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Healthwatch 16: COVID-19 and infertility

Women who are pregnant or who wish to become pregnant have specific COVID-19 concerns, and many have questions about the safety of the vaccine.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop some women from starting or growing their families. Dr. Jennifer Gell has heard many of their questions.

Dr. Gell is director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility for Geisinger Health System.

The most asked question she gets now has to do with the COVID-19 vaccine.

"There is no evidence that the COVID vaccine interferes with fertility," Dr. Gell said.

Dr. Gell says her patients were concerned about getting the vaccine while trying to conceive.

"There's a protein in the placenta that is similar, minimally similar, to the protein that the vaccine mounts the immune response against. That is what started circulating out there regarding the vaccine."

If anything, dr. Gell says it's COVID-19 itself that would interfere with a patient trying to become pregnant using medical intervention.

"Our concern with our patients undergoing treatment is, if they are to get COVID during a treatment cycle, they have to stop the process no matter where along the process they are."

That's because if they or their partner test positive for the virus, they can't be seen in the office, putting a stop to the fertility cycle, which could be emotionally difficult, not to mention the financial implications.

Once a woman is pregnant, Dr. Gell says the recommendation is also for the mom-to-be to get the vaccine whenever she has access to it. 

Although she stresses that it is a conversation to have with someone's own health provider, Dr. Gell points out there were no pregnant women included in trials for the COVID-19 vaccine, so there's no hard data to point to or study.

But it's thought that because it's not a live vaccine, it is a safe option.

Again, it's about risk versus benefit, which she says is a decision a woman can make with the help of her own doctor.