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COVID-19 Vaccination: Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

The COVID-19 virus remains in high circulation in Niagara and will continue to pose a risk in our community. It's important to understand the risks of infection and make informed choices to protect yourself and others around you.

Getting vaccinated is your choice. We want you to feel confident in your decision. It's really important to make sure you understand as much as you can about COVID-19 and the vaccine so you can make an informed choice.

Recommendations

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, National Advisory Committee on Immunization and Ministry of Health recommend you get a complete series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you're pregnant or breastfeeding as soon as possible. Pregnant people can get vaccinated against COVID-19 at any time during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. The recommendation to get vaccinated also includes people who are trying to get pregnant now or who might become pregnant in the future.

Adolescents and adults who are pregnant or breastfeeding are included among those recommended to receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier in the pandemic, there was limited data that could support evidence-informed recommendations about the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding populations. Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals were encouraged to talk to their treating health care provider and weigh the risks and benefits to determine if they should get the vaccine or wait for more information. We now have more than a year of experience showing outcomes of people and their babies.

Vaccine safety

This real-world evidence shows that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

There are two large Canadian studies that are now looking further at the safety and effectiveness of vaccines given to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals in the country.

Benefits of COVID-19 vaccination

  • Emerging evidence suggests that you protect your baby from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated:
    • Anti-COVID-19 antibodies can be transferred to the developing fetus through the placenta
    • It's safe to continue breastfeeding after being vaccinated. Anti-COVID-19 antibodies produced by a breastfeeding person can transfer through the milk and provide protection to the baby
  • When compared to unvaccinated individuals, those with at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine are not only less likely to experience a COVID-19 infection, they are far less likely to end up in the hospital or the ICU if they do get infected

This means you can be reassured that you are protecting yourself and your baby by getting vaccinated.

Learn more about getting vaccinated and staying up to date with all recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Understand the risks of being infected with COVID-19 while you're pregnant

Evidence demonstrates significantly increased risks for pregnant women and their unborn child if they are infected with COVID-19.

See Better Outcomes Registry and Network analytics for COVID-19 infections in pregnant individuals reported in Ontario. A national dataset of cases of COVID-19 in pregnancy is also in progress.

Possible COVID-19 vaccine side effects

Like any medication, vaccines may cause mild side effects and reactions. Vaccine side effects usually happen within a few days, and always within six weeks.

Vaccines are quickly broken down and removed from your body, so they will not cause side-effects many months or years later. The only lasting impact of vaccination is the training it provides your immune system to help your body fight the COVID-19 infection.

Frequently asked questions

General information

Fertility

  • What do I need to know about COVID-19 vaccination and menstruation?

    According to Public Health Ontario's evidence brief on COVID-19 vaccines and fertility, there is no evidence of an association between COVID-19 vaccination and menstrual irregularities to date. Several clinical studies are in progress and evidence will continue to be monitored.

    Factors like stress, anxiety and nutrition can affect menstruation. Changes to the menstrual cycle have been reported following infection with COVID-19 and in women affected by long-COVID. It's important that anyone experiencing menstrual disorders and / or unexpected vaginal bleeding, such as post-menopausal bleeding, seek medical advice.

  • What do I need to know about COVID-19 vaccination and male fertility?

    According to Public Health Ontario, there is no evidence to date to suggest that COVID-19 vaccination impacts male fertility. Studies evaluating male sperm parameters before and after receiving two doses of mRNA vaccine have not demonstrated differences. Evidence has shown a rare impact on male fertility after COVID-19 infection .

  • What if I'm planning a pregnancy?

    Unless otherwise contraindicated, couples or individuals planning to conceive should receive the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

    Watch Dr. Darine El-Chaâr, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at The Ottawa Hospital, explain that there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility issues.

  • Can the vaccine impact my ability to get pregnant?

    No. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, there is no evidence or reason to suspect that the COVID-19 vaccine could impair male or female fertility.

    While the proteins syncytin-1 (used for placental implantation) and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein have several similar amino acids, they remain vastly different. The antibodies produced against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein will not block syncitin-1.

    The concern around fertility seems to have started as a random Internet rumour that has gained traction. This rumour is false. Some people who voice this concern speak of "fertility research" around this vaccine. However, no such research exists. This is all driven by rumors. Overwhelmingly, medical science experts agree that currently there is no evidence of an increased risk of infertility after COVID-19 vaccination. Check the reliability of any online news before sharing.

    Unfortunately, pregnant individuals are at high risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19. Those planning to become pregnant soon should receive all recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Pregnancy

  • What if I get pregnant after getting the vaccine?

    If you got pregnant after receiving your first dose, you can get your second dose as scheduled. Visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions page for information on what side effects may be like after your second dose.

  • What if I am on fertility treatments?

    Check with your physician or fertility specialist.

  • Can I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant?

    Yes. You can get vaccinated at any time during your pregnancy. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization preferentially recommends that a complete vaccine series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be offered to pregnant individuals.

    Watch a short video from Niagara Health's Chief of Staff, Dr. Johan Viljoen, about getting the vaccine while you're pregnant.

    Pregnancy care providers in Ontario are sharing a video message for pregnant individuals in multiple languages.

    The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 outweighs any risk of being vaccinated during pregnancy. Unfortunately, pregnant individuals are at high risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19.

    Adding to this concern:

    • Intubation of a pregnant individual is considered higher risk to both the individual and their baby
    • Pregnant individuals with COVID-19 have an increased risk of premature delivery, caesarean delivery and admissions of their babies to a neonatal unit

    While not required, it's best to speak with your health care provider to help you decide if the vaccine is right for you. Learn more about getting vaccinated and staying up to date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Breastfeeding

  • Can I get the vaccine if I'm breastfeeding?

    Yes. You can get any of Canada's approved COVID-19 vaccines when you're breastfeeding. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that a complete vaccine series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be offered to breastfeeding individuals.

    Recent data shows that mRNA from vaccines don't transfer into breast milk. Anti-COVID-19 antibodies produced by the breastfeeding person have been shown to transfer through the milk and provide protection to the infant. The vaccines are safe for the breastfeeding person.

More resources

Contact

The SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service can answer questions and address concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccine for individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to conceive.

Talk to your health care provider about the decision to get vaccinated.

For questions about COVID-19 vaccination, call the COVID-19 Info-Line at 905-688-8248 or 1-888-505-6074, press 7.

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