Updated April 26, 2021
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for three COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) developed the vaccines. Millions of Americans have received them so far.
A common online rumor is that the COVID-19 vaccines cause problems with fertility. This is a myth. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
“They don’t cause some of these dramatic side effects that people are worried about,” says Donald Yealy, MD, UPMC senior vice president and chief medical officer. “A vaccine will not make you infertile if you’re a man or a woman.”
What Are the COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects?
In general, the vaccines carry common, minor side effects. The most commonly reported side effects include:
- Pain, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site
- Muscle pain
The side effects arise as the vaccine stimulates the immune system. They typically go away within a few days.
The J&J vaccine has been associated with cases of a rare, serious blood clot. This adverse reaction is very rare and happens mostly in women ages 18-49.
There have been no reported side effects of infertility.
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mRNA Vaccines and Fertility
After the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received EUA in December 2020, a social media rumor claimed the vaccines could cause infertility in women. That rumor is false.
The distribution of both vaccines began nationwide in December 2020. Data from clinical trials and from the millions of people who have received the vaccines showed no effect on fertility, according to a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM).
The statement said it was “scientifically unlikely” that the vaccine could cause fertility problems.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. They give your body instructions on how to create a harmless piece of the coronavirus’ spike protein, which then triggers antibodies to destroy it. That helps your immune system remember the spike protein, which will protect you against the real coronavirus if you’re exposed.
The mRNA vaccines do not have an effect on fertility. Because they do not carry a live virus, “they are not thought to create an increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies,” according to the ASRM.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine and Fertility
The J&J vaccine received EUA in February 2021.
Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the J&J vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine. Instead, it is a “viral vector” vaccine. It uses a substitute virus, which carries a portion of the coronavirus’ genetic code. Your immune system recognizes the foreign substance and creates antibodies to destroy it. If you’re exposed to the coronavirus in the future, your body will recognize it and create antibodies.
The substitute virus in the vaccine can enter your cells, but it can’t cause infection.
The J&J vaccine also is not a cause of infertility. During animal clinical trials, the vaccine had no negative effects on fertility, according to the FDA.
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Should Women Get the COVID-19 Vaccine if They’re Planning to Get Pregnant?
According to the CDC, women who are planning to get pregnant can choose to get a vaccine when one is available. There is no evidence the vaccine causes fertility problems. Women who get the vaccine do not have to avoid pregnancy afterward, the CDC says. You also do not need to have a pregnancy test before getting the vaccine.
ACOG recommends that anyone considering a future pregnancy should get vaccinated. The risks of COVID-19 are greater than the risks of vaccination.
What If I Become Pregnant After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?
If you become pregnant after getting the first dose of a two-dose vaccine (i.e. Moderna or Pfizer), you should get the second dose as scheduled, ACOG says.
If you become pregnant within 30 days of receiving your final dose of vaccine, ACOG recommends signing up for v-safe from the CDC. V-safe is a smartphone tool that helps track your health after getting the vaccine. To register, visit vsafe.cdc.gov.
Data on COVID-19 vaccines will continue to emerge as more people get the vaccine. For more information, visit UPMC.com/COVIDVaccine.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19. Link
American College of Obstetricians any Gynecologists, Medical Experts Continue to Assert that COVID Vaccines Do Not Impact Fertility. Link
American Society for Reproductive Medicine, What Do We Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy? Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Information about COVID-19 Vaccines for People who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding. Link
M. Blake Evans, DO, et al, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, COVID-19 Vaccine and Infertility: Baseless Claims and Unfounded Social Media Panic. Link
Food and Drug Administration, Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to Prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Link
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.