If you’re hoping to get pregnant, you may have heard rumors that getting the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility. Let’s explode that myth all over again: No credible scientific evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccine has a negative impact on fertility.
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“Covid-19 vaccination does not reduce female fertility,” confirms Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Infectious Disease Specialist Oluwatosin Goje, MD. What can However, your fertility is being impacted by COVID-19 – which means there’s just one more reason to get your vaccine.
Dr. Goje talks about where the vaccine rumors come from, what the science really says about it and what COVID-19 can do to your fertility.
Where did this rumor come from?
In December 2020, a German scientist teamed up with a former Pfizer employee to share a hypothesis about the COVID-19 vaccine and infertility. It gained traction among vaccine skeptics and has persisted — even though it has since been disproved by researchers.
The myth is based on an assumption that the vaccine can cause your body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in your placenta that shares a small piece of genetic code with the spike protein of the coronavirus.
Although this misinformation was proven wrong, the rumor still took on a life of its own as it was shared and re-shared across the internet.
Why the infertility rumor may not be true
“Most of the data coming out is consistent with initial information that vaccines do not affect fertility,” says Dr Goje. She shares some of the science that debunks this myth and explains the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for people who are pregnant and want to get pregnant.
1. The COVID-19 vaccine does not affect conception
A January 2022 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at 2,000 couples trying to conceive without fertility treatment. Data show no differences in the probability of conception between vaccinated and unvaccinated couples.
“Researchers found no link between the COVID-19 vaccine and lower fertility rates,” says Dr. Gosh.
2. The COVID-19 vaccine does not affect the placenta
A fetus cannot survive without the placenta, which connects to your uterus during pregnancy. If the vaccine really attacked the placenta, explains Dr. Gosh, will we see an increase in miscarriages among vaccinated people – which is not the case.
“The thought that the vaccine would attack the placenta was debunked because there was no increase in miscarriages among vaccinated women,” she says.
3. The COVID-19 vaccine does not affect sperm
Researchers found no evidence that the vaccine had a negative impact on sperm. “Two studies in couples undergoing fertility treatment found no significant difference in semen volume, sperm concentration or motility measured before and after vaccination,” adds Dr. Bye bye.
How to have COVID-19 can affect your fertility
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect your fertility, but catching the virus will. Dr. Goje breaks down some of the science about the effect that COVID-19 infection can have on people who are pregnant or trying to conceive.
COVID-19 can affect your pregnancy
Although the myth says that the vaccine can negatively affect the placenta, it turns out that it is the virus that actually does this. The vaccine has been shown to be safe for people who are pregnant, while studies show that pregnant people who contract COVID-19 have higher rates of:
- Premature birth.
- Low birth weight.
“This shows that the relationship with the placenta is actually a concern for pregnant people who become infected, not for pregnant people who are vaccinated,” says Dr. Gosh.
COVID-19 can cause male fertility problems
The January 2022 study found that in couples trying to conceive, conception dropped 18% in the three months after the male partner (or partner assigned male at birth) was infected with COVID-19.
Dr. Goje says doctors aren’t yet sure why this is, but researchers continue to study the impact of COVID-19 on the body, and studies have reported on a few possibilities:
- The effects of fever: “When people get an infection, whether it’s COVID-19 or any other viral infection, fever can affect sperm formation,” she says.
- Hormonal changes: Certain hormone levels are necessary for sperm production, but disruption of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and gonadal glands can alter those levels.
- Testicular problems: “One of the hypotheses is that the virus can penetrate the testicles,” says Dr. Gosh. This can cause a temporary disruption in the testicles’ ability to function properly.
- Inflammation issues: Infections can lead to what doctors call an “inflammatory cascade,” a body response to fight serious illness. “Researchers think that inflammatory cascade can collapse or alter sperm production,” says Dr Goje.
Within a few months of having COVID-19, male fertility seems to return to normal. But if you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to know how your partner’s infection may temporarily affect your ability to conceive.
COVID-19 can cause thyroid problems
By now we know that COVID-19 can cause a variety of health problems. Studies show that one of those concerns is subacute thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland that can occur when your body is fighting a virus. This leads to over- or underproduction of thyroid hormone, which in turn can affect your ability to conceive.
“Thyroid disorders affect menstrual cycles and fertility, so it is possible that thyroid dysregulation due to COVID-19 may indirectly affect fertility,” explains Dr. Gosh.
The science is clear: Get vaccinated
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or just trying to stay healthy, all the science points in the same direction: Getting your COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to stave off the most serious impacts of the virus. If you’re hoping to get pregnant, you can get vaccinated with confidence, knowing that it’s one of the best ways to protect your health and your fertility.