If you’ve been thinking of started or expanding your family in these pandemic years, you’re not alone.
In fact, researchers predict a COVID baby boom in the near future. When trying, everyone hope that the pee stick turns “preggo” on the first go, but the reality it is often takes time for many couples. About one in eight couples struggle with fertility for several reasons. But when that second line just won’t show up on the pregnancy test, it’s easy to start wondering what you’ve done wrong.
If you’re like me, the thought of COVID vaccines and their effect on fertility has crossed your mind. And though my rational brain knows that they don’t, it helped calm that erratic side by diving into recent research. Here’s what I found.
Hot Off the Press
A brand new study that was published a couple weeks ago by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology confirmed what numerous previous studies found: COVID-19 vaccines have no associations with markers of fertility.
Why Large Samples Matter
If it’s already been founded, then why was this particular study so exciting? Previous studies of fertility and the COVID-19 vaccines looked at relatively small sample sizes. Diligent readers are skeptical of small sample sizes because we know that their findings may not show an accurate representation of the greater population.
A great example of this is the famed 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that reported the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine caused autism. The original study only looked at 12 children. And since that publication, no research team has been able to replicate the findings, 10 of the 13 authors have renounced the study’s conclusions, and has since been retracted from the publishing journal. This small sample with irreplicable results means it is not a reliable source. No, vaccines do not cause autism. When I learned that this new COVID-19 vaccine study’s sample consisted of 3000 people, I was much more optimistic. By reconfirming the findings of smaller previous studies, the researchers noted, “our data contribute[s] to the ever-increasing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines do not negatively affect fertility or pregnancy.” Phew! Relax Mamas-to-be, it’s not the vaccine making that second line so stubborn.
Vaccinations actually make your pregnancy safer
In fact, vaccines actually may make your pregnancy go smoother. With the extremely infectious Omicron whipping around town, chances of infection are pretty high these days. Recent data, including this study that looked at over 2000 women from 18 different countries, found that pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19 have much higher chance of bad outcomes than other populations. Only a few short months ago, a local mom was fighting for her life in a Vancouver hospital after being airlifted from Fort St. John six months pregnant with COVID-19. Though you can still contract the new variant despite being fully vaccinated, it does significantly reduce the chances of hospitalization because your body already has a head start on knowing how to fight the virus. Your doctor or pharmacist are great resources if you’re pregnant and have questions.
What about COVID does affect fertility?
In my rabbit hole of research reading, I also came across some other interesting research that looked at the impacts of contracting COVID-19 virus.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, concerns have been raised about the potential impact of the virus on the male reproductive system. From “covid toes” to loss of taste to brain fog, we know this virus can result in a plethora of multi-organ damage. One of the reasons is that the virus needs to bind to something called the ACE2 (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) receptor and this protein is found on the surface of cells all over the body. Because the male testes have such a high number of ACE2 receptors, research published in the Nature Reviews Urology journal this past December suggests that COVID-19 infection has the potential to impact male fertility.
Gentlemen, before you start panicking about your boys, note the word potential. This research is still very early days: studies are limited, and samples are small and look mostly at patients with severe symptoms after contracting the virus. A wide variety of factors can affect sperm count. Even a high fever can impact your swimmers. Overall, don’t panic because you tested positive last week, but keep an eye on any emerging research. It’s pretty interesting.
A (not so) stiff warning for hesitant husbands
If the possible risk of damage to the boys isn’t enough to scare your reluctant partner into rolling up their sleeve, a couple studies this past year have found that not only do viral particles linger in the penis, the risk of permanent erectile dysfunction is six times more likely after contracting COVID-19.
In sum, do COVID-19 vaccines affect our fertility?
No. It’s easy to flood your mind with worry when trying to conceive, but rest assured knowing any troubles you might have aren’t linked back to your choice to get vaccinated. Remember, most couples will get pregnant within the first year of trying, but it can take a while. Don’t get discouraged, Mama. And if you’re concerned, talk to your doctor.
A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John. Are you parenting in the Peace? Send in your questions, topics, or suggestions for #MomLife to cover at firstname.lastname@example.org