research studies to establish the suitability of any approved COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women.  

Some pregnant women will currently be offered the vaccine because potential risks from the vaccine are outweighed by the benefits of protecting them from severe complications of COVID-19. Until more safety information is available for the vaccine, the current guidelines for pregnant women focus on social distancing. You should also have your flu and whooping cough vaccines to help protect yourself and your baby.

What if I find out I am pregnant after I have had the COVID-19 vaccine? 

The Public Health England guidance on COVID-19 vaccination recommends that if you find out you are pregnant after you’ve had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should wait until you have had your baby before you have your second dose.  

If you receive a dose of the vaccine before finding out you are pregnant, or unintentionally while you are pregnant, you should be reassured that it will not affect the vaccine’s success and the risk of harm to your baby is low. 

Key messages 

  • If you're pregnant – you should wait until you've had your baby unless you are clinically extremely vulnerable or are a frontline health or social care worker (in which case you can consider having the vaccine). 
  • If you're breastfeeding – you will be offered the vaccine if you are otherwise eligible.
  • If you're trying to get pregnant – you can still have the vaccine. 

There's no evidence it's unsafe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But more evidence is needed before all pregnant women can be offered the vaccine.

Does the vaccine contain animal products? 

None of the vaccines that have currently been approved for use in the UK contain any beef, pork, gelatine or any other products derived from animals,   If you are concerned about taking the vaccine because you are vegan or vegetarian, visit The Vegan Society or The Vegetarian Society websites.