New HealthPartners research shows COVID-19 vaccine does not cause preterm births

New research on childbirths conducted in part by the HealthPartners Institute shows the COVID-19 vaccine does not result in preterm birth or low birth weight.

One of the lead investigators, Dr. Elyse Kharbanda of the HealthPartners Institutes, says the findings add to the growing body of science that shows the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for expecting mothers and their babies.

"We feel the findings are very reassuring and adds to other studies that have been conducted by our group and others demonstrating safety," said Dr. Kharbanda.

The findings published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for January 4 looked at 40,627 live births, approximately 4,000 of those in the Minnesota. The study was specifically looking at preterm births and birth weight to find any differences between birth mothers who had been vaccinated and those who had not.

"We found that receipt of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy was not associated with having a preterm birth or birth before 37 weeks gestation, and it also was not associated with having a small for gestational age birth," said Dr. Kharbanda. "So these were both very reassuring findings from a large, diverse population of pregnancies."

The research is especially encouraging to the March of Dimes which has invested in other studies on the safety of the vaccines.

"It just adds to the growing body of evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and is the best way to prevent severe disease in pregnant and lactating individuals," said Ellen Jirik of the March of Dimes Minnesota Chapter.

Health care leaders hope the growing evidence of vaccine safety encourages more expecting mothers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In Minnesota, pregnant women fall dramatically behind the rest of the population in vaccinations. The Minnesota Department of Health says the latest data from November shows just 46% of mothers who gave birth had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. That was up from 42% in October and 36% in September.

New research on child births shows a COVID-19 vaccine does not result in preterm birth or low birth weight.

An MDH spokesman says they remain very concerned about the wide inequities among expecting mothers accepting the vaccine. The agency is finding low coverage among lower income, younger, rural, African American, American Indian, and East African individuals.

Additional research shows the vaccine may have a benefit the baby.  

"The March of Dimes, actually in partnership with others, conducted a study that did find antibodies in breast milk for lactating mothers and also in the placenta for newly born babies, which suggests that after you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you are providing protection to your babies," said Jirik.

Dr. Kharbanda says she and other researchers still want to find out about infant outcomes along with infant growth and development. They have to wait for those babies to grow, and says that will take time.

"But, we find that all of the results that we have thus far are reassuring and continue to support the safety of vaccination during pregnancy," said Kharbonda.