Covid vaccine and fertility: What you need to know

Last week, 91-year-old Margaret Keenan was the first person in the UK to receive the coronavirus vaccine created by drug company Pfizer.

It heralded in a wave of optimism after a year of uncertainty and upset, even though it could be a long time before most of us are vaccinated.

A topic of contention throughout has been vaccine hesitancy, which is when people choose not to be vaccinated due to fear of complications or severe side effects.

Although it might seem easy to dismiss the concerns of anti-vaxxers (as they’re often known) it’s natural to be concerned. Particularly if you’re also worried about another health issue – like your fertility – you might want to act with caution.

The various myths and conspiracy theories around the vaccine can all be debunked, but if it’s a fertility-specific worry you have, we’ve spoken to various experts on the topic to look at your options and how the inoculation might affect you.

When the Pfizer vaccine was first announced, one sentence from the safety leaflet was shared widely online: ‘It is unknown whether Covid-19 mRNA vaccine has an impact on fertility.’

This caused people to worry that taking the vaccine could prevent them from conceiving in future. The reality, however, is that this is more a precaution.

Mr James Nicopoullos, Clinical Director and Consultant Gynaecologist at The Lister Fertility Clinic (part of HCA UK) tells ‘Vaccines historically fall into two groups: Inactive vaccines such as the flu vaccine that are safe and recommended in pregnancy to avoid potential illness that could be worse in pregnancy and affect both mum and baby; and “live” vaccines that contain small amounts of active disease such as MMR or BCG that are avoided in pregnancy to ensure there is no risk of the baby developing an infection and the potential consequences.

‘The Covid vaccine is the first of a new type of mRNA vaccine that works in a slightly different way by teaching our body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. As such there is little data on its safety on fertility and in pregnancy although this doesn’t mean it is likely to have any negative effect.’

The Public Health England advice at present is that those planning on getting pregnant within the next three months should hold off on getting the vaccine.

You should should then avoid pregnancy for two months following the second vaccine dose, or postpone the second if pregnant when the time comes for this jab.

Again, it’s important to note that this is a safety precaution while more data becomes available. The government website reads: ‘It is standard practice when waiting for such data on any medicine, to avoid its use in those who may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding. This will be kept under review as more evidence becomes available.’

Dr Matthew Prior, Consultant Doctor and Medical Director at Dr Fertility comments: ‘This is precautionary as there is no evidence that the vaccine may be harmful. There is also no evidence that the vaccine can reduce fertility.’

At present there appear to be no plans from the government to require people to have the vaccine. It’ll be a personal choice for you, but one that shouldn’t be taken lightly regardless of whether you’re looking to conceive.

James says: ‘With this vaccine, we are potentially so close to ending the nightmare of the pandemic year we have had, so if you are in a high-risk group who is recommended to get the vaccine in the early stages, then I would absolutely recommend that you receive it and follow these instructions.

‘Although we speak about how fertility declines with age and I completely understand the emotional impact of any delay, the decline in fertility will be so small in any two months that the benefits of eliminating Covid risk and the still unclear risk that it may bring on pregnancy outweigh any potential small impact on fertility.’

Mr Mark Wilcox, Medical Director at CARE Fertility, adds that they’ll still be treating people who aren’t vaccinated, but that it’s important to weigh up how Covid might impact you.

He tells ‘Covid infection appears relatively safe in pregnancy and as most of our patients are outside of the vulnerable age group and usually without significant co-morbidities Covid is not as dangerous. So either option (vaccine and wait, or no vaccine and treat) is reasonable.’

If you’re looking for more information on the vaccine and pregnancy, speak to your GP or fertility practitioner, and check out the government advice here.

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