How do the vaccines affect pregnancy and fertility?
There has been a lot of misinformation about the effects of Covid vaccines on fertility and pregnancy and understandably many people have questions.
Medical experts and scientists agree that there is no evidence the vaccines affect fertility
Vaccination is recommended in pregnancy and hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have safely had the Covid vaccines. Receiving two doses of the vaccine is the safest and most effective way of protecting you and your baby from Covid-19 infection.
The Covid vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.
Frequently asked questions
Is Covid-19 serious in pregnancy?
Studies from the UK show that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19 than other healthy adults, but they are at slightly increased risk of becoming severely unwell if they do catch COVID-19, and are more likely to have pregnancy complications like preterm birth or stillbirth.
Roughly two-thirds of pregnant women with COVID-19 have no symptoms at all, and most pregnant women who do have symptoms only have mild cold or flu-like symptoms. However, a small number of pregnant women can become unwell with COVID-19. Pregnant women who catch COVID-19 are at slightly increased risk of becoming severely unwell compared to non-pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester. Pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution.
Pregnant women with underlying clinical conditions are at even higher risk of suffering serious complications from Covid-19.
Covid-19 infection in pregnancy is unlikely to lead to problems with a baby’s development and there have not been any reports of this.
Do the Covid vaccines affect fertility?
There is no evidence that the Covid vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. Pregnant women were not routinely advised to have the vaccine because they were excluded from the initial Covid vaccine clinical trials. Even though participants were asked to avoid becoming pregnant, 57 pregnancies occurred across the trials of the three vaccines approved for use in the UK according to Nature Reviews Immunology.
Can you have the Covid vaccine if you are pregnant?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that pregnant women in the UK can have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group. Evidence on Covid vaccines is being continuously reviewed by the World Health Organization and the regulatory bodies in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe.
There are no reported concerns with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in pregnancy, but there is less experience in pregnancy with this vaccine, than with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
In the UK, more than 62,000 pregnant women have received Covid vaccines to date. In the USA, over 155,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and there are no safety concerns.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is an independent expert advisory committee that advises UK health departments on vaccines. Check out their latest guidance on Covid vaccination and pregnancy here:
Is there a risk to the baby's development?
There are no studies yet on the long-term effects on babies born to women who had a Covid vaccine in pregnancy. As Covid vaccines are not ‘live’ vaccines they cannot cause infection, and other non-live vaccines have been given to women in pregnancy for many years without any safety concerns. The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) are also quickly broken down once they have been injected – within a few days of vaccination there will be no vaccine mRNA left.
The current data available shows that if a pregnant woman has the Covid vaccine she is not at an increased risk of having adverse pregnancy outcomes. Research from across six studies in four countries, involving more than 40,000 pregnant women, shows having the vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, nor does it increase the risk of a small-for-gestational age baby, or the risk of congenital abnormalities.
More research is being done, monitoring both the mother and baby’s health during and for a year after the baby’s birth. We know that the vaccine is safe in pregnancy, but this is the next step in looking at the level of protection that the vaccine provides, what the best interval between doses is, and monitoring the immune response of both the mother and baby after the vaccine.
Is it safe to get the vaccine if you are pregnant?
Covid vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against Covid-19 which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women.
None of the Covid vaccines contain the live virus and so there is no risk that pregnant women or their babies could get Covid-19 from the vaccine. It is common for pregnant women to receive non-live virus vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, in pregnancy to protect themselves and their baby.
Covid vaccines are effective in protecting people from severe illness from Covid-19. Although uncommon, there is an increased risk of severe illness due to Covid-19 infection in later stage pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with your doctor, nurse or midwife, including the latest evidence on the safety and which vaccines you can receive.
Is there an increased risk of miscarriage?
The MHRA has reported that the number of miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women who have received the vaccine are no higher than the number that commonly occur in the UK outside of the pandemic. They say there is no pattern from the reports to suggest that any of the Covid vaccines used in the UK, or any reactions to these vaccines, increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. Sadly, miscarriage is estimated to occur in about 1 in 4 pregnancies, and most occur in the first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). Stillbirths are sadly estimated to occur in about 1 in 200 pregnancies in the UK.
Research from across six studies in four countries, involving more than 40,000 pregnant women, also shows that having the vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, nor does it increase the risk of a small-for-gestational age baby, or the risk of congenital abnormalities.
What do the experts say?
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 Chair for JCVI:
‘’We encourage pregnant women to discuss the risks and benefits with their clinician – those at increased risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 are encouraged to promptly take up the offer of vaccination when offered. There have been no specific safety concerns from any brand of Covid vaccines in relation to pregnancy. There is more real-world safety data from the US in relation to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in women who are pregnant – therefore, we advise a preference for these to be offered to pregnant women.’’
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:
“We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid vaccines will affect fertility. There is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility. Evidence has not been presented that women who have been vaccinated go on to have fertility problems.”This content has been reviewed by clinicians and public health professionals Page last reviewed: 20 September, 2021