Blog > News > COVID-19 vaccination and my IVF treatment
June 23, 2021
COVID-19 vaccination and my IVF treatment
The importance of getting vaccinated and why there is always a contingency plan for your treatment
By Divya Parker, Guest Blogger/Patient HSFC
A year ago, we were faced with a threat to global health the likes of which has probably not been seen since the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of early last century. No one knew what COVID-19 was, how to treat it, or how to prevent it.
A year on, we know so much more about the virus, treatment and most important of all, we have vaccines. Apart from the provision of clean water, vaccines have had a more profound effect on world health than any other public health measure. We don’t think twice about getting vaccinated ahead of trips around the world, but many are quite concerned at receiving a vaccine that has been developed in a matter of months.
This vaccine may well save our lives and the lives of our babies to come.
1. You can’t undergo fertility treatment if you have active COVID-19 infection, or worse, if your condition deteriorates and you have to be hospitalised
2. Number 1 also applies to partners
3. Evidence has shown that pregnant women who received COVID-19 mRNA vaccines during the third trimester generated a strong immune response and passed protective antibodies through umbilical cord blood to their babies1
Imagine that – if treatment is successful, we could be protecting ourselves and our babies from COVID-19 without even trying.
I was thrilled when I became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination in mid-May, but was concerned that it might interfere with my upcoming treatment. However, after checking in with Dr. Venkat and the clinical team, I was reassured that yes I could have the vaccine and ideally before treatment starts, as recommended by recent guidelines. In the event of pregnancy, the vaccine could be taken in the second trimester.2,3
Like many people who have had their vaccination, I had a sore arm and felt a bit run down on the day, but took some paracetamol and rested. In two days I was absolutely fine. By this time I had already started taking my progesterone “priming” tablets in the run up to ovarian stimulation and egg collection in June.
However, I was quite surprised to find that my period started a whole week early. While I abhor any sense of shame or stigma surrounding women’s and indeed men’s health, I’m not exactly the kind to shout it from the roof tops. But if what happened to me happens to you, know that “it’s not just you,” and there is always a back up plan.
For all of my problems with severe endometriosis over the years, irregular periods was never one. Being a pharmacist, I’m aware that many hormonal tablets, including contraceptive pills can cause what’s called “breakthrough bleeding” or “spotting” and that this should subside on its own. With all of the medications I’ve been on over the years, I’m reasonably aware of what spotting should be like.
This wasn’t spotting. The irony was that only the day before, my husband Tony had shown me an article on the BBC News website describing an increasing number of women on social media who had reported menstrual irregularities after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and asked “Do you know anything about this?”4 Being very honest, with all the conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the vaccination programmes around the world, I hadn’t paid close attention. I was certainly on alert now.
I was very worried and contacted the clinic right away explaining the situation and that I had not missed a single day of progesterone. Dr. Venkat got back to me within a matter of hours and explained that no, it wasn’t that my body wasn’t responding to treatment, and yes there had been a few reports of women receiving COVID-19 vaccinations and subsequently experiencing problems with their periods, although this was relatively rare.5
How rare exactly?
By 5th April 2021, 26, 746039 people received their first dose and 4,344251 people had received their second.6
For the same time period, there were ~958 cases of post-vaccination menstrual irregularities, that were reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the UK’s authority for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe.5
Ok – pretty rare. That didn’t stop me being worried though. How can you not be concerned if your body is not doing what you think it’s going to do?
Dr. Venkat reassured me that my upcoming treatment was certainly not going to be ruined and that she wanted me to take a little extra progesterone and to let her know if the bleeding had stopped by the next day. In many cases of breakthrough bleeding, increasing the dose progesterone is enough to make it stop, and as you might imagine, is a relatively simply solution to try first. After a lot of “stop start” over the weekend, however, it became pretty clear that the bleeding wasn’t going to stop. I duly let her know and she said, “Well, nothing about the human body is ever really predictable but don’t worry! This is not spotting, this is a proper period, so we’ll just start treatment a little earlier than planned.” I was told to stop the progesterone as there was clearly no point in delaying the inevitable and that my “treatment to start” scan would be moved forward.
To my birthday. I’m serious. Certainly a memorable one, but I felt a lot better knowing that the treatment was still on, that there are always ways of managing the unexpected!
So don’t panic, get your vaccine when you are eligible and stay well.