HARLINGEN – Prenatal care.

That term has taken on a new intensity during the pandemic as women decide whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19 while pregnant.

Dr. Uvaldo Cantu, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, gives a thorough explanation of why pregnant patients should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It has been shown that the vaccine, especially if given during the first trimester, can pass antibodies over to the fetus,” said Cantu, who is also an attending physician and chief of staff at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen.

This means that when a baby is born to a woman who received the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, the child will enter the world already having some resistance to COVID-19 infection.

Cantu said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommends offering COVID-19 vaccinations to not only pregnant patients but also those who are breastfeeding.

According to Cantu, there are no studies showing the COVID-19 vaccine can hurt unborn babies.

“Nothing’s going to hurt the baby as far as we know,” he said.

However, a COVID-19 infection can inflict serious harm on pregnant patients and on those who recently gave birth, Cantu said.

“It’s rare, but if it happens it can be very severe, severe meaning hospitalization, ICU, and even mechanical ventilation,” he said. “The ramifications for the unborn baby is that if you develop COVID disease, you are also at risk of pre-term birth.”

Dr. Nayeli Rodulfo-Zayas, an emergency medicine physician at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, made the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine while 35 weeks pregnant, after a conversation with her obstetrician-gynecologist. Courtesy photo

However, while COVID-19 infection can cause premature birth, there is no evidence the baby can contract the virus from the mother before birth.

He reflected on the expressed fears by some that the COVID-19 vaccines could change a person’s DNA.

“The MRNA vaccines, which is Moderna and Pfizer, don’t contain a live virus and therefore you can’t get COVID from the vaccine,” he said. “The MRNA vaccine does not interact or change a person’s DNA or cause genetic changes.”

This is because the vaccine doesn’t even enter the nucleus of the host’s cells, he said.

COVID-19 vaccinations aren’t the only shots administered to pregnant patients. The influenza and Tdap shots are routinely given to expectant mothers. Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Those injections can be given to pregnant mothers as well as COVID-19 shots.

Those who have had COVID-19 before pregnancy may wonder if the immunity provided by the infection will pass on to their babies. On that one, the data isn’t in yet. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pregnant patients still get vaccinated.

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