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The danger of Covid-19 when pregnant

Ever since the launch of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, there have been all kinds of negative rumours circulating. The anti-vaxxers are spreading fake news, which is harmful to women who are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant.

Fake news

One such rumour it that the Covid-19 vaccine causes infertility and pregnancy problems. This claim is unsubstantiated and there is available evidence that contradicts this theory. Research into the area is ongoing: a recent study of nearly 4,000 women found that pregnancy outcomes for both mother and baby were like pre-COVID outcomes.

COVID19 is a real danger

Make no mistake. COVID19 is a serious infection, and its effects are exacerbated if you are in a vulnerable group. And pregnant women fall into this category.

Dr. Marcelle Cedars, Reproductive Endocrinologist, University of California, San Francisco, Center for Reproductive Health

Dr. Cedars said, “Any infection, particularly an infection that involves fever, can affect sperm production and can affect ovulation.”

She commented that there’s no evidence that Covid-19 is any different from any other disease that causes high fever. It is known that a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees centigrade) that lasts more than three days, such as a Covid-19 fever can cause fertility issues. This is particularly important for men as sperm are extremely sensitive to temperature.

It’s not just the fever

There is also some early research that suggests that the cells in the reproductive system are potential targets for the coronavirus. These cells possess some of the receptors that the virus uses to gain access to the cell, a bit like a key fitting a lock.

This seems to be the case in men where poor sperm quality and low sperm counts have been seen in men following Covid-19 infections. This suggests that further research is required in this area.

For women the case is less clear. Studies have been inconclusive as to whether the coronavirus affects menstrual cycles and sex hormone levels enough to cause infertility. However, there is very clear evidence that getting Covid while pregnant is incredibly dangerous.

Dr. Eve Feinberg. Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Northwestern Medicine

Dr. Feinberg works with patients with fertility issues every day, she has a bird’s eye view of the situation. She said, “When I think about fertility, I think about what is the likelihood that a couple will take home a healthy baby. There is no question in my mind, or any scientist’s mind, that the highest likelihood of having a healthy baby during this pandemic is by getting vaccinated. Pregnant women with symptomatic Covid-19 have a 70% increased risk of death compared to non-pregnant women with Covid-19.”

Dr. Feinberg warns that there are many unvaccinated pregnant patients with Covid-19 who are in the intensive care unit at her hospital. She also recalls that one of her unvaccinated Covid-19 patients lost her baby while in the ICU. She said, “It was devastating and entirely preventable.”

This underlines the seriousness of the rumours spread by anti-vaxxer groups and the risks of ignoring the threat of Covid-19.

It’s not as though taking a vaccine prior to trying to conceive is anything new. For years, doctors have recommended that people who are trying to conceive should be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as the flu and measles/rubella. While many illnesses may cause infertility, or threaten the health and wellbeing of the baby, there are no vaccines that are known to cause fertility issues.