When the coronavirus pandemic first broke out in March 2020, many people opted to put off family planning until it seemed safer to do so. It was difficult to predict what hospitals in the United States would look like in a year, so many women were understandably apprehensive about access to natal care. Even now, as vaccination programs are ramping up across the country, some women continue to wonder whether it’s safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine before getting pregnant.
There is still limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are already pregnant, but there is currently no evidence to suggest the vaccine would be unsafe for mother or child. Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that women trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
In a joint statement, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine stressed that the vaccine should not affect the fertility of women trying to conceive.
“As experts in reproductive health, we continue to recommend that the vaccine be available to pregnant individuals,” the statement from the three leading women’s reproductive professional organizations reads. “We also assure patients that there is no evidence that the vaccine can lead to loss of fertility.”
The statement also noted that while the vaccine’s clinical trials did not explicitly study fertility—pregnant people are typically excluded from vaccine trials to simplify them—no fetal losses have been reported among trial participants. There also haven’t been any losses reported among the millions of women who have already received a vaccine.
“Loss of fertility is scientifically unlikely,” the three organizations concluded.
Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, an infectious diseases consultant on the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s COVID-19 Task Force, explained to the University of Alabama that misinformation might play a role for those wary of the vaccine.
“Some women are hearing dangerous myths about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dionne-Odom said. “In response to misinformation, I find it helpful to be direct and clear: There is no scientific data that supports a link between COVID-19 vaccine and changes in fertility. When I talk to women who are interested in becoming pregnant now or down the road, I strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccination since it offers the best protection.”
If anything, pregnant people and those trying to get pregnant should be encouraged to take the vaccine, as they are at a much greater risk of severe complications from contracting COVID-19.
Not only do pregnant people have an increased risk of severe illness, they are also more likely to experience hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and even death as compared to those who are not pregnant. The coronavirus also poses an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth.
Dr. Deidre Gunn, assistant professor and fertility specialist in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Alabama, says that “COVID infection is much more dangerous for pregnant women compared to women the same age who are not pregnant.”
“If you get COVID while pregnant, you are much more likely to be in the ICU, on a ventilator, with a higher risk of death. There is also a higher risk of preterm birth and related complications,” Gunn said. “Knowing that the benefit of vaccination outweighs the potential risk of infection complications should give those contemplating pregnancy a sense of relief.”
Gunn also pointed to preliminary evidence suggesting that women who receive the vaccine during pregnancy may actually pass those beneficial antibodies on to the child.
“We have the protection we need,” she said. “It is important to encourage those who are healthy and eligible to become inoculated.”
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