Updates from the CDC on the COVID-19 vaccine, pregnancy, and infertility
On August 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially recommended COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant, or might become pregnant in the future. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all individuals over 16, further emphasizing its safety. Professional medical societies like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) had already recommended the vaccines for all people along the family building journey; the CDC’s recent announcement and the FDA’s full approval supports those recommendations with further research on the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness.
With the rapidly spreading Delta variant, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated. There is still a lot of misinformation going around about the COVID-19 vaccines, so we’ve answered some common questions below. If you have any more questions about the vaccines and pregnancy or fertility, please contact us.
How do we know the vaccine is safe for pregnant people?
First, we know how vaccines in general work, and how the COVID-19 vaccines specifically work, and there is no evidence to suggest that any part of the vaccines would affect pregnancy or the ability to become pregnant. When mRNA vaccines are injected in the arm, the mRNA works locally to make the coronavirus spike protein which results in the production of antibodies to the virus. The mRNA and spike protein are broken down in the arm and only the antibodies leave the arm to circulate and fight the virus, so neither the mRNA nor the spike protein can reach a fetus or affect the body as a whole.
Secondly, many people who have received the vaccine (including in the original trials) have successfully become pregnant and delivered their baby after receiving one or both doses, or have received the vaccine while pregnant without any complications or negative side effects. Because the vaccines have been administered to millions of people around the world, we now have lots of data showing no difference between the rates of successful pregnancies between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Are pregnant people more at risk from COVID-19?
Yes! Data from the CDC and medical publications have found that pregnant people are more likely to become severely ill from COVID-19 than non-pregnant people. Pregnant people also have a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19. Evidence also shows that getting COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to stillbirth or a preterm birth with serious long-term health effects on babies. The bottom line is: COVID-19 can seriously risk your and your baby’s health. The COVID-19 vaccine protects against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and is safe for you and your baby.
Can the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility?
No! None of the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility in any way, whether for people with eggs or sperm. Published studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines do not adversely affect embryo implantation or sperm counts. Miscarriage rates are not affected by the vaccine and, contrary to social media claims, the vaccine does not cause menstrual abnormalities. Plenty of people have successfully gotten pregnant and given birth to healthy babies after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
In its approval of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, the FDA specifically expressed concern that misinformation about the vaccine and infertility may cause people to avoid vaccination. In its FAQs, it states “after a person is vaccinated, their body produces copies of the spike protein, which does not cause disease, and triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against the virus. Contrary to false reports on social media, this protein is not the same as any involved in formation of the placenta.” The COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility or fetal development in any way.
Can I get vaccinated if I am currently going through fertility treatments?
Yes. In fact, if you haven’t gotten the vaccine, we recommend you get it as soon as possible! Our only recommendation is to not schedule your vaccine either three days before or after a fertility procedure such as an egg retrieval, embryo transfer, hysteroscopy or IUI. While the vaccine will not affect the success of these procedures, it is possible to get a fever or other symptoms after the vaccination, which can cause confusion if it occurs around your procedure, as we won’t know if the symptoms are from the shot, from your procedure, or from a new COVID-19 infection. As long as you schedule it outside of that 6 day window, we absolutely recommend you receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.
When should I get vaccinated, if I am pregnant or trying to get pregnant?
The best time to get the COVID-19 vaccine is as soon as possible. The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner your immune system will be able to protect you against becoming severely ill, hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19, as well as protecting you and your baby from serious pregnancy complications related to COVID-19. If you are pregnant, have some acetaminophen (Tylenol) on hand to take if you experience any kind of fever after receiving the vaccine. As we mentioned in the previous question, try to avoid scheduling your vaccination three days before or after a clinical procedure; other than that, the best time to get the vaccine is now.
How do I get vaccinated?
If you live in the state of Washington, you can find available vaccine appointments here. All US residents can find available vaccine appointments here. You can also contact your healthcare provider for additional resources on getting the vaccine.
We understand that it can feel overwhelming to try to protect your health and the health of your future children. We hope these facts help relieve any concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, which have been proven to be safe, effective, and the most important tool in fighting against COVID-19. If you have any remaining questions or need help in getting vaccinated, please reach out to our team today.