COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility: The Rumors Debunked
Dr. Angel Rivera
There is a lot of misinformation going around about your COVID-19 vaccination status and fertility.
You may be worried that the COVID-19 vaccine will cause infertility or are concerned that getting the COVID-19 vaccine will somehow impact your ability to conceive in the future which can cause COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Some people have even advocated getting pregnant first and then getting the vaccine while others have advocated not getting it at all if you plan to become pregnant.
In this article, we will dispel some of these myths and rumors about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility and answer any questions you may have about this issue.
What is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine is a vaccine that helps protect you from the coronavirus which is also called SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19.
There are currently three different vaccinations approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), although the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines such as the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are preferred according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
mRNA vaccines work by teaching our cells how to make a protein that is similar to the one found on the surface of the coronavirus which helps your body create immunity against COVID-19.
The mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations have higher efficacies which is why the CDC states that they are preferred. Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine called Janssen is a viral vector vaccine which means it uses a modified version of the COVID-19 virus (Adenovirus 26) that is completely harmless to help deliver the gene for the COVID-19 spike protein into your cells.
The vaccine is then able to create an immune response and eventually immunity against COVID-19.
All three vaccines are highly effective in preventing you from getting sick with COVID-19 and have been shown to be safe.
COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are recommended for all of the vaccines. The full effects of each phase of the vaccination process take roughly 2 weeks to take effect.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe if me and my partner plan to become pregnant?
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or for your developing fetus.
In fact, experts say that it is important if you are pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and that doing so will have no effect on your reproductive health.
If you are pregnant, pregnant women have been found to have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 which can lead to hospitalization or death.
In a very definitive statement by multiple medical organizations in the United States such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of PAs, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Association of Nurse Practitioners among numerous others posted a news release on the website for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stating that there is a "strong medical consensus for vaccination of pregnant individuals against COVID-19."
These organizations also advocate that you get vaccinated if you plan to get pregnant in the future as there has been no evidence that the COVID-19 clinical trials have had any effects on fertility in either men or women.
Thousands of vaccinated women have become pregnant after receiving the vaccine and there has been no evidence that the ingredients in the vaccine, the presence of protective antibodies from the vaccine, or a recent COVID-19 infection affect female fertility.
A recently published study of 2,000 women of reproductive age and their partners found that the COVID-19 vaccination did not affect the fertility of either partner and there was no negative impact on pregnant people.
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
The most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are pain and swelling at the injection site, fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue.
These common symptoms are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days after vaccination.
If you experience more severe side effects after getting the vaccine, such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or an allergic reaction, you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Most of the fevers are low-grade fevers and can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
It is not advised to take medications before the vaccine to try to prevent symptoms.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect menstrual cycles?
A recent vaccine study has found that getting the COVID-19 vaccination may cause slight disturbances in your menstrual cycle.
These disturbances include:
- Menstrual periods that last longer than normal
- Having a shorter interval of time between your periods
- Heavier bleeding during your periods
These side effects may affect your period but there is no evidence that any of these adverse effects impact your fertility or ability to get pregnant.
Why does the rumor exist that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility?
A German scientist discussed with a former Pfizer employee a hypothesis that the COVID-19 vaccine may cause infertility.
The reasoning behind the hypothesis was that your immune system may start attacking a protein in your placenta called syncytin-1 due to it sharing some of the same genetic code with a spike protein of COVID-19.
The hypothesis has proven to be untrue and the genetic codes are distinct, however, the rumor persists because it got traction from groups that are skeptical of the vaccine.
Another likely reason that the rumor persists is because of a misunderstanding of how the vaccine works.
The vaccine does not contain live viruses and therefore cannot give you COVID-19 and the vaccine also does not alter your DNA in any way.
You may become confused because two of the vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech) are made using messenger RNA (mRNA) and are sometimes called the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
However, mRNA is only temporary and it is not integrated into your cells like DNA.
If your immune system were to attack cells in your placenta there would be cases of miscarriages disproportionately affecting vaccinated people which has not been the case. The mRNA vaccine also does not contain any ingredients that are known to cause infertility.
Can having COVID-19 affect my fertility?
The vaccine can not affect your fertility but getting COVID-19 can affect it if you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant.
It is also known through research that unvaccinated people are far more likely to get sick from the coronavirus too.
If you have the coronavirus and are pregnant you are more likely to have the following adverse pregnancy outcomes:
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight of your child
- Pregnancy loss
If you are a man and trying to get your partner pregnant, a study recently published showed that men who had COVID-19 were 18% less likely to get their partner pregnant in the three months after having the infection.
The reasons for this are thought to be as follows:
- Having a fever can affect sperm formation
- Changes in hormones
- COVID-19 entering the testicles although this is not certain yet
- Inflammatory cascade, which is when your body uses all of its resources provided by your immune system to fight off a severe infection which may be able to alter sperm production
More research and clinical trials are needed to come to any firm conclusions about why this happens.
After the first three months, the study concluded that men's fertility became normal again. It is important to remember this if you and your partner are trying to conceive.
As the side effects of the coronavirus are documented and studied, it has been found that infection from COVID-19 can cause subacute thyroiditis.
Subacute thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland and it can alter your hormones which can affect your chance of getting pregnant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions about the vaccines, their side effects, and their efficacy.
There is no evidence and it has been proven to be an infertility myth that the COVID-19 vaccine can affect your fertility no matter if you are a man or a woman and the side effects of the vaccine are minimal and well documented.
The COVID-19 vaccine may cause adverse events with your menstruation but these events are usually only slight disturbances and do not affect your fertility or ability to get pregnant.
There is some evidence that having COVID-19 can affect your fertility and the birth of your child.
If you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant, it is important to speak with your doctor or health care provider about any concerns you may have about fertility or vaccine safety. And of course, check with your health officials and experts throughout the year as we all continue to learn more about COVID-19.
References, Studies and Sources:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
MU Health Care
- Study suggests COVID-19 vaccines do not reduce fertility
- A prospective cohort study of COVID-19 vaccination, SARS-CoV-2 infection, and fertility
Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Increased Occurrence of Menstrual Disturbances in 18- to 30-Year-Old Women after COVID-19 Vaccination