COVID-19 vaccines do not affect the chances of having a child, NIH says

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 does not impact one’s chances of conceiving a child, the National Institutes of Health reported on Thursday

That’s according to a new study, funded by the NIH, analyzing data of more than 2,000 couples. Researchers say they found no evidence that a vaccine for COVID-19 negates or improves the chances of having a baby for either a male or female partner. 

"Researchers found no differences in the chances of conception if either male or female partner had been vaccinated, compared to unvaccinated couples," the NIH wrote. 

However, researchers noted that couples had a slightly lower chance of conception if the male partner fell ill with COVID-19 within 60 days before a menstrual cycle. This suggests that SARS-CoV-2, the disease that causes COVID-19 could temporarily reduce male fertility, according to the NIH. 

"The findings provide reassurance that vaccination for couples seeking pregnancy does not appear to impair fertility," said Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. "They also provide information for physicians who counsel patients hoping to conceive."

Despite the small findings that male fertility could be affected by a COVID-19 infection, scientists say they found no major differences in conception rates per menstrual cycle between unvaccinated and vaccinated couples in which at least one partner had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

"Overall, testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection was not associated with a difference in conception. However, couples in which the male partner had tested positive within 60 days of a given cycle were 18% less likely to conceive in that cycle," The NIH wrote. 

RELATED: Global study suggests pregnant women who get COVID-19 have higher risk of complications, death

Reduced male fertility caused by SARS-CoV-2 is actually common because fever is known to reduce sperm count and motility — or the capability of movement — for sperm. Another possible explanation for reduced fertility in men who are infected with COVID-19 could be because of inflammation that researchers say has been reported in testicles or erectile dysfunction which scientists say is a common side effect of COVID-19. 

The researchers concluded that their results suggest that vaccination against COVID-19 had no harmful association with fertility. Vaccination against COVID-19 also could help avert the risks that SARS-CoV-2 infection poses for maternal and fetal health.

Previous research has indicated that women who get COVID-19 during pregnancy have higher risks of medical complications, including death. 

A large study published in April 2021 involving hundreds of women around the world suggests that those who get COVID-19 during pregnancy have higher risks for death, the need for intensive care, preterm birth and other complications.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, adds to current the understanding of the risk pregnant women who get the virus face, as well as their newborns. It echoed the results of smaller studies.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that while the overall risk is low, pregnant women are more likely to suffer from severe COVID-19 illness compared to those who aren’t pregnant. Pregnant people with the virus might also be at increased risk for other poor outcomes, such as preterm birth, the agency’s website adds.

There is also no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, influence your chances of getting pregnant despite a myth suggesting otherwise. Medical experts say there’s no biological reason the shots would affect fertility.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and obstetrician groups also recommend COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant individuals, who have a higher risk of severe illness if infected with the coronavirus. Research shows pregnant people who get the virus are more likely to be admitted to intensive care, receive invasive ventilation and die than their nonpregnant peers.

The CDC also followed tens of thousands of pregnant women who got the vaccines and found they had comparable pregnancy outcomes to pregnant women before the pandemic.

So whether you are thinking about having a baby, trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments, you should not delay vaccination, says Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

The Associated Press and Kelly Hayes contributed to this story.