In modern times, particularly during the pandemic, social media offers a way to connect with others safely. But it also provides an unchecked avenue for misinformation to spread and has been a primary driver in the myth that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility. I’d like to set the record straight.
Be wary of fear-mongering social media posts.
According to a widely spread Facebook post, the body’s immune response to spike protein syncytin-1 in the vaccine, which is important in creating the placenta, can cause infertility. While the protein syncytin-1 is critical for the placenta to remain attached to the uterus, this is not the COVID-19 spike protein. They share several amino acids but are not the same. The vaccine will not cause a disruption in placental binding to the uterus.
Another post suggested that Moderna doesn’t want women to conceive a month after the second dose of the vaccine, which must mean it is unsafe to give to pregnant women. As a medical expert in reproductive health that follows science, I want to reassure you that this assertion is also completely false.
The vaccine is backed by major medical organizations.
In addition to Food & Drug Administration approval, the vaccine has been approved for women who are trying to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
The vaccine is not composed of live virus.
Because COVID-19 mRNA vaccines (both Pfizer and Moderna) are not composed of live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies. They also do not use an adjuvant (a substance that enhances the body's immune response to an antigen) to enhance vaccine efficacy. These vaccines do not enter the nucleus and do not alter human DNA in vaccine recipients. As a result, the mRNA vaccines cannot cause any genetic changes. The mechanism of action in mRNA vaccines and existing safety data both provide reassurance regarding the safety of vaccination during pregnancy.
Contracting COVID-19 when pregnant places both woman and baby at risk.
With the body already tasked with growing a child, it’s unsurprising that data shows symptomatic pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant adults. However, the absolute risk for severe COVID-19 infection is low. Risk also increases when other health issues such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes are present. It’s important to note that Black and Latinx individuals who are pregnant appear to have a disproportionately higher prevalence of COVID-19 infection and death.
The reported symptoms after the vaccine will not impact infertility or pregnancy.
The most common symptoms include fevers, chills, fatigue, and headache. You won’t feel great, especially if you are pregnant or undergoing fertility treatment, but you can take pregnancy-safe Tylenol to curb any pain and fever.
The nation’s top scientists have additional studies underway.
Pregnant and lactating women were excluded from the initial phase III trials of these two vaccines. In the Pfizer trial, 23 women learned that they were pregnant after the first dose. These women all received the second dose of the vaccine and we do not have any outcomes yet on their pregnancies. There was a pregnancy loss from a participant in the trial, but she received the placebo, not the vaccine. While specific safety data in pregnant women is not yet available, know that further studies are currently in progress.
The research we do have is very promising.
Research shows that transmitting COVID-19 to a fetus is unlikely in late pregnancy. It’s also important to note that the transfer of antibodies through the placenta was less common than expected. A study also found no increase in stillbirth or preterm birth during the pandemic. Yet another study found that COVID-19 does not predispose women to early pregnancy loss. And an article in Lancet, the world’s most trusted medical journal, found that newborns are at low risk for contracting COVID-19.
You should also know that severe allergic reactions are extremely rare.
According to the CDC, out of nearly two million doses administered, approximately 11.1 cases resulted in severe allergic reactions. That is 0.00000555%.
Don’t let vaccine worries stop you from having a family.
There may be many reasons to delay having a family, and we understand that everyone has their own unique set of personal circumstances. Do what is best for you. If you’d like to delay, it is wise to preserve your fertility by freezing eggs or embryos for use when you are ready. Some basic fertility testing, such as the Fertility Awareness Checkup, and a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist can also offer valuable information regarding fertility potential.
Worried about whether the vaccine can hurt male fertility? Read more here: COVID-19 and Male Fertility: Taking a Closer Look at the Research