Last December, a German epidemiologist said the COVID-19 vaccines might make women’s bodies reject a protein that’s connected to placenta, therefore making women infertile. He thought this because the genetic code of the placenta protein, called syncytin-1, shares a hint of similarity with the genetic code of the spike protein in COVID-19. If the vaccines caused our bodies to make antibodies to protect us from COVID-19, he thought, they could also make antibodies to reject the placenta.
This, however, was a theoretical risk that was completely disproven in the clinical trials and continues to be disproven in real time as more women of child-bearing age become fully vaccinated.
“It’s inaccurate to say that COVID-19’s spike protein and this placenta protein share a similar genetic code,” says D’Angela Pitts, M.D., a maternal fetal medicine specialist with Henry Ford Health. “The proteins are not similar enough to cause placenta to not attach to an embryo.”
Evidence Firmly Shows The COVID-19 Vaccines Do Not Cause Infertility
“Women who participated in the COVID-19 clinical trials were able to conceive after vaccination," says Dr. Pitts. "We also have many patients here at Henry Ford who got vaccinated and then became pregnant afterwards. Some are in their first trimester, some are now in their second trimester. There’s no evidence to show that the COVID-19 vaccines lead to reduced fertility.”
While The COVID-19 Vaccines Are New, The Technology Used To Create Them Is Not
The mechanism used to create the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines—called mRNA technology—is not new. It has been used widely for decades in different treatments, so there is plenty of data on the use of mRNA technology and fertility. And with the COVID-19 vaccines, specifically, research shows there are no adverse outcomes or safety issues in connection with reproductive health.
For years, women have routinely and safely gotten vaccinated before pregnancy and during pregnancy. The only type of vaccination doctors don’t recommend getting while pregnant is live vaccine (which is a strain of a live, weakened virus) because it could affect the fetus. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live virus.
“There is no evidence that shows getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines will cause infertility or even cause complications that would require fertility workup,” says Dr. Pitts. “I recommend that young women, millennials and Gen Z’ers, get the vaccine. I’ve seen evidence of younger and older women getting the vaccine and having no problems conceiving. I myself am a millennial woman who wants children in the future, and I did not hesitate to get vaccinated—I was very excited to get it.”
The Risks Of The COVID-19 Virus Itself Are Real
Contracting COVID-19 carries a much higher risk than getting vaccinated does. Pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at a higher risk for having a preterm or a still birth. They’re at a higher risk for developing hypertension and pneumonia from COVID-19. They’re also at a higher risk for maternal death from COVID-19. "When it comes to pregnant women and—and anyone in general—the dangers of getting COVID-19 greatly outweigh the dangers of getting vaccinated," Dr. Pitts says.
To learn more, visit HenryFord.com/Vaccine for answers to frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine questions.
D'Angela Pitts, M.D., is a gynecologist and obstetrician with Henry Ford Health. She specializes in maternal fetal medicine and sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Medical Center in Dearborn, and Henry Ford Medical Center in Detroit.