I work with patients every day and some express concern that we simply don’t know enough about COVID-19 and the impacts of the vaccine. For these reasons, they are hesitant to become vaccinated.
As a physician following evidence-based treatment practices, I am constantly on the hunt for studies to share with my colleagues and patients. There are always new research results being released all the time; this is not an exhaustive list. To inform your decision-making process, here are eight studies and what they tell us:
If you are pregnant and vaccinated against COVID-19, antibodies will be produced to protect you and your unborn baby.
A cohort study from The Journal of the American Medical Association with 103 women who received a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, 30 of whom were pregnant and 16 of whom were lactating, found that immunogenicity (the ability of a foreign substance to provoke an immune response) was demonstrated in all, meaning that an immune response against SARS-CoV-2 variants was induced. Vaccine-elicited antibodies were also found in infant cord blood and breast milk.
Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 at the time of birth experience a higher chance of complications and death.
A large study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association examined 869,079 adult women, including 18,715 women with COVID-19, who underwent childbirth at 499 US medical centers. Women with COVID-19 had increased rates of mortality, need for intubation and ventilation, intensive care unit admission and preterm birth compared to women without COVID-19. A different large multinational study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association with 2,130 women from 18 countries also found that COVID-19 in pregnancy was associated with higher rates of adverse outcomes, including maternal mortality, preeclampsia, and preterm birth compared with pregnant individuals without a COVID-19 diagnosis.
If you contract COVID-19 late in your pregnancy, it is unlikely your baby will become infected.
In a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association with 127 women, 64 with COVID-19 in pregnancy and 63 without, there was no vertical transmission of COVID-19 infection to the baby. There was also no evidence of placental infection.
If you become infected with COVID-19 prior to egg retrieval, your eggs may not become infected.
According to the medical journal Human Reproduction, the extracted eggs of two patients diagnosed with COVID-19 the day of their egg retrieval contained no evidence of infection. While only a case report of two patients, this research provides initial reassurance.
Receiving a vaccination while pregnant will not cause pregnancy complications.
Medical research from The New England Journal of Medicine followed 35,691 pregnant women who were vaccinated to assess any complications. Preliminary findings did not show obvious safety signals among pregnant persons who received vaccines. Injection-site pain was reported more frequently among pregnant persons than among nonpregnant women, whereas headache, myalgia, chills, and fever were reported less frequently.
Vaccinations are well-tolerated among those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy.
A strength of this study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association was the ability to compare vaccine reactions and perceptions in pregnant and lactating individuals vs. individuals of similar age and fertility intentions who were neither pregnant nor lactating. Vaccination reactions for day one were similar among groups and comparable with findings among pregnant individuals previously reported. All groups reported increased reactions following a second vaccine dose.
There was no impact on sperm health for men who received two vaccine doses.
A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed sperm parameters in 45 men both before and after two doses of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and found no significant decreases in any sperm parameter. Because the vaccines contain mRNA and do not contain any live virus, it is unlikely the vaccine would affect sperm.
It’s important to note that 22 healthcare organizations have supported the vaccine, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the CDC.
More than supporting vaccine use; ASRM is recommending we require vaccination for gestational carriers pregnancy. There is also a true call to arms for physicians to talk to patients about it and make sure we as infertility specialists dispel myths.
Infectivity rates are climbing and we need to match that with increasing vaccination rates. Please educate yourself to make a truly informed decision!
Is there a question you’d like to ask? I’d love to hear from you. Please submit your questions in the form here.
-Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois