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Fertility and COVID-19 Vaccination: Experts Weigh In

In New Video, Cedars-Sinai Obstetrician Discusses Common Questions, Concerns About How the COVID-19 Vaccine Affects Fertility

Fertility and pregnancy were often stressful topics even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but now, many who are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant have questions about how to protect themselves from the virus while keeping their reproductive goals in mind.

"Pregnant women are an especially vulnerable population because they are likely to get sicker with COVID than nonpregnant women," said Sarah Kilpatrick, MD, PhD, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Helping Hand of Los Angeles Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai. "This week's news that the Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those 16 and older, including those who are pregnant, should give pregnant women even more reassurance that the vaccine is safe in pregnancy."

For nearly nine months, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been in use under an emergency use authorization (EUA). Although the vaccine has received full approval for adults, those 12-15 years old can still be vaccinated under the EUA.

John Ozimek, DO, director of Labor and Delivery and the Maternal-Fetal Care Unit, and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai, says he hears concerns every day from patients who want what is best for themselves and their growing babies. His advice: Get vaccinated.

Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect the Chances of Becoming Pregnant?

"The vaccine doesn't affect fertility, and there's no reason to suspect that it would," Ozimek said.

This is true whether someone is considering trying to conceive now, in five years, or in 15 years, and is true for both men and women, Ozimek said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine all strongly recommend that women be vaccinated if they are considering pregnancy.

"[There is] almost no risk, and certainly no risk of adverse fertility outcomes, but tremendous benefit," to getting the vaccine, Ozimek said.

However, if a person doesn’t get vaccinated and is later infected with the virus, there is a possibility that COVID-19 could cause long-term adverse effects that may affect their ability to become pregnant. Getting vaccinated is the easiest way to prevent COVID-19 and its associated long-term effects, which could potentially affect maternal health during future pregnancies. 

Should Pregnant Women Get Vaccinated?

"We don't want to scare people," Ozimek said. "If you're pregnant and you get COVID, the vast majority of patients are going to do just fine in the long run, but compared to those that are not pregnant, there is an increased risk for severe illness, admission to the ICU and death."

By contrast, the COVID-19 vaccines, which do not contain any live virus, cannot make anyone sick with COVID-19 and protect against those potentially harmful long-term effects.

Government agencies are tracking vaccinations in pregnant women, Ozimek said, and among the nearly 140,000 pregnant people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, there have not been any reported adverse outcomes to the patients or to their newborns.

"There is no known increased risk for pregnancy loss, miscarriage or adverse pregnancy outcome as a result of a vaccination from COVID-19," Ozimek said.

In fact, evidence from early studies suggests that antibodies from a person who received a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant may transfer some protection to the baby after birth, according to the CDC.

Should Pregnant Women Worry About the Side Effects From The COVID-19 Vaccine?

Side effects can occur after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but that shouldn't stop pregnant women, Ozimek said. And many report no side effects at all.

"I very much understand when somebody says they don't want to deal with the side effects when they're pregnant, but the best thing that I can say to give you reassurance is that, number one, it's normal, and number two, it will pass within one to three days," he said.

The CDC encourages pregnant women to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to control a fever that may come as a side effect of vaccination.

The benefits of protection that the vaccines offer far outweigh the discomfort of potential vaccine side effects, Ozimek said.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: COVID-19 Vaccine: What Women Need to Know