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Pregnant or Planning to Get Pregnant? 5 COVID-19 Vaccine Myths Debunked

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If you’re planning to have a baby soon, you may have concerns about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s 5 myths you may have heard about – and the research-based facts that debunk them, from UH OB/GYN-Maternal and Fetal Medicine specialists Ellie Ragsdale, MD and David Hackney, MD.

Myth 1: COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Infertility

Fact:  COVID-19 vaccines have not been linked to infertility.

Because COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are not composed of live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first- or second-trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility, the ASRM says.

ASRM’s COVID-19 Task Force does not recommend withholding the vaccine from patients who are planning to conceive, who are currently pregnant or who are lactating. Patients undergoing fertility treatment and pregnant patients should be encouraged to receive vaccination based on eligibility criteria, the task force says.

COVID-19 vaccine works by encouraging the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. This “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it.

Confusion arose when an erroneous report surfaced saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. The erroneous report said that getting COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman’s body to fight this different spike protein and affect her fertility.

The two spike proteins are completely different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods.

During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss received a placebo, not the vaccine.

Myth 2: Women Who are Breastfeeding Should Not Get a COVID-19 Vaccine. 

Fact: The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine reports there is no reason to believe the vaccines affect the safety of breast milk.

When we have an infection or get a vaccine, our bodies make antibodies to fight the infection. Antibodies formed from vaccines given during pregnancy pass into the breast milk and then to the baby to help prevent infections.

Myth 3: COVID-19 Vaccines Were Developed Using Fetal Tissue.

Fact: Neither the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine nor the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines contain fetal cells. No fetal cells were used in the development or production of either vaccine.

Myth 4: Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Because They Are Not at a Higher Risk for the Illness.

Fact: COVID-19 is dangerous. It is more dangerous for pregnant women.

  • COVID-19 patients who are pregnant are five times more likely to end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) or on a ventilator than COVID-19 patients who are not pregnant, the ASRM says.
  • Preterm birth may be more common for pregnant women with severe COVID-19, but other obstetric complications such as stillbirth do not appear to increase, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
  • Pregnant women are more likely to die of COVID than non-pregnant women with COVID who are the same age, says one study, as well as the CDC.

Myth 5: The Vaccine Will Alter My or My Baby’s DNA.

The COVID vaccine will not alter your DNA. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, a type of vaccine that are used to protect against infectious diseases.

To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.  The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions, the CDC says.

Related Links

While preparing to deliver a child is a wonderful experience, it’s also somewhat stressful. UH wants to support you through the important process of pregnancy and birth, especially during this time of COVID-19. Learn more about pregnancy and COVID-19 and preparing to have a baby during the pandemic.

For most people, getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible is the safest choice. However, trials testing the vaccine in pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been completed. Learn more about making an informed choice about whether to get the COVID vaccine while you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant.

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