Yes, You Should Get the COVID Vaccine Even If You're Trying to Get Pregnant, Here's Why
While you should always check with your doctor if you have concerns about getting vaccinated, health officials have ensured the safety of the coronavirus vaccine. Still have questions about the vaccine and your fertility? Here are the answers.
There's no doubt the trying to conceive (TTC) journey can be full of ups and downs, but add a pandemic into the mix and things can get even more confusing. With a COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time, many people might be wondering if it's safe to get vaccinated. While the general consensus is overwhelmingly yes, it's understandable that people might have some safety concerns.
As coronavirus cases spread across the country, it's important to continue taking health precautions if you're unvaccinated—including wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequently washing your hands—whether you're trying to get pregnant or not. But if you are actively TTC, we know you have more questions. We asked experts to answer them here so you can be informed about staying healthy and getting vaccinated.
I'm Trying to Get Pregnant. Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
"All the professional societies overseeing the health care of reproductive-aged women (both pregnant and trying to conceive) have all come out with statements advising that all women be allowed access to the COVID vaccines without requiring a pregnancy test prior to receiving the vaccine," says Janet Choi, M.D., medical director at CCRM, a fertility clinic in New York. "At the same time, they have all highlighted the fact that the vaccine trials—run by Pfizer and Moderna—did not include pregnant women in their trials and that future studies need to include this population of women." (Vaccine manufacturers have now started including pregnant women in trials).
It's true, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) all recommend that pregnant and lactating people have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests pregnant people discuss with their health care provider to make an informed decision, especially if they're a health care or essential worker who may be eligible to receive the vaccine earlier than the general public.
"While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe COVID-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy," said the World Health Organization in updated guidance. "Nevertheless, based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don't have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women."
What we do know: Thousands of pregnant women have already been vaccinated and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says there have been "no red flags." And Pfizer expects to have clinical trial data for pregnant women by early August.
On top of that, the ASRM also recommends that those who are trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments also get vaccinated. "Patients undergoing fertility treatment and pregnant patients should be encouraged to receive vaccination based on eligibility criteria," said the ASRM Coronavirus/COVID-19 Task Force. "Since the vaccine is not a live virus, there is no reason to delay pregnancy attempts because of vaccination administration or to defer treatment until the second dose has been administered."
One more reason to get the vaccine if you are TTC (or pregnant!): The antibodies you produce to protect against COVID-19 may be passed from mother to fetus in the womb or even passed through your breast milk to your newborn. As of March 15, at least one baby has been born with COVID antibodies after its mother received the vaccine during pregnancy.
So the short answer? Yes, but you should also consult with your doctor about your unique situation.
Are There Risks of Getting the Vaccine While Trying to Get Pregnant?
There isn't a ton of information in this regard—yet—but the current COVID-19 vaccines have met strict FDA regulations that make them safe for distribution to the general public.
"We do know that there are not any associated risks with getting other vaccines while trying to conceive," says Jessica Madden, M.D., FAAP, IBCLC, medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps and neonatologist at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. "There will be more information to answer this question in upcoming months as we will have outcomes data from registries of the women in the COVID vaccine trials who got pregnant shortly after receiving the vaccine."
That's why it's especially important for those considered high risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19—including adults with underlying medical conditions—or who have severe allergies to consult with their health care provider to weigh the pros and cons before getting vaccinated.
Do the Risks of Getting COVID-19 Outweigh the Risks of Getting the Vaccine, Especially While TTC?
While we don't have a ton of information here because initial coronavirus vaccine trials did not include pregnant people, research does point to increased ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death in pregnant people with COVID-19. That's why Dr. Choi says yes, the risks of getting COVID-19 outweigh the risks of getting the vaccine.
"Studies have suggested that pregnant women infected with COVID are more likely to develop severe infections (versus non-pregnant infected women) and to require hospital/ICU care during their illnesses," says Dr. Choi.
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Infertility?
No. It's a myth that vaccines—and specifically the coronavirus vaccines—cause infertility.
Dr. Madden points to the Texas Tech's Infant Risk Center's explanation of how the COVID vaccine works, which helps to explain that the mRNA vaccine does not actually contain any live virus like some other vaccines do. That's why, she says, "it's biologically and physiologically implausible that it could affect fertility."
I'm Breastfeeding and Trying to Conceive—Should I Get Vaccinated?
According to ACOG, it's recommended that breastfeeding women do get a COVID-19 vaccine, noting, "there is no need to stop breastfeeding if you want to get a vaccine." A July 2021 study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, might also provide some reassurance. After studying 13 breast milk samples from seven moms who received Pfizer or Moderna, research concluded that "vaccine-associated mRNA" wasn't detected in the samples. More studies are needed, but this early evidence strengthens the recommendation that "lactating individuals who receive the COVID-19 mRNA-based vaccine should not stop breastfeeding," according to the study authors.
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) also says that it's safe for breastfeeding mothers to get the vaccine. "While there is little plausible risk for the child, there is a biologically plausible benefit," states the ABM website. "Antibodies and T-cells stimulated by the vaccine may passively transfer into milk. Following vaccination against other viruses, IgA antibodies are detectable in milk within 5 to 7 days. Antibodies transferred into milk may therefore protect the infant from infection with SARS-CoV-2."
While research is limited, data does seem to be pointing to antibodies passing through breast milk to babies, offering up some level of protection against COVID-19.
The Bottom Line
While experts recommend that most adults—including pregnant and breastfeeding people and those who are TTC—get the COVID-19 vaccine, it's still a good idea to consult your own doctor about any potential risks and to develop a vaccine plan that'll work best for you.
In the meantime, be sure to take a daily prenatal vitamin, track your cycle, and stay up to date on other vaccines, including the flu shot, if you're trying to get pregnant.