Yes, You Should Get the COVID Vaccine Even If You're Trying to Get Pregnant—Here's Why

Preparing your body to have a baby is an all-consuming process. You know what the science says about getting vaccinated, but you can't help it: You're a little nervous. Don't be, our experts say.

As anyone who's been through it knows, trying to conceive (TTC) can be extremely challenging. You have to pay constant attention to what you put into your body, how much sleep you get, even the time you have sex. Toss a pandemic into the mix and things can get even more confusing. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed so quickly, many people who are TTC wonder if it's safe to get the shots. Here's what the experts say about it—and why getting vaccinated is even more important now.

I'm Trying to Get Pregnant. Should I Get Vaccinated?

Yes. Everyone age 5 and older should get vaccinated (and when necessary, boosted), says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That includes people who are trying to get pregnant now or in the future, as well as their partners. The risk of developing COVID-19 with serious side effects is greater for pregnant people and their babies, and that's not something you want to be dealing with at a vulnerable time. The vaccines are also recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The CDC's guidance is based on growing evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. None of the existing shots or boosters (from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson) have been associated with fertility problems in males or females. "There is currently no evidence that shows any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men," emphasizes the CDC. People even got pregnant during the vaccines' clinical trials.

Research also supports vaccines. In January 2022, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, funded by the National Institutes of Health, analyzed conception rates among 2,126 U.S. and Canadian couples. It found that getting the Pfizer and Moderna shot did not affect either partner when it came to TTC. (Contracting the coronavirus did lower male fertility, however.) Another study cited by the CDC did not find any difference in pregnancy success rates regardless of whether a person had gotten the virus, been vaccinated, or never been vaccinated. That held true of those who did IVF, too.

Getting vaccinated is simply the best way to protect yourself (and your baby) from the coronavirus and its emerging variants. Pregnant people who contract the virus are more likely to develop severe infections and require hospitalization or ICU care than those who get COVID-19 when they aren't pregnant, emphasizes Janet Choi, M.D., the medical director of CCRM fertility clinic in New York City. Being pregnant and unvaccinated with COVID-19 raises the odds of preterm birth and other adverse outcomes. Vaccines can prevent these complications, allowing for a healthier pregnancy all around.

Here's another good reason to get the vaccine if you are TTC (or pregnant): The antibodies you produce to protect against COVID-19 may be passed to your fetus in the womb or transmitted through breast milk to your newborn. In a February 2022 study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, 98 percent of infants born to vaccinated mothers had protective antibodies; by the time they were six months old, 57 percent of the babies still had them. By comparison, just 8 percent of those whose moms actually contracted COVID while pregnant retained any antibodies at six months.

The CDC isn't the only healthcare-related organization that supports vaccination for people who are TTC—so does the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Pregnant individuals and those planning to become pregnant should feel confident in choosing vaccination to protect themselves, their infants, their families, and their communities," reads a joint statement released by these and nearly two dozen other organizations.

Are There Risks of Getting the Vaccine While Trying to Get Pregnant?

Based on existing research, no. The current COVID-19 vaccines have met the Food and Drug Administration's strict regulations and have been deemed safe for distribution to the general public. Current studies haven't shown any negative effects on fertility or pregnancy. Again, experts say that the benefits of getting vaccinated while TTC or pregnant outweigh any potential risks.

Talk to a healthcare professional if you still have qualms. It may help to know that the vaccines went through the same rigorous testing as previous vaccines considered fine to use while TTC. "There are not any associated risks with getting other vaccines while trying to conceive," says pediatrician Jessica Madden, M.D., the founder of Primrose Newborn Care and a neonatologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, in Cleveland, Ohio. The COVID-19 vaccine is believed to follow suit.

Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Infertility?

No. That's a myth. Dr. Madden points to the Texas Tech Infant Risk Center's explanation of how the COVID-19 vaccine works, and notes that mRNA vaccines do not actually contain any live virus like some other vaccines do. "It's biologically and physiologically implausible that it could affect fertility," she explains. ACOG agrees: "Claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility are unfounded," it says.

The CDC does prefer that anyone getting vaccinated now get the Pfizer or Moderna shots, which are mRNA vaccines, rather than the Johnson & Johnson shot, which uses a different mechanism to protect against the coronavirus. In its own literature, Johnson & Johnson says that it tested its COVID-19 shot on animals, and did not find that it impaired fertility, but no data on humans is available. The company has tested other vaccines with the same mechanism on humans and saw no effect on those pregnancies.

Importantly, two separate studies published in June 2021 showed that mRNA vaccination does not cause significant decreases in sperm count, and will not affect embryo implantation or impact early pregnancy development. "Neither previous COVID-19 illness nor antibodies produced from vaccination to COVID-19 will cause sterility," the authors of the second study affirmed.

I'm Breastfeeding and Trying to Conceive—Should I Get Vaccinated?

According to ACOG, breastfeeding people should definitely get the shot. "There is no need to stop breastfeeding if you want to get a vaccine," the organization says. A July 2021 study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, might provide further reassurance. After studying 13 breast milk samples from seven moms who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, its researchers concluded that "vaccine-associated mRNA" wasn't detected in the samples.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine also says it's safe for breastfeeding people to get the shot. "While there is little plausible risk for the child, there is a biologically plausible benefit," says the academy's 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."

That finding is borne out by more recent studies, such as one at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in January 2022. It found COVID-19 antibodies in the stool of infants from 1.5 months to 23 months old; all had been nursed by a person who'd received the mRNA vaccine during the period that they were breastfeeding. Fun fact: The people who'd gotten a little sicker after the shot transmitted the most antibodies to their infants.

The Bottom Line

While experts recommend that most adults get the COVID-19 vaccine—including those who are TTC, pregnant, or breastfeeding—it's still a good idea to consult a healthcare professional to discuss your questions and concerns and 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.

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