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Dr Sumithra Devi Valiapan on common misconceptions about Covid-19 vaccines and why it's so crucial for expectant mums to get vaccinated

Since the start of the pandemic, obstetrician, gynaecologist and Sunfert International Fertility Center fertility specialist Dr Sumithra Devi Valiapan has had this question posed to her repeatedly by expectant mums: "Should I get vaccinated?". The second most common question, she says, is whether or not Covid-19 vaccines adversely affect mothers and their newborns.     

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Dedicated to combatting misinformation on this issue, Dr Sumithra sheds light on the hard truth about Covid-19's disastrous effects on unvaccinated mothers and shares helpful tips for pregnant women who are preparing for their vaccination

Myth #1: Covid-19 vaccinations are linked to infertility

"Absolutely untrue. Studies have not shown any links from the Covid-19 vaccine to infertility either in men or in women. What we do have now is more and more data coming out—real-life data, not studies—revealing no major safety concerns highlighted by regional bodies regarding the Covid-19 vaccines. There are some minor side effects, but the benefits of the vaccine still far outweigh the risks. 

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I advise couples who are undergoing fertility treatments to get completely vaccinated first so that they are protected whenever they go out to make multiple visits to the clinic. Especially the mum whom we don't want to get infected with Covid-19 during her pregnancy."

Myth #2: Covid-19 vaccines aren’t safe for pregnant women 

"Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your pregnancy and your family members from this pandemic. We are getting more and more data showing that it is safe for women and their babies. True, we don’t have long term data yet but the vaccines used show no possible biological mechanism that would have adverse long term effects to a mum or a baby. In Malaysia, we have had more than 150,000 pregnant women vaccinated, and it is saving lives.

Pregnant women are most susceptible to be affected by Covid-19 towards their late second trimester and the whole of their third trimester of pregnancy. There is an increased number of pregnant women who get Covid-19 and are admitted to hospitals in the ICU, requiring ventilatory support. To help them with their breathing, they have to deliver early, which means their pregnancy is terminated prematurely, most commonly by caesarean section.

The baby then is born prematurely to save the mum’s life. However, that baby now has to live with the long term consequences. Some of them may have permanent disabilities and lifelong neurological abnormalities such as hearing problems, eyesight problems, things like that. There is also the risk of stillbirths. All this data shows that pregnant women need to be protected from Covid-19 infections."

See also: 3 Women Open Up About Their Journey To Motherhood With IVF

Myth #3: Covid-19 vaccines produce worse side effects for pregnant women

"The side effects produced by Covid-19 vaccines basically show you that the vaccines are working in the body. They are rare and the commonly occurring ones are actually very mild. They're transient and easily treatable. We know that there might be some pain in the arm where the injection takes place; there might be headaches and some flu-like symptoms. In pregnancy, what we mostly worry about is fever because fever might lead to other complications which might cause problems." 

Tips for expectant mums preparing for their Covid-19 vaccinations: 

    • Stay hydrated.
    • Take a paracetamol if you experience fever as a side effect of the vaccine.
    • If you have other young kids, arrange for a caregiver or another family member to look out for them so you have one or two days to recover.

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