Coronavirus and fertility – separating fact from fiction
It has been a year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the U.S. Despite the downturn in transmission rates during the summer months, the pandemic continues to have a firm grip on the nation, with most states experiencing a continued upswing in case numbers. At this time, there is widespread community transmission of COVID-19 and high numbers of hospitalized patients in most U.S. states. Given the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19, prevention remains a top priority.
We know it’s an unsettling time, so our Baton Rouge and Lafayette fertility centers have compiled the facts about coronavirus and fertility, coronavirus precautions and the COVID vaccine, to help you feel empowered in the face of the virus.
What is the coronavirus and how does it spread?
COVID-19 is in the family of coronaviruses that can cause respiratory illness. While most cases of infection are mild, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, respiratory failure and death. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, seem to be at higher risk for advanced complications from the virus.
The virus spreads through close contact with an infected person. As a result, avoiding large gatherings and close contact with people who have a respiratory illness are the top coronavirus precautions.
Additionally, you might be tired of experts telling you to social distance, wash your hands for 20 seconds and to wear a face covering or mask, but they are the best ways to stay healthy. Our Baton Rouge and Lafayette fertility centers team also recommends that you avoid touching your face and putting travel plans on hold for now.
What are the best sources of information to learn more about COVID-19?
There are many sources of legitimate information about COVID-19. Many rumors and misinformation about the virus and its possible effects on fertility and pregnancy are spreading around social media and the internet, alarming our patients. Our fertility specialists urge you to seek out respected sources of information should you have questions.
We recommend the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus) as the best source to address general questions. In addition, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www.acog.org) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (www.asrm.org) have information regarding COVID and its impacts on pregnancy and fertility.
Can COVID-19 impact my pregnancy?
Because pregnant women can be considered immunocompromised, they may be at a higher risk if exposed to COVID-19. In one study, pregnant patients with COVID-19 had a higher chance of severe illness and death. Even though most patients will not have severe symptoms, it is important to take all precautions to avoid exposure to the virus. There have been no reports of birth defects due to COVID-19.
I’ve heard the antibody to the coronavirus spike protein can also attack the proteins in the placenta. Is this true?
No, this is not true despite the rumors circulating on social media and the internet. The coronavirus spike protein and syncytin-1 (protein in the placenta) have some similarities, but the vaccine does NOT induce an immune reaction against the placental protein. Read more about the misinformation about the vaccine on fertility in our recent blog post.
Can I still breastfeed?
Research suggests that breast milk isn’t likely to spread COVID-19 to babies. It is still possible, however, for an infected mother to transmit the virus to her baby through respiratory droplets during breastfeeding.
If you have COVID-19, think you may have it or have been exposed to it, take steps to avoid spreading the virus to your baby. This includes washing your hands before touching your baby and wearing a face mask during breastfeeding. If you’re pumping breast milk, wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning. If possible, have someone who is well give your baby the expressed breast milk.
Should I accept the vaccine when I am eligible?
In short, yes – as long as there are no contraindications for the vaccine. Available data indicate that COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility or miscarriage. The COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant in order to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy.
There is a lag between vaccine administration and protection, a window during which infection can still occur, so prevention strategies must be followed during this time. Those who have been vaccinated should continue to strictly adhere to social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing until data are available on the impact of vaccination on preventing asymptomatic and mild infection.
A good source of information about the vaccine and fertility is the Fertility Answers Podcast Episode 15: COVID And the Vaccine(s).
Still have more questions? Contact us if you are still concerned about coronavirus and fertility. Our team is here to ease your mind with the facts.