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COVID-19 vaccine doesn't harm the placenta during pregnancy, study finds

Experts hope these findings reduce some of the skepticism about the vaccine for pregnant women

Photo (c) Marina Demidiuk - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Northwestern University explored the safety of pregnant women getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

According to their findings, the vaccine poses no harm to the placenta. Based on the important role that the placenta plays in a pregnancy, the researchers hope these findings can reduce some of the hesitancy surrounding pregnant women getting vaccinated. 

“The placenta is like the black box in an airplane,” said researcher Dr. Jeffery Goldstein. “If something goes wrong with a pregnancy, we usually see changes in the placenta that can help us figure out what happened. From what we can tell, the COVID vaccine does not damage the placenta.” 

Keeping pregnant women safe

The researchers analyzed the placentas of 200 pregnant women who delivered at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago. Of that group, 116 women received the COVID-19 vaccine during their third trimesters and 84 women were unvaccinated when they gave birth. 

The researchers learned that there were no major differences in the placentas of vaccinated versus unvaccinated women. In looking at infections, injuries, and blood flow from mother to fetus, there was no indication that the COVID-19 vaccine posed any threat to pregnant women or their babies. 

“The internet has amplified a concern that the vaccine might trigger an immunological response that causes the mother to reject the fetus,” Dr. Goldstein said. “But these findings lead us to believe that doesn’t happen.” 

One of the biggest differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated women was the antibody count; vaccinated women tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, while unvaccinated women had no traces of antibodies. 

“We are beginning to move to a framework of protecting fetuses through vaccination, rather than from vaccination,” said researcher Dr. Emily Miller. “Until infants can get vaccinated, the only way for them to get COVID antibodies is from their mother.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope these findings make consumers feel more confident in the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine -- especially for pregnant women. 

“We have reached a stage in vaccine distribution where we are seeing vaccine hesitancy, and this hesitancy is pronounced for pregnant people,” said Dr. Miller. “Our team hopes these data, albeit preliminary, can reduce concerns about the risk of the vaccine to the pregnancy.” 

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