Yes, You Should Get the COVID Vaccine Even If You're Trying to Get Pregnant—Here's Why
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 are wondering if it's safe to get vaccinated. And while the general consensus is overwhelmingly yes, it's understandable that you still might have safety concerns. We spoke with experts to answer some common questions about getting vaccinated if you're trying to conceive.
I'm Trying to Get Pregnant. Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
On August 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their COVID-19 vaccine guidance. The organization recommends everyone 12 and older get vaccinated— "including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners." The vaccines are also recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The CDC's new guidance is based on growing evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. None of the available vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson) have been associated with fertility problems in males or females. "There is currently no evidence that antibodies made following COVID-19 vaccination or that vaccine ingredients would cause any problems with becoming pregnant now or in the future," emphasizes the CDC.
Getting vaccinated is also the best way to protect yourself (and your baby) from the coronavirus—including the highly contagious Delta variant. "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 Janet Choi, M.D., medical director at CCRM, a fertility clinic in New York. They also have a higher chance of preterm birth and other adverse outcomes. COVID-19 vaccines can prevent these complications, allowing a healthier pregnancy for Mom and Baby.
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. At least one baby has been born with COVID antibodies after its mother received the vaccine during pregnancy.
Besides the CDC, many other medical organizations also support vaccination while trying to conceive, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Nurse-Midwives, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians, and more. "Pregnant individuals and those planning to become pregnant should feel confident in choosing vaccination to protect themselves, their infants, their families, and their communities," according to a joint statement by these organizations.
Are There Risks of Getting the Vaccine While Trying to Get Pregnant?
There isn't a ton of information in this regard, but the current COVID-19 vaccines have met strict FDA regulations that make them safe for distribution to the general public. Available studies haven't shown any negative effects on fertility, pregnancy, or overall health. Experts and organizations say that the benefits of getting vaccinated while TTC or pregnant outweigh any potential risks.
Adding to the argument, "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.
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."
The CDC points to a recent study involving in vitro fertilization (IVF). Researchers found no difference in pregnancy success rates among three groups of women: those who had antibodies from vaccination, those who had antibodies from COVID-19 infection, and those without any antibodies.
Along those lines, a June 2021 study analyzed sperm characteristics of 45 healthy men who received an mRNA vaccine. They didn't find any significant changes, which is evidence that the vaccines don't effect male 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 seems 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.