An embryo culture dish used for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatmentShare on Pinterest
Scientists have found no negative effect on IVF treatments after COVID-19 vaccines. Science Photo Library/Getty Images
  • A research team from the University of Iowa conducted the first study to examine how COVID-19 vaccines affect fresh embryo transfer IVF.
  • Scientists found no negative correlation in the pregnancy rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated IVF patients.
  • Researchers hope their findings will provide new information for healthcare providers when counseling patients considering the vaccine and worried about their fertility.

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People looking to start a family through fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) may have concerns regarding how COVID-19 vaccines might affect their outcome.

Previous research shows that COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility outcomes in IVF patients using frozen embryos. Research earlier this year confirmed that COVID-19 vaccines do not negatively impact a couple’s chance of conceiving a child.

Now, new research from the University of Iowa finds COVID-19 vaccination does not negatively affect pregnancy rates for those undergoing IVF with fresh embryos.

Researchers hope their findings will provide new data for healthcare providers to use when talking with fertility patients about the vaccine.

The study was recently published on JAMA Open Network.

IVF is a procedure designed to assist women who are unable to become pregnant through natural means. IVF uses different procedures to harvest human eggs from a woman and fertilize them outside of her body.

Once fertilized, the egg becomes an embryo. A doctor can freeze the embryo for later use in a frozen embryo transfer cycle. Alternatively, the doctor implants the embryo into the woman’s uterus a few days after fertilization, a process called a fresh embryo transfer.

Past research shows both fresh and frozen embryo transfer cycles have a comparatively similar live birth and ongoing pregnancy rates.

In this study, lead author Dr. Emily Jacobs, reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellow at The University of Iowa, and her team analyzed data from patients receiving fresh embryo transfer between December 2020 to September 2021. Of the patient population reviewed, 142 patients were vaccinated against COVID-19 and 138 patients were unvaccinated.

Dr. Jacobs told Medical News Today this study was important to perform as previous literature focused on frozen embryo transfer cycles that had a high utilization of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

“Both of these are conditions that don’t occur in in vivo conception,” she explained.

“Despite previously published literature, at the time this study was conducted patients — both fertile and infertile patients — still had significant concern about COVID-19 vaccination and potential impact on future fertility,” she pointed out.

According to the study, researchers found no evidence suggesting COVID-19 vaccination negatively affected fresh embryo transfer IVF success outcomes.

Additionally, the research team says there were no significant differences between pregnancy and miscarriage rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.

“Our data confirms previously published literature that COVID-19 vaccination does not negatively impact any aspect of female fertility — oocyte numbers, fertilization, embryo development, implantation, (and) clinical pregnancy.”
— Dr. Emily Jacobs

With this new data, Dr. Jacobs hopes healthcare providers will use the outcomes of this study to counsel both fertile and infertile patients who are considering COVID-19 vaccination but who have concerns about future fertility.

MNT also spoke to Dr. Catherine Racowsky, university consultant for Hospital Foch in Suresnes, France, professor emerita of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, and past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about this study.

Despite this study including a relatively small number of patients in both the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, the findings are most reassuring to both practitioners and to patients who are either contemplating pregnancy or who are currently pregnant, said Dr, Racowsky.

“It is important to investigate the association between COVID-19 vaccination status and fresh embryo transfer because ovarian stimulation during an IVF cycle may change uterine receptivity, which adds another variable to the possible effect of vaccination on the establishment of pregnancy after transfer of a fresh embryo,” Dr. Racowsky explained.

“The results are consistent with other findings that vaccination does not appear to interfere with either ovarian function, which influences the quality of eggs, or uterine receptivity, which affects whether a pregnancy will occur, and be sustained.”
— Dr. Catherine Racowsky

Dr. Racowsky said the key message of this study is that women who are attempting pregnancy should not worry that vaccination will have an adverse effect on their ability to conceive.

“In fact, physicians should be encouraged to counsel their patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they are planning on pregnancy,” she said.

“Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe disease and death than non-pregnant women; women attempting to conceive can be counseled on both the greater need for [the COVID-19] vaccine as well as the vaccine’s safety during conception and in pregnancy,” she added.