Everything to Know About the COVID Vaccine if You’re TTC, Pregnant, or Breastfeeding

Why should I get a vaccine if COVID-19 has a 99% survival rate?

What many don’t realize is that surviving COVID-19 is not the same as being totally fine afterwards. Symptoms can persist for months and even young, healthy people can be sick for a long time. COVID-19 can damage your lungs, heart, brain, and other organs. Among other things, COVID-19 has been shown to do the following:

  • Damage to the cardiac muscles, seen in the imaging of patients months after COVID-19 infection (even with only mild symptoms)
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (causes temporary paralysis, yikes)
  • Pneumonia with long-term breathing problems
  • May increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • And of course there’s always the risk of hospitalization, intubation (breathing tube), and death

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are injected in the muscles of the upper arm and use mRNA technology (more on that later). The mRNA vaccines in this case work by providing our cells with instructions for making a piece of “spike protein” that is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. This is harmless because it is made by our own bodies and not the actual COVID-19 virus. Once a muscle cell has used the instructions to make the spike protein piece, it breaks down the instructions and disposes of them.

What is mRNA technology?

You may have learned about this in high school biology. mRNA, or messenger RNA, produces instructions for cells for how to make proteins that can treat or prevent disease. mRNA technology was originally discovered over 30 years ago with the first successful use in animals being published in 1990. It has been studied for vaccine use for almost 20 years.

What are the differences between the two vaccines? Which one is better?

The vaccines are overall very similar. One is manufactured by Moderna and one is by Pfizer. The biggest differences between the two vaccines are storage temperature and how they are administered, which are important for healthcare organizations, but not so much for those receiving the vaccine. It’s also not really an option to choose one vs. the other anyways because most facilities will stock only one of them depending on availability in that area and their ability to store the vaccine appropriately.

How effective are the vaccines?

They are both about 95% effective (Moderna = 94.5%, Pfizer = 95%).

What are the common side effects?

The side effects of a vaccine are considered part of the “immune response.” This is GOOD because it means your body is learning the information it needs to to fight off the real infection if it ever happens.

  • Injection site reaction
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

Who should NOT get the vaccine?

Almost everyone should be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine; however, children younger than 16 years old were excluded from the trials and therefore cannot receive it. If you currently have COVID-19, wait until after your symptoms have cleared and you’ve come out of quarantine to vaccinate. There’s no recommended minimum time between infection and vaccination. If you’ve had COVID-19 already, you can still get vaccinated. The vaccines were shown to protect people with past COVID-19 infections from reinfection regardless of how severe their past case was.

The vaccines were shown to protect people with past COVID-19 infections from reinfection regardless of how severe their past case was.

Those with a history of vaccine allergies or other severe allergies can still get the vaccine, but should be monitored closely immediately after receiving it. Immunocompromised individuals can also still get the vaccine, but should speak to their providers before making that decision.

Is it ok for me to get the vaccine if I’m trying to conceive?

Unless you fall into one of the buckets above or your provider tells you otherwise, then yes, it’s safe to get the vaccine if you’re TTC! The vaccines do not use any live virus, so there’s no reason to wait to try to get pregnant. Additionally, if you find out you’re pregnant between the first and second dose of your vaccine, it is safe to get the second dose. The risk of getting COVID-19 is far more severe than the risk of getting the vaccine.

Is it safe to continue infertility treatments if I get the vaccine?

Yes! See above answer. There is no reason to delay IUI or IVF because of the vaccine. In fact, the ASRM COVID-19 Task Force encourages patients undergoing fertility treatment to receive vaccination based on current eligibility criteria.

Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

The FDA Task Force has recommended that the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine be a shared process between a patient and their provider. They do not recommend withholding the vaccine from patients who are planning to conceive, currently pregnant, or breastfeeding. These are in line with the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine.

I read that the vaccine can cause a fever. Is that safe if I’m trying to conceive or pregnant?

Yes. In the clinical trials, the vaccines caused fever in about 14% of patients, usually after the second dose (Pfizer = 14.2%, Moderna = 14.8%). This side effect should not be a reason to defer vaccination in someone who is trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Studies have linked fever in the first trimester of pregnancy to neural tube defects; however, this risk is NOT significant in those who were taking the recommended dose of at least 400mcg of folic acid (folate) daily, so please make sure you are taking a prenatal vitamin! If you do develop a fever after getting the vaccine, take Tylenol to help reduce it.

✨ Shop Prenatal for her

Does the vaccine cause infertility or affect pregnancy outcomes?

No. Because the vaccines are not live, they are not thought to cause infertility, increased pregnancy loss, congenital anomalies, or stillbirth. The number of accidental pregnancies during the trials supports that fertility is not affected.

How applicable is the data from these trials for Black people and other POC given the disproportionate effect on those groups?

Both trials had well over 30,000 participants (Moderna = 30,350, Pfizer = 43,448). 30% of US participants were from diverse backgrounds (meaning Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American), with 10% being Black. This is comparable to the general US population of which 13% are Black.

I keep seeing stuff about how the vaccine will alter our DNA. Is that true?

Definitely not. Let’s think back to high school biology again for a second. RNA is not in the nucleus of the cell, only DNA is. So the mRNA involved in the vaccines never enters the nucleus of our cells to get anywhere near our DNA. Once our cells have learned what they need to from the mRNA, it breaks it down.

Don’t the vaccines have some unhealthy ingredients? I heard they contain aluminum, mercury, and food allergens like wheat or yeast.

False. Check out the ingredients list here for Pfizer and here for Moderna.

Am I going to be forced to get the vaccine?

Absolutely not. This process should be a shared decision making between you and a provider you trust. A careful analysis of your personal risks is important in making sure that the safest option is recommended.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Natalist

Natalist

Fertility and pregnancy products. Inspired by beauty and backed by science. By moms, for you. ✨ www.natalist.com