To be vaccinated against COVID-19 does not reduce the chances of successfully getting pregnant for couples trying to conceive, data from a study conducted by researchers at Boston University suggests. However, men in the study who tested positive for the virus appeared to have at least “a short-term decline in fertility.”
The results were published this week as a manuscript in the American Journal of Epidemiology. They add to a growing body of evidence supporting the use of the vaccines for both protect pregnant women and reduce the risk to their babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as external medical groups, have urged all people trying to conceive to be vaccinated.
Researchers drew on data from individuals enrolled in Boston University’s year-long pregnancy survey online.
“The results provide assurance that vaccination for couples seeking pregnancy does not appear to impair fertility,” said Dr. Diana Bianchi, head of the branch of the National Institutes of Health that funded the study, in a publication announcing the results.
The study’s authors say they surveyed participants – adult women up to the age of 45 trying to conceive without the use of fertility treatments – and many of their partners every eight weeks for a year.
A statistical analysis of data collected from participants found “no meaningful correlation” between couples who reported COVID-19 vaccination and the likelihood of them being able to conceive, compared with unvaccinated participants.
It also held across a number of other factors, the researchers said, including vaccination mark and different times of the year.
Male partners who reported positive testing for COVID-19 appeared to be associated with a “transient reduction” in the likelihood of conception within 60 days.
“These results indicate that male SARS-CoV-2 infection may be associated with a short-term decrease in fertility,” they said.
Some studies have found at least a temporary decrease in the body’s production of sperm following a symptomatic infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It may be the result of day-long fever caused by COVID-19, longer than the individual day with mild side effects seen after vaccination.
Boston University researchers plan to continue to follow participants to monitor any “long-term links” between vaccination and “fertility” – the likelihood that couples will be able to conceive within a single menstrual cycle. “But,” they add, “it is unlikely that adverse effects on fertility can occur many months after vaccination.”
Public health officials have been urging couples to get vaccinated for months, citing significant risks associated with COVID-19 for people who catch the virus while they are pregnant.
The virus could also increase the risk of stillbirth, scientists have warned. A recent study by NIH researchers, published in Nature, also found inflammation in children carried by infected mothers that could “lead to long-term illnesses.”
“We know that pregnant women with COVID-19 can become very ill. Some will die and many will experience pregnancy and neonatal complications. We know that because of COVID, some children will grow up without their mothers,” says CDC’s Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman told the agency’s external vaccine advisers last year.
Health authorities have long been concerned that the number of COVID-19 vaccinations among people who are pregnant or trying to conceive has improved in recent months. CDC study data suggest that their vaccination rates now follow closer to younger adults in general.
Concerns about fertility and vaccination continue, however, partially pushed off misinformation on social media. A study published in November by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly 3 in 10 American adults believe or are unsure whether vaccines have been shown to cause infertility.
“We know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. If you are pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, trying to conceive now, or may become pregnant in the future, get vaccinated,” Meaney-Delman said.
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