There are a lot of rumors going around about COVID-19 and how it affects women. From questions about getting the virus during pregnancy to whether the vaccine affects fertility, we’re here to separate fact from fiction. Dr. Brad Greenberg, Emergency Physician and Director of Emergency Preparedness at San Juan Regional Medical Center, discusses some of the common myths he’s heard.
First, let’s talk about fertility. One myth many people may have heard is the idea that the COVID-19 vaccine is associated with infertility.
Dr. Greenberg: There is no impact on male or female fertility with the COVID-19 vaccine. One question we’ve heard is whether the spike protein generated in context of your COVID-19 vaccination might interact with a protein that’s involved in the placental attachment. This has been studied and there is no interaction between those two proteins. Therefore there is no impact on female fertility. With regards to male fertility, there have been studies about the impact on sperm count and even after both doses of the MRNA vaccines there has been no demonstrated impact.
Contracting COVID-19 during Pregnancy
Does pregnancy put you in a high-risk category for severe COVID-19, even if you’re otherwise healthy?
Dr. Greenberg: Pregnant women are more likely to be at increased risk for severe illness and worse outcomes with COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant women.
- Pregnant women are three times more likely to require admission to an ICU
- They are 2.9 times more likely to acquire mechanical ventilation (put on a ventilator)
- They are 1.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 when pregnant.
In addition, pregnant women with COVID-19 are at higher risk of pre-term labor or miscarriage, a range of about 10-25 percent. If they are critically ill their risk of pre-term labor or miscarriage can be as high as 60 percent.
Now we have good research, there’s great evidence to suggest that vaccination is something that all pregnant women should do when considered as a high-risk group. Large organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine strongly endorse the use of COVID-19 vaccinations for all pregnant women.
Getting Vaccinated During Pregnancy
There are many rumors about how the COVID-19 vaccine may affect an unborn child. One particular concern is that the vaccine will cross the placenta.
Dr. Greenberg: This is not the case. The MRNA vaccines are injected into the deltoid muscle in your arm and the MRNA degrades inside the cytoplasm, inside the cell of the deltoid muscles, and never reaches anywhere near the placenta. There is no risk of the vaccine or its components interacting with a developing baby.
One other good piece of news is about the antibodies formed in response to the COVID-19 vaccination, they do cross the placenta in the third trimester and confer passive immunity to a newborn baby.
For more information on COVID-19 and pregnancy and fertility, we encourage you to check out these resources:
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-advisory/articles/2020/12/covid-19-vaccination-considerations-for-obstetric-gynecologic-care
American Society for Reproductive Medicine: https://www.asrm.org/covid-update-16