All pregnant people in the UK over the age of 18 have now been offered Covid-19 vaccination, with it being widely recommended by Health Chiefs and the Government.
Data from an investigation by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System national cohort has provided further insight into pregnancy outcomes in people hospitalised with Covid-19 during pregnancy.
Deciding whether to get vaccinated is a personal choice, and there is lots of material out there to help make an informed decision, whether pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
What does the data say?
The UKOSS study looking at pregnant people admitted to English hospitals up to July shows the proportion admitted with moderate to severe Covid-19 has gone up since the emergence of the Delta variant.
In the last three months, 171 pregnant people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 symptoms.
Of these, 98% were unvaccinated and three had received a single dose of the vaccine.
Approximately one in five admitted to hospital with Covid-19 gave birth prematurely and their likelihood of requiring a caesarean section also rose.
Health leaders are said to be concerned that the easing of restrictions, continued high levels of Covid-19 cases and hesitancy to get vaccinated is driving the rise in infections among pregnant people and increasing pressure on maternity services.
It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of pregnant people in the UK are not vaccinated.
What are medical professionals saying?
Dr Iona Thorne is a consultant obstetric physician at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust and is working to provide reliable information to those feeling hesitant about getting vaccinated whilst pregnant.
She said: “What really worries us is when people are hospitalised when Covid-19 affects the lungs, and we’re having to weigh up how much we can continue treating them medically against how much we need to deliver their baby early to help the lungs recover.
“The reason we’re promoting vaccination is because it prevents things reaching this stage and keeps both mother and baby healthy.
“The thing that speaks so powerfully to me is probably the fact that almost every person I care for who is sick with Covid at the end of their pregnancy says, I wish I’d just got the vaccine.
“That’s particularly hard seeing them put on a breathing machine and agonising over whether to have an early delivery.”
What are pregnant people saying?
Registered nurse Lisa Pike is 27-weeks pregnant and has had both Pfizer BioNTech vaccines.
The 27-year-old said: “I got the first dose prior to becoming pregnant and the second during pregnancy.
“I felt a bit under the weather for 24-hours after the first vaccine but nothing major, just tired and achy, and then nothing at all with the second vaccine – I even smashed a whole day at work and went out for dinner afterwards.
“I was slightly hesitant about being vaccinated during pregnancy initially but ultimately felt that getting Covid in the later stages of pregnancy and putting myself and my baby’s life at risk was much scarier, as there’s higher risk of going into early labour and being more unwell, so I just thought I’d definitely rather be protected.
“The advice I would give other pregnant people considering getting vaccinated is to do your own research on legit websites like Gov.uk or the Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination and read some studies, and from there you can make your own decision.
“I understand that people who work from home and don’t interact with many people may not see the benefit, but I feel as Covid-19 numbers are still high that you really don’t want to potentially get unwell during pregnancy, it would just be so scary and not healthy for you and your baby to be stressed.”
Thorne reiterated that it is best to get vaccinated as soon as possible as the risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 is much higher towards the end of pregnancy.
She added: “Some people feel very worried about being vaccinated during the first trimester, and so they may wait until they’re 12 or 13 weeks pregnant to have it, but the official guidance is that you can have it at any stage in pregnancy.
“Another thing to add is there was a recommended gap of 12 weeks between vaccine doses, but this has now been reduced to eight weeks.
“If someone is at the end of the second trimester or in the early third trimester and has only had one dose of the vaccine, there is also an argument to have an even shorter window, so they have the protection for the duration of their third trimester.”
Future studies will provide more information on how effective Covid-19 vaccines are during pregnancy and on pregnancy outcomes after vaccination, but there are no signals to suggest safety concerns so far.
Thorne concluded: “The best advice I can offer is to seek good sources of information as there are lots of anecdotes and warnings out there, but it’s vital to ensure you are arming yourself with data from good quality sources.
“There are also lots of webinars online that go further into some of the data available and the evidence behind it if any questions are still arising.”
If you feel concerned about the issues discussed here, don’t forget you can always talk to a midwife, doctor or immunisation nurse and check official sources like the NHS, Public Health England or any of the pages linked throughout this story.