Misinformation about infertility and COVID-19 vaccines has prevented countless young women from getting vaccines.
And, as the highly transmissible delta variant causes dangerous spikes in cases of COVID-19, medical experts urgently are delivering a clear message to young women and any other eligible people who haven’t yet been immunized.
“Get your vaccine,” says Dr. Molly Hoss, a proud mom of a year-old daughter and a family medicine doctor who has delivered hundreds of babies during her career.
“We have a lot of data showing that the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t cause infertility.”
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also issued a recommendation for pregnancy and vaccines.
Hoss’ daughter, Juliana, now 1, was born last July during the first months of the pandemic before vaccines had been developed. But, the moment Hoss became eligible, she received her vaccine to prevent COVID-19 at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where she delivers babies and cares for other patients. Hoss also sees patients of all ages at the UCHealth A.F. Williams Family Medicine Clinic in Denver’s Central Park neighborhood.
Hoss had done her research and learned that COVID-19 vaccines were safe for pregnant women. (Learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women.)
As a bonus, Hoss was thrilled to pass antibodies to the coronavirus on to Juliana through her breastmilk.
“Juliana is my world. I want to do everything I can to protect her,” Hoss said.
Now, Hoss hopes to get pregnant soon again. And she’s confident that the vaccines she received will keep her safe at work and won’t interfere with her plans to have a second baby.
Evidence shows COVID-19 vaccines are safe for women who are pregnant and don’t cause infertility for women wanting to get pregnant
During the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, the same percentage of women who had been vaccinated as those who received placebos got pregnant after having been vaccinated.
Researchers have also monitored sperm counts for men who received the vaccines compared to those who did not.
“There’s no difference,” Hoss said. “Experts have also tested ovarian reserves and function before and after the vaccine and they also showed no difference.
“Early on, we knew women could get pregnant (after getting COVID-19 vaccines) and nothing harmful was happening to them,” Hoss said. “Plenty of my patients have gotten pregnant after getting vaccinated. And, I’m planning on getting pregnant and I’m not worried at all about the COVID-19 vaccine’s effect on my fertility.
“I’m more worried about my age,” said Hoss, who is 36. (Fertility or the ability to get pregnant does decline with age.)
The medical experts in the U.S. who advise doctors on issues related to maternal health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, underscore Hoss’ advice on COVID-19 vaccines and infertility.
“Claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility are unfounded and have no scientific evidence supporting them,” write ACOG experts.
The ACOG experts recommend vaccination for all eligible people who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant.
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) echo the ACOG guidelines regarding COVID-19 vaccines and infertility.
“If trying to get pregnant now or in the future, would-be parents can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”
“There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause female or male fertility problems or problems getting pregnant,” the CDC experts say.
Hoss points out that some women can notice a change in their menstrual cycle soon after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but these changes are temporary. You can also notice menstrual changes after getting Covid too. Both of these are due to an inflammatory response.
“It’s short-lived and it goes back to normal,” Hoss said. “Our reproductive systems go back to normal after getting vaccines.”
Hoss has learned a great deal being pregnant herself and caring for patients of all ages during the pandemic.
Giving birth during a pandemic
Hoss was in her second trimester when the pandemic began sweeping across the U.S. in the spring of 2020. Medical experts soon learned that pregnant women could become especially sick if they got COVID-19.
So, Hoss did her final delivery on April 5. Then, to protect her health, she started seeing patients via virtual visits.
In the final weeks of Hoss’ pregnancy, Juliana had settled into the breech position, meaning her head was face-up in Hoss’ belly, not the ideal position for an uncomplicated birth. Hoss went to extraordinary measures to encourage Juliana to flip. She tried swimming and doing handstands, neither of which prompted Juliana to turn. Hoss’ medical provider then tried to manually turn Juliana. But, she stayed put. So, in late July, Hoss had a C-section and she and her husband joyfully welcomed a beautiful baby girl.
Hoss always has been warm and supportive of her patients.
Both during her pregnancy, when she experienced extreme fatigue, and afterward, when Hoss recovered from her C-section and learned how exhausting parenting can be, she gained newfound empathy for her patients.
Doctor reassures patients: Vaccines provide critical protection
Now, more than ever, she understands how pregnant women and those who want to get pregnant carefully consider what’s safest for them and their families.
“I can reassure moms who are scared,” Hoss said.
And her message about COVID-19 is utterly clear. The illness can be very serious for people of all ages. Getting vaccinated is the best way to stay safe.
Hoss has had plenty of patients get severely ill from COVID-19.
“The virus is dangerous. I have seen the long-term side effects from the virus that have impaired people’s lives,” Hoss said. “I’ve had patients lose their jobs and their housing after getting COVID-19 because they’re weak, have to be on oxygen or have had neurologic effects,” Hoss said.
She said the illness affects people very differently. Some people have mild illnesses, while others become critically ill and die or suffer for many months.
“I have patients who got COVID over a year ago and they are still on oxygen. It’s not something to take lightly,” Hoss said.
“Yes, for some people, there are temporary side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, but none are as bad as getting COVID-19,” she said. (Read more about the normal side effects of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.)
Vaccines keep young women — and their babies — safe from COVID-19
During the final months of her pregnancy, Hoss had to be very careful since she knew how poorly some pregnant women were doing if they got COVID-19.
“Pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and additionally, women who do get sick from COVID, are at increased risk for pre-term birth,” Hoss said.
To stay safe, she and her husband cocooned at their home near Boulder while both worked remotely.
Hoss breastfed Juliana. She even happened to be pumping her milk while she received one of her vaccine doses and knew that as soon as her body began producing antibodies to keep her safe from COVID-19, Juliana would benefit too.
“I knew that my baby would get antibodies to COVID-19,” said Hoss, who continues to pump her milk to share the protection and optimal nutrition of human milk with Juliana.
“I’ve continued pumping. I’m still trying to give her every ounce of protection,” Hoss said. “By getting the vaccine and giving her my breastmilk and the antibodies to COVID-19, I feel like I’m taking the extra steps to protect her.”
These days, Juliana is more and more curious about her world every day. She loves to point at planes in the sky and objects on the ground, asking the name for each new thing she notices. She has a favorite stuff giraffe and is a smiley, happy girl.
“She loves clapping and waving,” said Hoss, grinning as she cuddles with Juliana. “I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t know how rewarding it was going to be. It has been amazing and wonderful to have this child who I get to help shape and grow.”
Editor’s Note: During the pandemic, the Colorado Times Recorder will occasionally post articles, like this one, from UCHealth Today, which is published by UCHeatlh, the hospital associated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Our goal is to provide as many people as possible with accurate information about the virus and related topics.