Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions we’re hearing from our patients is: “Should I get the COVID vaccine?”
For both women who are pregnant and those who are trying to get pregnant, our answer is, “Yes.” You can rest assured that we’re basing our advice on guidance from several trusted sources, including the World Health Organization, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
Because the COVID-19 virus was so new just a year ago, information about it was limited. But reliable research is rapidly emerging about the vaccine’s effects on fertility. We’ve seen a lot of misinformation out there, so we want to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
When to Get Your Vaccine
The two mRNA vaccines currently available from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have efficacy rates of 94-95%, which means vaccinated individuals are shown to have a 94-95% lower risk of contracting COVID-19 compared with an unvaccinated control group.
Since the COVID vaccine does not contain a live virus, there is no reason to delay pregnancy attempts until after getting vaccinated, or to put off fertility treatments until after the second dose. It is perfectly safe to proceed as you normally would.
However, for patients who are scheduled for elective surgery or outpatient procedures, including egg retrieval, embryo transfer or intrauterine insemination, we recommend you avoid getting a COVID-19 vaccination at least three days prior and three days after the procedure. This is not because the vaccination itself is unsafe, but rather because of logistical reasons: vaccine side effects may impact intra-operative and post-procedure monitoring.
Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccination, especially after the second dose, include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle pain and headaches. It can be difficult to determine if these symptoms are side effects caused by the vaccine, or if the patient is suffering from a COVID infection. It’s important to note that many healthcare facilities will not schedule elective procedures if a patient has a fever or other symptoms, even if their COVID test is negative.
The COVID Vaccine and Pregnancy
Emerging data shows that pregnant women are at higher risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19. An infection early in your pregnancy may also increase the risk for complications. There are also emerging reports of placental injury due to COVID, such as blood clots within the placenta leading to decreased blood supply to the baby.
The good news is, the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnant women far outweigh the risk of harm from the COVID-19 vaccination. In fact, women who have had COVID-19 during pregnancy have shown to pass the antibodies to their baby through the pregnancy and also through breast feeding. There is a high likelihood that the same thing happens when a pregnant or nursing mother receives the COVID vaccine, thereby protecting their child.
The Truth About the Vaccine and Infertility
One of the most persistent myths about the COVID vaccine on social media is that it causes fertility issues. Let us be completely clear: Getting vaccinated does not cause infertility or sterility! In fact, the most recent study shows that neither a vaccination or COVID infection prevents embryo implantation or early pregnancy development.
The vaccine has been shown in small studies to temporarily change menstrual patterns in women, but these irregularities correct themselves. It’s still unclear if the changes are caused by the vaccine itself or by the symptoms women develop when their immune system is challenged by the vaccine.
The latest data about the vaccine and its effects on male fertility show no impact on sperm parameters. One study showed that men who contract a COVID infection could be at increased risk for developing erective dysfunction. It is logical to assume that those who get the vaccine would decrease their risk and possibly improve their fertility.
The Bottom Line
We recommend the COVID vaccine for women who are contemplating pregnancy as well as those who are pregnant, to decrease not only their risk for infection, but also the risk to their unborn baby.
To quote ASRM, “No matter where you are in the family-building process, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and saves lives.”
For more about the COVID vaccine and fertility, or to learn about all your infertility treatment options, call us for a consultation at (502) 897-2144.