*Last updated August 1, 2021 –
As vaccination against COVID-19 will become increasingly available, rumors surrounding the safety and side-effects of these vaccines are spreading—especially as it relates to fertility and pregnancy. We join with the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists to dispel these rumors and share their expert guidance for those with questions or concerns about vaccination.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. The organizations’ recommendations in support of vaccination during pregnancy reflect evidence demonstrating the safe use of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy from tens of thousands of reporting individuals over the last several months.
It’s important to know that clinical studies have been actively evaluating the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and recent advancements are worth noting. Most recently, a JAMA Pediatrics study published in July 2021 demonstrated that there were no traces of the mRNA molecule in breast milk from women who received the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. This builds on previous research from March 2021 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology which demonstrated that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are both safe and effective in offering protection to pregnant and lactating women. Additionally, this research found that vaccinated pregnant women can pass protective antibodies to their newborns, via breast milk and the placenta. This all supports data released by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in March 2021, which demonstrated positive self-reported safety outcomes for more than 30,000 vaccinated pregnant women who registered through the CDC’s v-safe program.
There has clearly been a significant amount of discussion around pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine. For this reason, it is important to seek trustworthy information and educate yourself so that you can make your own informed, personal vaccination decisions confidently, and based on facts. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to discuss with your physician.
Reports claiming that COVID-19 vaccines or illness cause female sterility are unfounded. A recent study published in ASRM’s Fertility & Sterility F&S Reports concluded that there was no difference found in documented implantation rates or sustained implantation rates among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine continues to advocate for vaccination of pregnant women or women attempting pregnancy, as there has been no evidence to suggest a negative impact on male or female fertility, or fertility treatment outcomes.
Further, claims of the vaccine causing sterility have been evaluated and roundly found to be misleading and false by the World Health Organization, the CDC, Reuters, the NYTimes, and many others. There is currently no evidence or connection indicating that either vaccine threatens reproductive health in any way.
Many have shared concerns over how quickly these vaccines have gone through development, testing, and approval for widespread use. While the speed of development has, indeed, been unprecedented, so too has the need. Pharmaceutical companies around the world were driven by an urgent global need for a solution, and the speed at which these vaccines have been developed is a testament to both the need and their commendable drive. These vaccines have been widely tested and rigorously evaluated by both the FDA and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and have been deemed safe for use once available.
As with most vaccinations, there are certainly side-effects to be expected. While the COVID-19 vaccine is no different, the notion that more people will die from a vaccination than from the disease is alarmingly false. Those who have received the vaccine report common side effects lasting a few days after the second dose and typically including soreness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and mild fever. As this is a concern of many, the CDC has even created the V-Safe program to promote widespread communication sharing about side-effects after vaccination.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has reaffirmed its position that “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant in order to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy.” In a recent vaccine briefing report, ASRM points out that in the randomized blinded Pfizer-BioNTech trial, a similar number of women conceived after receiving the vaccine as those who received the placebo. They also share the following reassuring explanation for those who are trying to become pregnant, or who may be newly pregnant:
The CDC has made it clear that the U.S. Vaccine safety system works, and that the many monitors and federal participants will continue to rely on trustworthy science, evidence-based clinical trials, and advanced and developing monitoring systems to make sure that any vaccine made available is safe. Further, the global response to this need and sheer volume of data from various clinical trials around the world means that we are gaining a better understanding of ways to minimize or more clearly define any expected side-effects every day. Though this is all excellent news, it remains critical to stay informed and connected to trustworthy sources of information throughout the pandemic. Axia Women’s Health is dedicated to remaining that source for our patients, and your providers welcome any concerns or questions you may have about your unique situation.
The Society of Breast Imaging recommends scheduling your screening mammogram prior to your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination OR 4-6 weeks following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Doing so will help to avoid incorrect results. However, if you have a concern, you should still seek care and speak with your physician.
As exciting and relieving it is to have the discourse shifting in a positive direction as we talk about vaccination and returning to “normal” life, we join with the CDC and other experts to remind you that we all need to continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols until such time as our vaccination response and community spread is under control. Our offices and providers will continue to adhere to these protocols to ensure you always have safe access to care, and we ask that you refresh yourself on these measures prior to your next appointment.
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