Study shows no impact of COVID-19 vaccination on ovarian function during infertility therapy

Add it to the growing list of studies that show anti-vaxxers just make shit up

The unfounded fear that COVID-19 vaccination will affect fertility is proving to be very difficult to squash. For those who don’t know, it is largely the invention of Dr. Christiane Northrup, a retired OB/GYN. While she no longer has a medical license, she does have a long history of fabricating medical “information”. She has been making the rounds of various fringe quasi-news sites as well as giving talks where she literally makes shit up about the vaccine, either that or her grasp of science is, ahem, lacking. I am working on a deep dive into Dr. Northrup’s long history of malignant proselytizing, which is not limited to her anti-vaccine stance. That will be out in a few days, so please check back. I promise I will mince no words.

With regards to fertility and COVID-19 vaccination we know the following:

  • There is no plausible mechanism(s) by which the COVID-19 vaccine could cause infertility or damage a pregnancy.

  • Animal studies with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech show no harmful effects with respect to pregnancy, birth defects, or giving birth. I’m sure the J & J vaccine was similarly tested, I just can’t find the link.

  • Lipid particles from the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine does not accumulate in the ovaries, read about the animal studies that dispel that myth here.

  • COVID-19 vaccination before conception does not affect implantation of an embryo, read about the study that looked at IVF outcomes among vaccinated people here.

  • COVID-19 vaccination does not negatively affect sperm. You can read about that here.

  • COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is not associated with a higher rate of miscarriage or poor pregnancy outcomes, read about that data here.

  • COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is NOT associated with placental damage, read about that data here. Microscopic placenta injury is commonly seen with adverse pregnancy outcomes, so this is a good place to look for a safety signal.

  • Someone who is vaccinated against COVID-19 cannot shed some mysterious substance and render another person infertile or affect their pregnancy. Read about how the COVID-19 vaccine is a vaccine and not a magic spell here.

Oh, and the actual fertility experts, meaning reproductive endocrinologists, what do they recommend? The experts trying to help people get pregnant recommend COVID-19 vaccination during the “evaluation and treatment of infertility.” If they thought the vaccine caused infertility they would not make that recommendation. You can read the statement from The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a.k.a the fertility experts, here. And yes, the CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and does not recommend pregnancy testing before vaccination. You can read the CDC’s statement here

Are you exhausted already from reading about all those studies showing the vaccine can’t affect fertility? 

Well, too bad, because I have another one to share!

Researchers have looked at the placenta, they’ve looked at pregnancies, and they have looked at rat ovaries. And now a group of researchers have looked at how the follicle, the unit of cells that contains the egg, and the egg functions post-vaccination. 

In a yet to be peer-reviewed study that is available to read here, researchers looked at women undergoing in vitro fertilization or IVF. During IVF the ovaries are stimulated with hormones so more follicles develop, the follicle contains the egg as well as the cells that make estradiol and after ovulation the hormone progesterone. In this study, researchers looked at various signs of fitness or health of the follicles and the eggs themselves in response to the hormones given during IVF for women with a history of COVID-19 vaccination, those with a previous infection with COVID-19, and a control group who had neither been vaccinated nor had previously been infected with COVID-19. 

The study evaluated a variety of parameters to look at the health of the follicles and the eggs including:

  • How well the follicles responded to being stimulated by the hormones and whether they produced mature eggs. They used several markers for this.  

  • The level of estradiol (the main estrogen made by the follicle) in the blood.

  • The amount of estradiol actually produced by the follicle. They were able to determine this as during IVF when the egg is removed with a needle, the fluid around the egg (called the follicular fluid) that contains hormones is also removed and hence it can be analyzed. 

  • The level of heparan sulphate proteoglycan II (HSPG2) in the fluid around the egg (follicular fluid). This is a biomarker that predicts the success of IVF. 

The researchers also looked for the presence of Covid-19 antibodies in the fluid around the eggs and compared that with levels found in the blood.  

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What were the findings?

This is a small study, only 32 patients, but it is important because it is the first to give us a look at what is happening not just inside the ovary, but inside the follicle where the fertility action is actually happening. Of the participants, nine had received at least one dose of the Pfizer – BioNtech vaccine, nine had recovered from COVID-19, and 14 hadn’t been vaccinated nor had COVID-19 (negative antibody testing). Among the nine who were vaccinated, the four had received their first dose were an average of 11.7 days from the injection (range 8-18 days) and the five who had received two doses were an average of 27.6 days from injection (range 4-46 days). As vaccine complications are almost always seen within the first 60 days this timing is important. If you are looking to find a negative effect you are unlikely to find something years after vaccination. 

The researchers found the levels of COVID-19 antibodies in the follicular fluid mirrored the levels in the blood. So the higher the levels in the blood, the higher levels in the fluid around the egg. Other work has identified antibodies from other infections in the follicular fluid, so it’s not surprising antibodies were found. but this is the first time it has been shown with COVID-19. 

And all the parameters that measure the health of the follicles and the eggs? There was no difference in terms of follicle or egg maturation, hormone levels, or other biomarkers for the vaccinated women versus those who had previously had an infection with Covid-19 versus the control group. The only difference was the progesterone in the blood was lower for the non-exposed control group earlier in the cycle, but not on the day the eggs were retrieved, and so the researchers don’t believe this was a real biological difference.  

In this small study there was no effect of COVID-19 vaccination or previous infection on the health of the ovarian follicles or egg quality in response to stimulation for IVF. The researchers offered this summary:

Hence, despite the clear evidence of intimate follicular immune exposure post infection with SARS-COV-2 or following BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine, the steroidogenic machinery of the follicle, controlling the ultimate maturation of the oocyte and its hormonal milieu, did not show any measurable difference as compared to non-exposed women. 

If there were to be a negative effect on ovulation, surely we would see it here under the more extreme hormonal conditions of IVF. The best analogy I have here is checking a car for a noise at a normal speed and also testing that same car under much higher speed conditions.

Obviously, with only 32 patients this is a small study and it still has to be peer-reviewed, but it seems well-done and it supports what we know about COVID-19 vaccination and it is more information to hopefully reassure those who have been scared by the likes of Dr. Northrup.

To summarize the data of COVID-19 vaccination and fertility and pregnancy:

No accumulation in the ovaries in rat studies.

No harm in pregnant animals.

No negative effect on ovulation when the ovaries are stimulated for IVF.

No negative effect on implantation of embryos with IVF.

No negative impact on sperm.

No increased rate of miscarriage or pregnancy complications.

No negative impact on the placenta.

And the most important no of all… 

No one person who claims that the COVID-19 vaccine negatively impacts fertility or pregnancy has ever shown any proof to support their assertion. It’s literally cherry picked lines and detritus vomited by non experts like Dr. Northrup. Everyone who I have challenged to prove their claim about the vaccines and fertility/pregnancy has engaged in a red herring argument, meaning they found a seemingly relevant argument to distract from the original point. Yes, they changed the subject. For example, when I said, “Prove to me that the vaccines cause infertility,” they replied with something like, “What about all those toxins, don’t you care about those as an OB/GYN?”

As an OB/GYN who regularly speaks out against predatory products there is no reason for me to slam Vagisil for their harmful washes and yet go easy on vaccines. What I care about is the science, and what that tells us is no modern vaccine has ever been linked with fertility concerns. Stoking false fears about COVID-19 vaccination and fertility and pregnancy is a source of vaccine hesitation, and it is harming people. And ironically one of the groups most likely to be harmed are pregnant people, as they are at much higher risk for serous complications from COVID-19.