When Dr. Jane Martin's workplace posted a photo of her receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, she didn’t expect what would come next.
In the picture, Martin's nine-month pregnant belly was in full view, which got a lot of people fired up online. Self-proclaimed vaccination experts scolded the doctor over her choice to get the vaccine while pregnant.
Since getting both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the mother of three and a second-year maternal-fetal medicine fellow at Ochsner Health has given birth to a healthy baby girl named Rosemary.
About 20,000 pregnant women in the U.S. have been vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci says there have been no red flags or reported cases of serious side effects among pregnant women. And the World Health Organization released guidance saying “we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.”
As an obstetrician-gynecologist, Martin treats women who are experiencing high-risk pregnancies. Working in a clinic during the pandemic meant she was in close contact with COVID-19 patients. She says she witnessed soon-to-be mothers around her age dying from the disease.
Her work experiences during the pandemic “made it feel really real that I was at the frontline and at the greatest risk of becoming infected and having serious complications from COVID and pregnancy,” she says.
Martin felt concerned her decision to get inoculated wouldn’t be supported by evidence. She did her own digging through the original vaccine research trials and the Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization memorandum “to feel like I was arming myself with as much information as possible to extrapolate some conclusions from the nonpregnant population,” she says.
Equipped with research and her expertise on high-risk pregnancies, she went through with the vaccine at 34 weeks pregnant and the second dose at 37 weeks.
“I had no side effects afterward,” Martin says. “Rosemary was a very active baby, and she remained very active in utero after both of the vaccine [doses] so I knew that she tolerated both of them just fine.”
Backlash from strangers mounted online as the picture of Martin receiving the vaccine quickly spread. Alongside the photo, people were sharing a story of a pregnant woman who miscarried a few days after she had the vaccine.
“There are many, many, many causes for miscarriage and for stillbirth,” Martin says. “Most likely, this person who miscarried after she had the vaccine would have miscarried regardless of her receipt of the vaccine.”
After her picture went viral, she worried pregnant women would notice the “mom shaming” against her and avoid the vaccine because of it.
But now Martin says she’s sharing her story so others “feel empowered to have that conversation with their health care provider, with their families, with people that they know and trust to make the decision as to whether they should receive the COVID vaccine or not.”
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This segment aired on February 17, 2021.