Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many fake news stories rippled across social media that contributed to prolonging and worsening the public health crisis. We continue to fight misinformation with the most trustworthy science, data, and journalism available. Today, we’ll answer some common questions about COVID-19, fertility, and vaccines.
- Pregnancy and Contracting COVID-19
- COVID-19 Vaccines & Fertility
- How do the COVID vaccines work?
- Debunking the COVID-19 Vaccines Fertility Myth
- Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Female Fertility?
- Is the COVID-19 Vaccine safe if I’m pregnant?
- Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Male Fertility?
- COVIDs Impact on Reproductive Behaviour
- Variants & Staying Safe
Pregnancy and Contracting COVID-19
Pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness and death with COVID-19 as with other respiratory infections due to physiological changes to the diaphragm that affect lung capacity. According to researchers, pregnant women with COVID-19 admitted to hospitals are more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or need invasive ventilation than non-pregnant women of reproductive age.
Additional research suggests they are also more likely to have a premature birth (earlier than 37 weeks), cesarean delivery (C-section), and their babies are more likely to be admitted to a neonatal unit. There may also be an increased risk for other poor outcomes, such as pregnancy loss, when comparing pregnancy to people without COVID-19. Due to the increased risk of severe outcomes, the CDC (and Australian organizations RANZCOG and ATAGI) recommend COVID-19 vaccination for women at any stage of pregnancy.
COVID-19 Vaccines & Fertility
How do the COVID vaccines work?
If you’re curious or want a refresher on how the new mRNA and DNA vaccines work? Check out this short video from Vox.
Vaccines have supported American public health since the 18th century. Without vaccines, America may still be a part of Britain today. Since then, there have been a number of types of vaccines developed. The current methodology behind the available COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) and viral vector vaccines (J&J). Viral vector vaccines have been previously utilized, but mRNA vaccines are a newer technology first employed for SARS-CoV-2. Though mRNA vaccines are new, researchers have been studying mRNA vaccines for decades.
Debunking the COVID-19 Vaccines Fertility Myth
Since the first vaccine, there’s been an anti-vaccination movement right by its side. More recently, fake news articles circulated across the internet that claimed COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility. Data currently shows that COVID vaccines are safe for women at any stage of pregnancy, and will not affect male fertility.
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Female Fertility?
Global surveillance shows that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe for women at any stage of pregnancy. Although there is no long-term data available, from what we now know, there is no mechanism for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to interact with a woman’s reproductive organs. No evidence indicates correlation between COVID-19 vaccines and fertility issues.
Is the COVID-19 Vaccine safe if I’m pregnant?
Prior to commercial release, Pfizer conducted clinical trials that included 37,000 people. Women involved were given pregnancy tests before they were accepted into the study, and were excluded if they were already pregnant. However, 23 women conceived during the trial. Twelve of these pregnancies happened in the vaccine group, and 11 in the placebo group. All individuals continued to be a part of the study.
Evidence from cohort studies suggest that antibodies in umbilical cord blood and breastmilk may offer protection to infants through passive immunity. Out of the 84 women involved, no mother or infant experienced serious adverse events during the study. The most commonly reported complaint was local pain. As for infants, four developed a fever, and all but one resolved without treatment. One infant was treated with antibiotics and admitted for neonatal fever evaluation. No adverse events were reported.
Due to the lack of long-term data, the CDC and FDA will continue to monitor vaccination during pregnancy. Pregnant individuals are encouraged to discuss their vaccination decision with their health care professional.
If you or a loved one is pregnant and have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, contact MotherToBaby. MotherToBaby is a non-profit organization of teratology information specialists, who provide evidence-based information on the safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Individuals who decide against vaccination are encouraged to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested periodically. If you come into close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19, you must quarantine and watch for symptoms, even if you are fully vaccinated. The length of quarantine depends on numerous variables. Local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last, based on local conditions and needs.
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Male Fertility?
The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines do not impact male fertility. The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found no reductions in any sperm parameters in the 45 examined men who received mRNA vaccines. However, the COVID-19 virus may negatively impact fertility, though there is not enough long-term data to make a conclusion.
A recent study published by JAMA showcased researchers' discovery of the COVID-19 virus in 6 of 38 participants' semen samples. Of the six, four still had an active infection. Unfortunately there is no further data explaining how or why it got there, though this introduces the possibility of COVID-19 infections affecting male sterility.
To learn more about why infertility is not a concern for the COVID-19 vaccines, view this short explanation video provided by Dr. Paul Offit, director of the vaccine education center at the children’s hospital of Philadelphia.the COVID-19 virus may negatively impact fertility, though there is not enough long-term data to make a conclusion.
COVID-19’s Impact on Reproduction Behaviour
Existing social inequities have illustrated that the burden of the pandemic has not been experienced equally. The pandemic has prolonged unequal access and has highlighted severe economic barriers to health care.
Guttmacher Institute has conducted studies to determine COVID-19’s impact on reproductive health and rights. One study found that one-third of U.S. women want to put pregnancy on hold, or have fewer children.
The fact that women and infants are found to be at heightened risk may encourage individuals to avoid having children and increase the demand for abortion services. Although the American Public Health Association recognizes access to abortion as a fundamental right, we’ve observed throughout the pandemic a number of states that put this right into question.
Anti-abortion government officials in several states enacted or attempted to enact restrictions on abortion. The states characterized it as a non-essential procedure. During the Trump administration, those in need of abortion services were required to have a doctor’s visit to receive their first prescription.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration announced that people seeking abortion pills during the Covid-19 pandemic will no longer have to visit a doctor’s office to get a prescription. The new policy allows prescriptions to be sent by mail.
Variants & Staying Safe
Experts continue to express concern regarding COVID-19 variants. COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few weeks, illustrating the importance of COVID-19 safety measures. Due to the sudden uptick in cases, it is recommended that you and loved ones:
- Wear a mask in public settings
- Social distance
- Get vaccinated
- Wash your hands often
- Practice respiratory etiquette
- Clean and disinfect surfaces
- Monitor your health daily
The delta variant, classified as a variant of concern, is now the dominant COVID-19 strain in America and has been found in 103 countries. This strain is highly transmissible, causes more hospitalisations, and has continued to infect vaccinated individuals.
Though the COVID-19 vaccines work against the delta and other variants, they may offer less protection. COVID-19 testing and mitigation strategies remain a crucial component for minimizing spread as we learn more about the virus variants.
View our article on how to stay safe post-vaccination.
To protect yourself and loved ones, it is recommended that you get vaccinated. At-risk populations, such as pregnant individuals, are encouraged to get vaccinated immediately—due to risks of severe outcomes for women or potential long-term impacts to fertility for men. We recommend that you talk with your health care professional to help you make the best decision for your health.
Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate all risk of infection, so be sure to follow the latest safety guidelines and monitor yourself for symptoms.
As always, stay safe.