Lactation education

Episode #41 – Vaccines, pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding and fertility

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Should breastfeeding women get vaccinated? What about women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant? Or women who are menstruating? Hello and welcome to Science in 5, my name is Vismita Gupta-Smith and we are going to get these answers for you from WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan today. Welcome, Soumya.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan

Hello Vismita.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Soumya, my first question is for breastfeeding women, what is the advice for them? Should they be vaccinated?

Dr Soumya Swaminathan

Yes, the answer is yes. So women who have given birth and who are breastfeeding their babies can take the vaccine, should take the vaccine when it becomes available to them. There is no risk because all the vaccines used today, none of them contain the live virus. There is therefore no risk of transmission through breast milk. In fact, the antibodies that the mother has can pass through breast milk to the baby and may only serve to protect the baby a little. But there is absolutely no harm. It’s very safe. Thus, breastfeeding women can certainly take currently available vaccines.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Soumya, what about women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant?

Dr Soumya Swaminathan

Yes, it’s really important because pregnancy, of course, is a very special situation because we are concerned about the health of the mother, but also the health of the fetus, of the unborn child. And so, for any medicine or vaccine given during pregnancy, we always take special precautions to make sure that, you know, there are no potential safety issues or adverse events. In the case of COVID, we know that pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting severe COVID and also a higher risk of giving birth prematurely. So in situations where there is a lot of transmission of COVID in the country and a woman is at risk, or if she works in a profession like a healthcare worker or frontline worker where she is at particular risk high of getting the infection, the benefits of getting vaccinated definitely outweigh the risks, especially since the platforms we currently use for vaccines are the mRNA platform, inactivated viruses or viral vector platforms or subunit proteins. None of them have a live virus that can multiply in the body and potentially create a problem. So I think it’s important that pregnant women in every country are explained the benefits versus the risks and are offered the vaccine if they want to take it. And that’s probably the right thing to do in many situations, as I said, where the pregnant woman is at higher risk of getting the infection and where vaccines would provide more benefit.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Soumya, should women get vaccinated during their period?

Dr Soumya Swaminathan

So scientifically there’s really nothing against a menstruating woman getting vaccinated, other than, you know, she might feel a little tired, but if that’s the date you have an appointment for the vaccine and that you if you happen to have your period, there is absolutely no problem in going ahead and getting vaccinated.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Soumya, we hear a lot of misinformation about vaccines and fertility and infertility. Could you please explain the science behind this?

Dr Soumya Swaminathan

Yes, this is a common myth. And I should start by saying that there is absolutely no scientific evidence or truth behind this concern that vaccines somehow interfere with fertility, either in men or in women. , because what vaccines do is stimulate an immune response against that particular protein or antigen. viruses or bacteria. So, in this case, the COVID vaccine stimulates both the antibody response and a cell-mediated immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. Thus, there is no way in which they could interfere with the functioning of the reproductive organs in men or women. So I think people can rest assured that these vaccines do not interfere with fertility in any way.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Thank you Sumia. It was Dr. Soumya Swaminathan in science in 5 today. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay true to science.