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Protecting newborns from COVID-19 during pregnancy

By The Health News Team | April 13, 2022
Woman holding baby

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine during their pregnancy can help protect their infant. COVID-19 antibodies have been found in mothers’ umbilical cord blood.

Researchers found that women who received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine during pregnancy could help reduce the chances of their baby getting COVID-19 by 61%. The protection lasted 6 months from the baby’s birth.

The findings come from a study that observed nearly 400 babies across 17 states from July 2021 to January 2022. Protection against COVID-19 seemed the strongest when women received the vaccine after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

“Mothers who are vaccinated are also at lower risk of experiencing severe pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth, operative delivery and stillbirth,” says Dr. Joanna Adamczak, a maternal fetal medicine doctor and chief medical officer of Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

Additional benefits of maternal vaccination
Research from a different study shows that babies can continue to be protected from COVID-19 by ingesting breastmilk from their vaccinated mother. The findings published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal found antibodies in both the vaccinated mothers’ breastmilk and the babies’ stool samples.

The study’s participants gave breastmilk samples before they were vaccinated, 2 to 3 weeks after their first vaccine dose, and 3 weeks after the second dose. Researchers detected antibodies — proteins that the body produces to help fight against infection — in infants from 1.5 months to 23 months old.

More data is needed to see how much protection a mother’s antibodies, specifically from her breastmilk, can provide the baby. But this research highlights the potential power of breastmilk to protect infants from COVID-19, and the numerous other health benefits breastfeeding provides both moms and babies.

“Throughout the pandemic, we learned that pregnant women who aren’t vaccinated are at higher risk of experiencing severe pregnancy complications,” says Dr. Adamczak. “Studies like these are important as they help more women make informed decisions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Learn about maternity care and OBGYN services at Sharp HealthCare.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Adamczak about pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccination, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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