The proliferation of misinformation, especially on social media platforms, about COVID-19 vaccines’ harmful effect on the fertility of women has prompted a new study that found no evidence that these allegations were true.
The study was conducted by the British Fertility Society (BFS), in collaboration with the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS), and concluded that there was “absolutely no evidence” and no theoretical reason why any of the COVID-19 vaccines would affect the fertility of women and men.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study also advised people of reproductive age to get vaccinated. This group includes those who are trying to have a baby and those who are thinking of having a baby in the near future.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes the reproductive age of women as being between the ages of 15 and 49 years.
“There was a time where we were not sure about vaccinating pregnant women, breastfeeding women and women who were intending to fall pregnant, whether by fertility treatment or naturally,” said gynaecologist and obstetrician at the Centre of Advanced Medicine Dr Razina Patel.
Advancements in vaccine safety
“There was a time when we were fearful of that, but in the months that have passed we have seen so much unfold in terms of safety of vaccines and in terms of risk of contracting the virus.”
One in six couples worldwide experiences some form of infertility, while in developing countries one in every four couples are dealing with infertility.
According to WHO, infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected and regular sex for women under the age of 35. For women over 35, the timeframe is reduced to six months of unprotected sex.
Patel said that while suffering from infertility can already be stressful for people, they should avoid the addition and unnecessary concerns about the vaccine affecting their chances of conceiving.
COVID-19 vaccines do not alter your DNA or affect your fertility. Vaccines are eliminated from the body quickly and serious adverse events are rare. Do your part and get your shot today! #COVIDCollegeChallenge #WeCanDoThis #ToTheTopTogether #VaxForward pic.twitter.com/34EWD2E4Qc— Moffitt Health Center & Pharmacy USM (@USMhealth) August 17, 2021
“We have changed our policy to say that everyone should be vaccinated. We want lactating women to vaccinate so they don’t have to stop breastfeeding. We are also encouraging our fertility patients to get vaccinated, because the jab does not interfere with their fertility, it doesn’t make them more infertile, it doesn’t lead to miscarriages, it doesn’t lead to congenital abnormalities and it doesn’t lead to stillbirths,” explained Patel.
Fertility treatment during pandemic
Priya Naidoo* (39) from Johannesburg, in Gauteng, started her fertility treatment last year, which consisted of a full in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The treatment included hormone therapy, then egg collection, fertilisation and reimplantation.
“I started my treatment last year around July or August. My husband and I had been trying for a long time to conceive, but I think I had secondary infertility,” said Naidoo.
She explains that receiving fertility treatment during the pandemic was not particularly stressful as the treatment facility had put measures in place to ensure safety.
However, despite adhering to safety protocols, Naidoo tested positive for COVID-19 (which she suspects she contracted at work or at home) during her first trimester, but she has recovered.
She said her fear and anxiety spiked during her last trimester, as Gauteng was experiencing its third wave of COVID-19 infections. “I wasn’t scared of COVID-19 before, but now I’m terrified,” she told Health-e News.
“I’m beyond stressed, because I have stayed home, away from people since 28 May and now, at the end, I’m so scared of going to the hospital to give birth.”
Vaccinate to mitigate risks
Meanwhile, the Lancet has highlighted the need for a global COVID-19 maternal immunisation research plan that would see clinical trials focus on this high-priority group that was excluded from initial vaccine trials.It stated that pregnant women, especially in the second half of pregnancy, are at increased risk of complications such as severe pneumonia, hospitalisations, admission to intensive care unit, invasive mechanical ventilation and death from COVID-19, compared with age-matched non-pregnant women.
Some of these studies also reported that there were increased rates of preterm and stillbirths in women who had tested positive for COVID-19. Therefore, vaccinating pregnant women, especially those with comorbidities, was crucial to preventing the risks to maternal health and foetal survival. – Health-e News
* Not her real name.