As the government announced this week that another raft of younger and younger people will be able to book for their first covid vaccinations, the interest around how the vaccine could affect your fertility - and even pregnancy - is peaking.
'Does the covid vaccine affect fertility' is a breakout trend on Google, making it clear there's an anxiety around the subject, even though there is no evidence to currently suggest it causes any issues.
Safeguarding Midwife for BPAS Kayleigh Hills is part of the group's efforts to ensure that women are armed with knowledge and don't opt out of the vaccination for fertility reasons without proper medical evidence.
Here, she answers questions on fertility and the vaccine.
Should I worry about the vaccine affecting my fertility?
There is no evidence to suggest the vaccine has an impact on fertility, however I know this is a concern for women. This was an initial concern for me too, despite the fact that I routinely consent to the flu-jab every year! I have not only received my vaccinations, but I have also been lucky enough to be involved in the vaccination programme administering the vaccine. There’s no clinical basis for these concerns, yet I am routinely providing reassurance for friends and patients. As the vaccine is rolled-out to those under-40, the government must act to provide the reassurance women need to feel comfortable taking up the offer when called.
Research recently released by King’s College London found among those aged 25-34, 1 in 5 (20%) said they believed that people who have had the COVID-19 vaccine may find harder to conceive in the future, and a further 36% said they were unsure. Among those aged 35-44, 5% believed that people who have had the vaccine may find it harder to conceive, and 36% didn’t know.
What's being done to reassure people about the vaccine and fertility?
We are sending all our clients who are receiving early medical abortion treatment by post a comprehensive factsheet to provide reassurance that there is no evidence to suggest harm to fertility or an ongoing pregnancy from the COVID-19 vaccine. However, we need to see the government take action. There needs to be a national public health campaign to address the specific fears around fertility and the vaccine to ensure that people of reproductive age are reassured before making a decision about vaccine. This is especially important as the government have said they are considering a requirement for all care workers to receive the vaccine, a vocation that is overwhelmingly staffed by women of reproductive age.
Why do you think so many people have concerns about the vaccine and their fertility?
The Thalidomide scandal in the 1960s is still casting a shadow over women’s ability to access to medication and treatment during pregnancy, and it may be that women themselves remain sceptical or uncertain about medication that they are told is safe by the medical establishment.
During lockdown, many fertility services were suspended as staff were redeployed to provide care for COVID-19 patients. When treatment is delayed, patients have been left worrying that by the time they can access treatment, it may be too late due to the impact of age on chances of success. Fertility patients will do everything they possibly can to try to have a baby, so it’s really important that this group of individuals receive reassurance about the vaccine too.
The fact that these myths have taken hold is reflective of the fact that fertility myths and misconceptions are already really quite prevalent in our society, and as a result at BPAS we often see women seeking abortion care because they did not think that they could fall pregnant.
Why is important we're armed with knowledge about the vaccine and fertility?
I have seen many women who have become pregnant after stopping contraception, or not following the guidelines of the contraception. This can be because they underestimate their fertility for a range of reasons, including their age, or because they have previously been told by their doctor that they will never be able to conceive due to a prior diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome, cancerous cells, infections or injuries as a child. We also see women who have fallen pregnant shortly after giving birth. Many women believe that they are only able to conceive once their periods return to a normal regular cycle. This can also be the case after having a baby, especially when breastfeeding, when their cycles may not be regular. I have also looked after women who thought they had gone through the menopause and therefore discontinued their contraception but were still able to conceive.