A new study published Jan. 25 reports that vaccination against COVID-19 does not affect outcomes in people undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Researchers say the findings should ease anxiety and bolster confidence in people either considering or in the process of IVF treatments.
“This pandemic has brought stress and anxiety to people on many levels, and people who are thinking about their fertility or are pregnant will benefit from data that can help them make informed decisions about their health and the health of their future offspring,” said Dr. Devora Aharon, a study author and a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Icahn Mount Sinai and RMA of New York.
“We looked at a number of markers of egg quality and embryo quality as well as pregnancy rates and early miscarriage rates, and found no differences between patients who had received the vaccine and those who were unvaccinated,” Aharon told Healthline.
Researchers looked at the rate of conception for vaccinated and unvaccinated people to see whether the COVID-19 vaccine hindered success, both in people who have eggs collected and fertilized in a lab as well as those who underwent frozen-thawed embryo transfer.
The two groups of people who underwent frozen-thawed embryo transfer— 214 vaccinated and 733 unvaccinated people — had similar rates of pregnancy and early pregnancy loss.
The two groups of people who underwent ovarian stimulation — 222 vaccinated and 983 unvaccinated people — had similar rates of eggs retrieved, fertilization, and embryos with normal numbers of chromosomes, among several other measures.
“This data provides reassurance that the COVID-19 vaccine does not appear to have any harmful effect on fertility or early pregnancy in patients undergoing fertility treatment,” Aharon said.
While epidemiologists have regularly disputed suggestions that the vaccine can impede fertility, Aharon said, it was clear a large study such as this one was needed to help ease concerns.
Barbara Collura, president and CEO of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, told Healthline that people experiencing fertility issues are predisposed with worry.
“For people who are struggling to build their family, there are so many worries and concerns, especially in an effort to maximize their chances of pregnancy and the eventual birth of a child,” Collura said. “If someone has already had setbacks, perhaps a miscarriage, a failed IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF cycle, their concerns can be heightened.”
She noted that worries around COVID-19 and the vaccine became an added layer of concern.
“We definitely have had people in our community with deep concerns,” Collura said.
Aharon said that’s exactly what motivated her team to take on the large study.
Aharon’s study looked at a number of markers of egg quality and embryo quality as well as pregnancy rates and early miscarriage rates.
Aharon said researchers found no differences between people who had received the vaccine and those who were unvaccinated.
Boston University’s PRESTO study, which was done in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, also found that vaccines had no negative impact on conception rates.
“The big takeaway from this study is that COVID-19 vaccination did not influence the chances of getting pregnant,” said Amelia K. Wesselink, a study author and research assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.
“We found very similar time to pregnancy among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals,” Wesselink told Healthline.
She added that anxiety around vaccines for people looking to conceive was widespread and remains a large reason some remain unvaccinated.
“We knew that this was a really important research question to address and is something that people trying to conceive — now and in the future — are worried about,” she said.
Wesselink hopes these research results help people choose vaccination.
“People want, and are deserving of, high quality data on the benefits and risks of vaccination so they can make informed choices about their health,” she said. “Our study contributes to this by showing that vaccinations are not causing infertility, and that getting vaccinated will not harm your chances of conceiving.”
Aharon said they’ve seen an increase in vaccinations among people over the course of the study period, which spanned from February 2021 to September 2021.
She hopes this data pushes that trend up even more.
“As large scale, high quality data regarding the vaccine continues to emerge, clinicians and patients can feel even more confident regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for those who are trying to conceive or are pregnant,” she said.
Collura said she hopes more — and more extensive — data continues to come in to help those experiencing fertility issues make decisions about vaccination.
“There is always health misinformation out there, and we have certainly seen that with COVID-19, the vaccine, and conception/pregnancy. Therefore, having more real world data is exactly what people need to help inform their decisions and discuss with their medical team,” she said.
“We encourage patients to take this kind of research and share with their doctors and ask for their advice on next steps,” Collura added.
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