My Decision to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine, While Pregnant


Covid-19 is all we have heard about since this time last year.

I don’t know about all y’all, but I’m over it. I’m beyond ready to get back to a sense of normalcy. I’m ready to stop being so dang anxious about my and my family’s health.

I got a glimmer of hope at the beginning of January.

I was given the opportunity to get the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. And you bet your buns I was THRILLED.

My being 6 months pregnant threw a little curveball in things. You see, to date, there is no conclusive research on pregnant women in regard to any of the Covid-19 vaccines that are in use presently in the United States. The public health entities that we look to for guidelines have wavered on their recommendations. It’s up to pregnant, breastfeeding and trying-to-conceive mommas to decide, the risk versus benefit, and if it’s worth it or not for them.

Covid Vaccine and Pregnancy When talk of a vaccine being expedited thru trials first began to bubble up on the news, I was vehemently opposed. The words “I will NOT get that if it comes out so fast” actually came out of my mouth. Because here’s the thing. Human error is real, right? No one is perfect. Despite best intentions, at the end of the day, we all make mistakes. As a prescriber myself, my soft rule of thumb is that unless one of my patients is adamantly requesting a  new medication that just hit the market with FDA approval, I’m going to let it ride for a little while and see if there are any unanticipated drawbacks. Specifically with safety. Usually, after a year or so of data, I’m more comfortable prescribing the medication.

I held the same mentality for the vaccine.

At first.

I started doing more research. Well, trying to at least. China and the UK had been fighting this a little bit longer than the US had so I turned to medical journals and studies being published on both covid-19 disease statistics in regard to pregnancy as well as any documented effects of vaccine on pregnant women and/or babies out of those countries. They were so small scale and so few and far between- basically non-existent. The most important thing I learned from hours upon hours of trying to find some sort of guidance, was that I could not find anything negative. So far, there haven’t been any reports of anything going seriously wrong for babies or pregnant moms directly related to the vaccine, which was reassuring.

There are very few things that scientists are willing to test on pregnant mothers.  In the Moderna and Pfizer trials that took place, pregnant women were explicitly excluded from participating, thus adding to the lack of data regarding outcomes and safety in pregnant women.

My Decision

In talking with my OBGYN, we decided that the best decision for ME was that I get the vaccine. My job requires me to be in people’s faces examining them all day long. My risk of exposure is simply higher

Pregnant women in general (meaning covid aside) are an at-risk population. The limited studies that we do have show that high-risk populations generally have worse outcomes when dealing with covid-19.

For me, the idea of being on a ventilator, or having terrible vascular complications from covid-19 terrified me more than the hypotheticals of the vaccine. The basic science behind the mRNA vaccine led me to believe that there was extremely minimal risk to myself and my baby.

How the vaccine works

I am blessed (or cursed, jury’s still out on that one. Hello anxiety!) with a platform of medical knowledge and background that allows me to have access to expert opinion, evidence-based data, and, in general, inherent understanding of the science behind the mRNA vaccines and how they function.

Essentially, this vaccine gives the immune system the “blueprint” if you will for the spike protein that is on the outside of the Coronavirus. In doing this, the vaccine is showing the immune system what it should be on the lookout for so that if a virus were to enter the body and try to replicate and make you sick, your immune system would recognize this invader and launch an attack more quickly.

Then we come to passive immunity for baby. My hope in getting this vaccine is that there is some passive immunity from me to my son. Scientists have no idea if this will be the case, but we have seen it in the past when mothers form antibodies to other vaccines and pass them along to baby.

Now, this is the over-simplified version of how it works. And there’s that little thing I mentioned before: human error. So is it perfect? No, probably not. Will there be side effects to it? Only time will tell. The science behind it leads me to believe that it likely will be effective and safe.

Some scenarios that may have impacted my decision

I had to make the decision for myself and my family if the potential benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks of getting sick with covid. Personally, after I had done my research, talked with my OB and my husband, I did not hesitate to get my shot when I was offered it through work. Each expectant (or breastfeeding, or TTC momma) will have to make the decision for herself with the help of her healthcare provider and family. I would have declined the vaccine if in the following situations:

Had I not been as far along as I was

I was 21 weeks pregnant when I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. If I had been newly pregnant or still in my first trimester when development is so rapid and crucial, I likely would have held off- just in case.

Had I had difficulty trying to conceive or if I was pregnant by means of IVF etc.

I would have turned it down and done the vaccine after delivery. If I had worked so hard or waited so long to get pregnant, I would not be doing anything that could/would remotely have the chance of having an impact on a healthy pregnancy- even if hypothetical.

If I was due to deliver within the next month

At that point, I likely would have just waited until the baby was earthside to do my series of vaccinations.

If I was not a healthcare worker and had less exposure

If I was a stay at home mom, or able to isolate myself more and minimize my exposure, I’d likely have seen how things played out with the vaccine. It is also important to note that the vaccine would likely not be available to me if I was in this scenario.

My Vaccine Experience

My experience in getting the shot itself was pretty standard to what you hear other people talk about. It hurt similarly to any other immunization when actually receiving. My two doses varied in the type of reaction I had. With the first dose, I had a VERY sore arm- those of you who have had your tetanus shot/booster, its worse than that- and a headache with mild fatigue the next day. My second dose was different. My arm started aching immediately, and at about the 6-hour mark post-injection, I was having muscle aches, felt chilled, had a headache, brain fog, and was flat out exhausted. Like I was coming down with something. These symptoms lasted for 14 hours, and then they disappeared. My second dose was at the beginning of February and I have had no other issues other than those I listed above.

I decided that I wanted to help make a difference in studying these potentially groundbreaking vaccinations in pregnancy. I enrolled in a nationwide study that is following women who were pregnant or breastfeeding when receiving a covid-19 vaccine. It will follow me over the course of at least 12 months to see the impact, if any, the vaccine has on me and my baby.

Some people might scoff at this and think that I’m crazy for letting myself and my baby be part of a science experiment. I feel very strongly that this is something that’s important to help expectant or breastfeeding mothers make INFORMED decisions about whether or not they get vaccinated from the virus that has turned our world upside down. It was an uncomfortable position to be in, making a choice without hard and fast data supporting one way or another. It also was not helpful that the public health entities that we turn to for guidance have wavered in their recommendations. My hope is that studying this more in-depth will allow for a more uniform recommendation that can help moms decide what’s best for them.

Everyone has their stances on vaccines. This is a unique scenario that pregnant, breastfeeding, and women who are trying to conceive are faced with in a truly unprecedented time. My hope is that sharing my point of view can make other mommas faced with this tough decision feel not so scared and alone- regardless of if you decide to get the shot or not. What’s important is that you are armed with factual data and are able to make an informed decision one way or another.

The good news is, they’re working on it- and it’s kinda cool that we’re making history!

Stay safe, Mama.



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Kaleigh Henzler
Kaleigh resides in Perrysburg with her husband and two young children. Along with being “wifey” to her high school sweetheart and “Momma” to the sweetest sour patch kids, she is a nurse practitioner who specializes in dermatology. She enjoys art and crafting, with specific interests in hand lettering, painting, resin art, wreath making, and her third baby: the Cricut machine. She is also an avid distance runner and is very active in the Toledo running community as a Run Toledo Ambassador. She has a passion for sharing experiences in motherhood, the healthcare field, mental health and well being, local businesses, and running. Follow her on Instagram at @k.hennnny


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