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September 25, 2021

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Weekend doctor: Is the Covid-19 vaccine safe for pregnancy?

What does the data really show?

By Miguel Jordan, MD
Obstetrics & Gynecology

Concerns have come to my attention because a lot of misinformation has been spread on social media. I have heard claims that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause problems from infertility to miscarriage to even harm in the baby’s female reproductive system. All not true.

The internet is great for many things, but when it comes to medicine, there are many people that will publish their theories that are often very believable but not true and not based on data and research. The difference between a medical journal and medical information that one can obtain on the internet as a lot of the information people read is not peer-reviewed (a panel of physicians that review the validity prior to publication of a medical journal). Any person can say whatever they want about a medical issue, and if they have a lot of subscribers, it quickly goes viral.

It’s difficult anymore to know what to believe and what not to believe, and what you could hang your head on. These are serious times; these are serious matters. Misinformation can cost lives. For example, if a woman, especially one at risk, declines vaccination because she heard that it would make her sterile and then dies. 

The rumor about infertility was started from a source that has also spread other misinformation. The latest is that the spike protein that is generated from the RNA vaccine looks similar to the syncytin-1 protein that is required for the placenta to attach to the uterus. The vaccine will cause the patient to form antibodies to attack the placenta. The syncytin-1 protein is completely unrelated to the SARS spike protein; therefore, the claim is essentially fictitious, and the chance of this happening is vanishingly small.

There is no evidence that getting the vaccine will bring harm to the fetus or the female reproductive system. In fact, patients who have had Covid-19 actually have shown no effect on the fetus, birth defects or infertility, and there is evidence that the baby, especially in the third trimester, can acquire passive immunity from the mother from the vaccine or the infection. The Covid-19 infection, however, can be dangerous to the mother putting her at five times the increased risk for progression of the disease requiring a ventilator, preterm delivery, ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and even death.

Even though the makers of the vaccine do not recommend the vaccine for patients that are pregnant or lactating because of a lack of studies, the American College of OB/GYN recommends this vaccine for women that are pregnant and want to be pregnant. The vaccine is not a live attenuated live virus. It is a vaccine that contains RNA that gives the body’s cells information on how to make the spike protein and the body will work for antibodies against it. The RNA does not go within the nucleus of the cell. Therefore, the DNA of the cells is safe, so there’s not a concern that it could cause birth defects, for example.

A pregnancy test is not required prior to getting the vaccine. Ultimately it is the decision of the patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we will respect this, of course. Based on the best information that we have at this time, patients that are pregnant or that want to get pregnant or lactating should not hesitate on receiving this COVID-19 vaccine, after discussing with their OB doctor, midwife or nurse practitioner, if and when it becomes available to her.