What do the COVID-19 Vaccines have to do with fertility?
By Olivia Catalano, MHA, Reproductive Health Program Manager; Medical Review by Dr. Jose Canario, Chief Medical Officer, Finger Lakes Community Health, an independent health care organization with 8 health centers in the region.
There is a lot of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines and whether it affects fertility and reproductive health. This article addresses that topic. Thanks to a joint effort of scientists and medical professionals alike, the COVID-19 vaccine is now recommended for all people 12 years and older. This includes people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant, or might become pregnant. However, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy has been linked to increased internet searches on fertility. Misinformation in today’s age spreads easily, so we wanted to take the time to share some facts with you regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility.
In short, there is no evidence showing the COVID-19 vaccine impacts fertility or pregnancy, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How was the COVID-19 vaccine developed? The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were made via a process using mRNA, which was developed and tested in the 1990s. The Jansen vaccine was made using an inactivated adenovirus. Collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government helped offset the financial and time costs of the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Recycling existing vaccine technology and adding the right viral antigens helped develop the vaccine faster. Many groups working together towards a common mission at the same time, increased the ability to find an effective, safe vaccine to help us end this pandemic. The development of the COVID-19 vaccines had to pass the same steps and safety checks as other vaccines.
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine? In general, all COVID-19 vaccines help to prevent severe infections, hospitalizations, or death from coronavirus. Individuals with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or pregnant people are more likely to experience severe or fatal infections if they catch COVID-19. Even if you have already had COVID-19, getting the vaccine after infection provides a stronger immune system response to the virus and may even reverse some long-term symptoms associated with COVID-19. Like all vaccines, it does not guarantee you will not become infected with the virus, but it does substantially reduce your risk. Other risk reduction practices, like wearing a mask, social distancing, getting the vaccine, and practicing good hygiene, all help prevent COVID-19 infections.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine impact fertility? Some people who menstruate noticed changes in their menstrual cycles after receiving their COVID-19 vaccines such as heavier periods and weight gain or loss. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, celiac disease, poor diet, weight gain, or stress can also impact your menstrual cycle/period. Having one or two abnormal periods is not a sign of infertility. Typically, a period will return to normal after 1 or 2 months. If it does not, you should contact your primary care provider, or OB/GYN. Studies by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have shown that female-bodied people who get the vaccine were able to get pregnant at the same rates as those who did not get the vaccine. Studies analyzed semen samples in male-bodied people before and after COVID-19 vaccination and found no negative effects on sperm parameters. Those studies were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Conversely, COVID-19 infection has been found in the sperm of male-bodied people who the infection and may impact male hormones necessary for normal sperm production.
Should I get vaccinated if I am pregnant or considering pregnancy? COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can be given to pregnant people, who want to receive them. The vaccines are safe to get while pregnant and breastfeeding and do not harm a person’s ability to become pregnant. Getting the vaccine offers crucial protection while pregnant. Unvaccinated people who are pregnant and get COVID-19 are more likely to have adverse outcomes in their pregnancy such as preterm birth, severe infection, or death when compared to non-pregnant people. While there were no pregnant people initially included in the trial for the COVID-19 vaccines, there are trial participants who have become pregnant and people within the general populations who have become pregnant after vaccination.
Many studies have shown that getting the COVID-19 vaccination while pregnant has no adverse pregnancy-related outcomes. In fact, the vaccine may help protect the baby from future infection. No safety concerns were found in animals’ studies before or during pregnancy from the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine trials according to the CDC. Refer to the research summaries on this CDC website: https://tinyurl.com/y33rtbbp
At Finger Lakes Community Health, we stand with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal medicine in supporting those who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine and are considering pregnancy or are pregnant. We offer COVID-19 vaccinations at our health centers for anyone in our communities. Call us at 315-521-0249 or visit our website www.LocalCommunityHealth.com.