ATLANTA - Madison and Alex McCool got married during the pandemic, then in the winter, as Americans began to roll up their sleeves, they learned Madison was pregnant.
"I was very hesitant to get the shot, just because in my mind there's not enough research," the Gainesville, Georgia, 32-year-old says. "I just didn't feel the risks outweighed the benefit."
So, while her husband and immediate family all got vaccinated, McCool decided to delay getting her shots until after she gave birth to Wyatt, who arrived on July 4, 2021.
In Philadelphia, Ryan McNamara, 29 and pregnant for the first time, also wanted to wait until her baby was born before getting the vaccine.
"There wasn't enough studies, enough long-term data, on how the vaccine affects pregnant women," McNamara says.
So, Ryan and her husband Josh Brown tried to be extra careful, staying away from restaurants and crowds.
"I kept my circles really small, and I was able to isolate myself, by working from home, and my husband works from home," she says.
But, then, the highly contagious delta variant hit.
McNamara says being unvaccinated suddenly became much more complicated.
"The increase in cases, it just became unsustainable for me to live my life not being vaccinated," McNamara says.
Dr. Meera Garcia, Chief Medical Officer of Avantia Health, says she gets questions about the COVID-19 vaccines from her ob-gyn patients, especially about whether they can cause infertility.
"When it comes to fertility, there is no effect, adverse effect on fertility by any of the vaccines that are now available for use," Garcia says.
On the other hand, she says, this virus can be especially risky for pregnant women,
"I have seen pregnant patients getting very, very sick early in the pregnancy, and because of the flu shifts and the cardiovascular changes, they end of getting a faster ticket to the ICU, getting intubated, and devastating consequences occurred to them and their unborn children," Dr. Garcia says.
Pregnant women are among those considered at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.
Still, despite reassurances from the CDC and medical groups that the vaccine is safe and effective, only 23% of pregnant women have received their first shot.
"When you think about women who are thinking about pregnancy, starting a family or are pregnant, it is a time of a lot of uncertainty and fear," Garcia says. "And, they are not only looking out for themselves, they're looking out for their future families and their pregnancies."
Garcia encourages women who have questions about the vaccine to talk to their doctor about the benefits and risks.
"So, I think the most important thing is to start out understanding the risks of COVID," Garcia says. "The risks of COVID are so significant in the short and the long-term. Our goal is to try to prevent any of those things from happening to our patients."
She says women who are pregnant undergo physiological changes that make them more vulnerable to experiencing complications from the virus.
"We find what happens with COVID is there are differences in the way we breathe when we're pregnant, there are differences in the way our blood goes through our circulatory system," she says. "There are immune factors involved. So, what COVID is able to do is really to attack the changes our body is going through, and it prevents the woman from mounting a great response to the virus."
Madison McCool waited until about 6 weeks after her son was born to get her first dose of the vaccine.
She was nervous but says she had no real side effects, other than some arm soreness.
Ryan McNamara, due to deliver next month, has already had her first dose and will receive her second later this month.
"I feel much more relieved, really, now that I have the shot," she says. "I feel like I can live my life a little more. I do think I made the right decision in getting vaccinated."
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