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Does The COVID Vaccine Impact Your Fertility?

Does The COVID Vaccine Impact Your Fertility?

Kindara | July 13, 2021 | Fertility Awareness
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Since the COVID-19 vaccine became available in the US in December 2020, rates of COVID have been steadily decreasing across the country (1). According to CNBC, as of June 9, 2021, about 52% of the population has had at least one dose of the vaccine. We know the vaccine decreases the risk of transmission of COVID, protects the recipient from severe symptoms, and guards against the highly contagious Delta variant. But many have questions about its long term effects, particularly about what it could mean for fertility. So does the vaccine have an impact on one's future fertility? Let's take a look. 

Myth and facts: What the experts say 

There are a lot of myths floating around about the COVID vaccine, and it's important to get to the bottom of not only their validity, but where they started. Let's get one thing out of the way: the COVID vaccine does not affect fertility. A statement released in February 2021 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) asserted: “As experts in reproductive health, we continue to recommend that the vaccine be available to pregnant individuals. We also assure patients that there is no evidence that the vaccine can lead to loss of fertility" (2). The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has also stated that the mRNA vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson, "are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies" (3). 

Where did the idea that fertility could be adversely impacted by the vaccine come from? The confusion stems from a misunderstanding as to how it works. The vaccine incites the body to create duplicates of the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, so that the immune system would fight viruses that have that particular protein in it. The myth in regard to fertility arose from a false social media claim that COVID's spike protein was the same as syncytin-1, another spike protein that plays a role in the development of placenta (4). The two proteins are completely different, and the rumor that the vaccine would fight the syncytin-1 and result in negative effects on fertility is false (5). 

Pregnancy, lactation and the vaccine 

One thing is certain: COVID's impact on pregnant people is potentially devastating —they're more likely to get severely ill, especially if they have underlying medical conditions, and are at high risk for preterm birth and pregnancy loss (6). (COVID may also have a negative impact on testicular function, sperm production, and hormone production in men (7)). 

What is known about the impact of the vaccine on pregnant people, and should you get it? 

While the tests performed with the vaccine (before it was approved for emergency use) did not include pregnant people, 23 female volunteers did get pregnant during Pfizer's trials, and according to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, there have been no issues with these pregnancies, which are continuing to be studied. The CDC has been monitoring pregnant women who have gotten the vaccine for serious side effects via the V-safe pregnancy registry. More than 100,000 vaccinated pregnant people have reported to the CDC so far, and no fetal problems or unexpected pregnancy issues have been reported with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (8). 

A June 2021 statement by ACOG recommended that all eligible persons receive the vaccine, including pregnant and lactating individuals (9). If you have concerns about getting vaccinated while pregnant, you should speak with your OBGYN about your risk of severe illness should you contact COVID. 

Period irregularities and the vaccine

Dr. Kate Clancy, a biological anthropologist and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noticed a phenomenon on social media: women were reporting heavy, painful periods following COVID vaccines. In response, Dr. Clancy took to Twitter to survey menstruators and their post-shot menstrual experiences, and her study to do so in a more formal context was recently approved. Currently, however, there are no published studies on the impact of the COVID vaccine on menstruation. But other doctors, like Clancy, are investigating possibilities. 

In an April 21st, 2021 post on her Substack, The Vajenda, Dr. Jen Gunter, author of The Vagina Bible, pointed out that menstrual irregularities were never tracked when the vaccine was initially tested. Since no one was informed that they should expect menstrual irregularities, this may be why we haven’t heard about this occurring. 

 

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Gunter highlights a 2018 study of 300,000 Japanese women who received the HPV vaccine in which menstrual irregularities were the most commonly reported symptom (10). This study is important, notes Gunter, because it supports a link between vaccines and menstrual irregularities.

 These inconsistencies could occur for a number of reasons, including: 

  • Stress
  • An impact on the chemical messaging between the brain, ovaries, and uterus
  • The possibility that the vaccine is affecting the endometrium, which is a part of the immune system. (Temporary menstrual changes have also been reported with the flu vaccine (11)). 

Right now, there are no studies or data available on the impact of the vaccine on the menstrual cycle, but just like other side effects from the vaccine, such as fever, body aches, and chills, are temporary, the change in your menstrual cycle's behavior should be as well. 

The science on COVID-19 and COVID vaccines continues to evolve.  Don't hesitate to consult your health care provider about your concerns.

 

About The Author:

Chanel Dubofsky's writing on gender, reproductive health, popular culture, and religion, can be found in New York Magazine, Lilith, Rewire, Modern Fertility, Cosmopolitan, and others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Instagram at cdubofsky.

References +
1

Decreases in COVID-19 Cases, Emergency Department Visits, Hospital Admissions, and Deaths Among Older Adults Following the Introduction of COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, September 6, 2020–May 1, 2021. (2021, June 11). Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7023e2.htm

2

Medical Experts Continue to Assert that COVID Vaccines Do Not Impact Fertility. (2021, February 4). Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://www.acog.org/news/news-releases/2021/02/medical-experts-assert-covid-vaccines-do-not-impact-fertility

3

ASRM Issues Statement on COVID-19 Vaccines, Joins Other OB/GYN Groups on Community-Wide Statement. (2020, December 16).  Retrieved June 11, 2021, from https://www.asrm.org/news-and-publications/news-and-research/press-releases-and-bulletins/asrm-issues-statement-on-covid-19-vaccines-joins-other-obgyn-groups-on-community-wide-statement/

4 COVID-19 Vaccines: Myth Versus Fact. (2021, May 14).  Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines-myth-versus-fact
5

Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Fertility? Here's What the Experts Say. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://www.muhealth.org/our-stories/does-covid-19-vaccine-affect-fertility-heres-what-experts-say

6

Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People: At increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. (2021, June 10). Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnant-people.html

7

Fertility considerations: The COVID-19 disease may have a more negative impact than the COVID-19 vaccine, especially among men. (2021, March 19). Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://www.fertstertdialog.com/posts/fertility-considerations-the-covid-19-disease-may-have-a-more-negative-impact-than-the-covid-19-vaccine-especially-among-men?room_id=871-covid-19

8

COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy. (n.d.) Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://www.highriskpregnancyinfo.org/covid-19

9

COVID-19 Vaccination Considerations for Obstetric–Gynecologic Care. (2020, December). Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-advisory/articles/2020/12/covid-19-vaccination-considerations-for-obstetric-gynecologic-care

11

Immune and Hormone Response to Influenza Vaccine - Study Results. (2013, November 7). Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/results/NCT01978262?view=results

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