The COVID vaccine does not impact fertility, according to a new study. Having COVID, however, can cause issues conceiving, according to the findings.
The research, published this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, adds to the growing body of knowledge on the impact of COVID on reproductive health. Several studies show that the vaccine is not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, it does not increase the risk of pre-term birth or low birth weight, and while the vaccine may cause short-term changes in your period, the effects aren’t permanent and don’t impact fertility.
So far the findings are clear: The vaccine does not impact the risk of fertility or pregnancy complications, but having COVID-19 definitely does. Getting infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk of pre-term birth and stillbirth, as SELF earlier reported. And pregnant people are also at a higher risk of developing severe COVID—COVID-positive pregnant people are 10 times more likely to die in the hospital, SELF previously reported.
In this most recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted in the U.S. and Canada, researchers analyzed data from over 2,100 women, between the ages of 21 and 45, who were given the option to invite their male partner to the study. Every eight weeks, both groups were asked to complete a questionnaire on their reproductive health and medical history until they became pregnant (or up to 12 months if they did not)—73% of the women and 74% of their partners included in the research had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
The researchers found no link between receiving the COVID vaccine and the probability of conceiving within one menstrual cycle for both the men and women included in the study. That finding applied no matter what brand of vaccine they’d received, when they received it, and whether they’d received one or two doses. “The findings provide reassurance that vaccination for couples seeking pregnancy does not appear to impair fertility,” Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a news release.
Having a past COVID (a.k.a. SARS-CoV-2) infection, however, did negatively impact fertility in men. The researchers found that having COVID “may be associated with a short-term decline in fertility,” for male participants only, per CNN. Male partners who tested positive for COVID within 60 days prior to a given menstrual cycle were 18% less likely to conceive in that cycle. The researchers found no such link for women who tried to get pregnant after having COVID.
Interestingly, there was no difference in conception rates for men who’d had COVID more than 60 days before a cycle, which leads experts to think fever or inflammation—both factors that impact sperm health—associated with a COVID infection could be the reason for the short term hit to fertility. “This short-term decline in male fertility could potentially be avoided by vaccination,” according to the NIH.
The findings are the latest to point to the dangers of getting COVID, particularly if you’re trying to become pregnant or are pregnant. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Stay masked.