Public service announcement: The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause infertility. Yes, according to studies around the country, that’s the truth. Even though viral claims to the contrary have persisted and left many concerned about getting vaccinated.
"I can’t say this loudly enough," said reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist Dr. Temeka Zore. The idea that the vaccine impacts fertility at all "is a myth."
Sixty-six percent of the US population is fully vaxxed against COVID-19. But that still leaves millions of Americans unvaccinated or only partially vaxxed. Including about 30% of people pregnant during the pandemic, who didn't get vaxxed before or during pregnancy. Even as new data continues to show that the vaccine doesn’t impact fertility. So we talked to Dr. Zore about what the data actually shows, how the infertility myth came to be, and what to know about COVID-19 infection and its real potential impact on fertility.
What does the data tell us about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility?
That the vaccine has no impact on the likelihood of getting pregnant.
Dr. Zore pointed to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology published in January. It collected data, including medical info and lifestyle factors, every eight weeks — for up to a year — from more than 2,000 women trying to conceive. And found no difference in the pregnancy rates between women who did and didn’t get vaxxed.
She also cited a large study published in April that looked at the embryo transfers of patients who were TTC with IVF. That one also found no difference in the pregnancy rates between women who did and didn’t receive COVID-19 vaccines.
It makes sense that people would be concerned about their fertility. Given that some women reported experiencing a slight change in their menstrual cycle after getting vaxxed.
But at this point, most major health organizations have supported that people get vaccinated — including those trying for kids and who are already pregnant.
Where did the myth about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility come from?
It seems to stem from a former scientific researcher’s false claim that there were similarities between the spike protein on the COVID-19 virus, and a protein that’s important in the development of the placenta. He claimed that getting vaxxed with an mRNA vaccine would “trick” the immune system into attacking the placental protein. Note: This claim that any kind of COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility is unfounded. Vaccines do not target that placental protein. But it still went viral. And people became scared that the vaccine could cause infertility.
“We have absolutely no data to support this claim both in clinical trials and with real-world data,” Dr. Zore emphasized. And it’s worth noting: This former scientist had made misleading claims about COVID-19 before.
How does getting infected with COVID-19 impact fertility?
One more time for the people in the back: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t impact your fertility. But getting infected with COVID-19 could.
Dr. Zore noted that in the American Journal of Epidemiology study, researchers found a temporary drop in conception rates when the male partner had been infected with COVID-19 within the last 60 days. Which wasn't entirely surprising. Because some viral infections have been linked to lower sperm count, quality, and movement.
Getting infected with COVID-19 can also impact a pregnancy. New data underscores those risks.
A study published in April in Human Reproduction focused on women in early pregnancy. About 14% of those infected with COVID-19 in their first trimester experienced early pregnancy loss, compared to only 8% of women who weren’t infected. And a study in JAMA published in February found that women with mild to severe COVID-19 infection were more likely to have a number of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, admission to an NICU, and maternal mortality or illness.
Women who get infected while pregnant are also at a higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
“We already know pregnant women have a higher risk of having severe COVID-19 infection, have higher rates of ICU admission, higher rates of requiring intubation… And may face a greater risk of death from complications,” Dr. Zore said.
It’s understandable to be concerned about potential side effects of a new vaccine. But the COVID-19 vaccine does not have an impact on fertility, multiple studies have shown. Getting infected with COVID-19, however, could possibly delay a pregnancy or introduce added risk for a pregnant person. All major reproductive health groups recommend that people get vaccinated.
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