Among the many things the pandemic has taught us? When it comes to COVID-19 and how to best protect yourself against the coronavirus, there is often a lot of confusion and misinformation.
This is the case with vaccines developed to fight the virus: Some of the worrying claims that have been in the news lately suggest that they could possibly cause reproductive health problems for a woman or interfere with her ability to conceive. Resource The editors spoke with Baptist Health obstetrician and gynecologist Larry Scott Spiegelman, MD, who helped separate fact from fiction on this important topic.
Resource: Is there any data to support the idea that COVID-19 vaccines – whether Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson – can cause infertility?
Dr. Spiegelman: No, in fact, there have been quite a few studies on infertility in both men and women. Some of them looked at men’s sperm count before and after being vaccinated, and they found absolutely no change. And to date, no one has shown signs of infertility as a result of the vaccine for up to 42 days after receiving a full dose.
In other studies with all three vaccines, some women had unintentional pregnancies while participating in the studies, meaning their pregnancy was unrelated to the vaccine or the study. These patients were followed closely and none of them showed an increased risk of pregnancy complications or birth defects. When it comes to infertility, the fact that they were able to get pregnant while participating in these studies suggests that there was no problem.
Resource: Do these vaccines interact with any of a woman’s reproductive organs?
Dr. Spiegelman: By way of explanation, the COVID-19 vaccine is delivered into the muscle of the upper arm and, for mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, this is where the mRNA is received at the cellular level. Muscle cells take up mRNA without it ever entering the nucleus or affecting the DNA of your cells. It delivers a message to your cells, telling them to make a specific protein – the spike protein – that helps the coronavirus infect people. Your cells then create antibodies to help fight the COVID-19 virus if you are exposed to it.
Now to answer your original question: because these vaccines are absorbed in the area where they are given, they never reach the reproductive organs in appreciable amounts that could affect or bind to the cells of those organs.
Resource: Should women trying to conceive be reluctant to get vaccinated? What about women who are or may be pregnant?
Dr. Spiegelman: For women trying to get pregnant or who are currently pregnant, the American College of OB-GYN and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recently released updated recommendations as of July 30.e advise that women should not delay pregnancy if they are currently receiving the vaccine. Understanding that the risks are extremely low to any developing fetus, the two organizations say the vaccine can be safely received in any trimester. In addition, the American College of OB-GYN strongly encourages all women to get the vaccine now, whether or not they are planning to become pregnant. Bottom Line: If you want to have a baby, it is not necessary to delay the pregnancy, even if you have received the vaccine.
Resource: Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility in men?
Dr. Spiegelman: In men, there is no evidence of vaccine-related infertility. There have been several studies that have compared the sperm count of men before and after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and no significant changes were noted. In addition, there was no increase in the rates of miscarriages or birth defects in pregnancies in which the male partner received the vaccine.
Resource: What about the virus itself – does COVID-19 affect pregnancy or fertility?
Dr. Spiegelman: When it comes to the effects of the coronavirus itself, we know several things. First, pregnant women who are infected with the virus get much sicker than women who are not. Second, studies show that vaccinated women not only make good antibodies for themselves, but also pass these antibodies to their babies through the umbilical cord, thus protecting the baby against COVID-19 once it is born. Third, if a mother breastfeeds her baby, she continues to pass these antibodies to her baby.
What this tells us is that by getting vaccinated, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant can protect their own health. and that of their baby. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, just over half of all American women eligible to receive the vaccine have been vaccinated to date, which means there are many women who are depriving themselves of the ability to stay well. health during pregnancy. .
This surprises me, because women spend so much time getting antenatal care, seeing their doctor, and preparing for childbirth – yet some have dissociated COVID-19 from their normal prenatal care. Not getting the vaccine while you are pregnant puts you and your baby at greater risk. If you get very sick from COVID-19, the lack of oxygen you are receiving also affects your baby. The potential risks to your baby are much higher if you get sick with COVID than they would be with the vaccine itself.
Resource: Is there anything else women or men should know about the vaccine and their reproductive health?
Dr. Spiegelman: My biggest concern is that by refusing to get the vaccine or not taking the vaccine, many women are putting themselves and their babies at risk.
With the coronavirus sweeping back into South Florida and across the country – especially the Delta variant, which is of great concern – getting the vaccine is more important than ever. The Delta variant is much more contagious, it makes young people sick and makes them even sicker. During the initial wave of COVID-19 last year, one person could pass it on to another person, more or less. But with the Delta variant, studies show that one person can pass it on to between five and ten others.
So even if you are not vaccinated – for whatever reason you think is important – you are exposed to many other people who could potentially pass the virus on to you. And you, in turn, could pass the virus on to your own family and friends. Please don’t take any chances – your health and that of your baby is extremely important.