Vaccination and pregnancy: a topic that has always been surrounded by many fears, but also rumours, understandably so. Of course, no woman wants her health protection to be at the expense of her unborn child. This is no different in the coronavirus pandemic. BR24-#Faktenfuchs is constantly receiving claims that corona vaccinations cause miscarriages. But there is no evidence for this.
A user claims on Facebook: "It has been proven that the Covid-19 vaccination leads to more miscarriages." Another one says: "Then check out the British study. Miscarriages increased." And a third user posts: "In the US, miscarriage rates have increased by 400 per cent." But what is the truth of these claims?
No evidence of complications
According to current scientific knowledge: nothing. The figure of around 400 per cent probably goes back to a British disinformation website. The website mentions an increase in miscarriages in connection with the vaccination: Allegedly, these had increased by 366 per cent among vaccinated women. The figures are taken from a British government report but misinterpreted. The website is known for spreading misinformation.
But before we go into more detail about what is behind the false claim, it is worth having a look at the state of research on the topic of vaccination and pregnancy.
How safe are corona vaccines for pregnant women?
What do we know about how the vaccinations affect the unborn child? There is currently not enough data on this from controlled studies - which is why the permanent vaccination commission (Ständige Impfkommission, Stiko) in Germany does not yet recommend vaccination for pregnant women.
However, this does not mean that the Stiko advises pregnant women against vaccination - the decision is up to each woman. From the point of view of eleven German gynaecological societies, the assessment for pregnant women (with no particular risk of side effects) is positive. In a joint press release, the experts therefore advocate the vaccination of pregnant women with mRNA vaccines from the second trimester onwards.
Their arguments: In systematic follow-up of over 5,000 vaccinated pregnant women, US scientists have so far been unable to find a single indication of increased complications. Miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births did not occur more frequently among vaccinated pregnant women than among non-vaccinated women.
Course of Covid-19 often more severe in pregnant women
Another argument in favour of vaccination is that an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is more often severe in pregnant women. In the event of falling ill, pregnant women would have to receive intensive medical care six times more often and be ventilated about 22 times more often, the gynaecological professional organisations argue in their statement.
A team of researchers around Nathalie Auger from the University of Montreal has summarised the experience from 42 observational studies with 438,548 pregnant women in a meta-analysis. Of these women, a total of 7,569 were infected with SARS-CoV-2. An infection - even without any symptoms - already increased the risk of life-threatening toxemia of pregnancy by 33 per cent. Premature births and stillbirths also occurred significantly more often in infected mothers.
In summary, it can be said that there is not yet enough data to say conclusively what the possible risk of vaccination during pregnancy might be. However, there are no indications so far that vaccination leads to more miscarriages. Miscarriages do not occur more often than normal among vaccinated women. On the other hand, a large-scale meta-study concludes that the risk of premature births and stillbirths is significantly increased if the mother is infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Where does the misinformation come from?
So how do users come to claim that the miscarriage rate has increased in connection with a corona vaccination? As has already been observed with other misinformation in the past, these claims seem to have found their way from English-language disinformation portals into German.
According to a fact check by the news agency Reuters, the false claim goes back to the British disinformation portal "The Daily Expose". The website has previously attracted attention with misinformation. The article is titled "Number of women to lose their unborn child after having the Covid Vaccine increases by 366% in just six weeks".
The article - and the figure of around 400 per cent increase in miscarriages - were subsequently distributed on various social networks. As a source for their supposed revelation, the authors of the article refer to a weekly report published by the Medical Licensing and Regulatory Agency for Medicines in the UK (MHRA) on reported vaccination reactions and side effects of the corona vaccines. The figures quoted from it are correct - but the conclusions the authors draw from them are wrong because they omit important context.
According to the MHRA, a total of six miscarriages occurred in women who had been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 between December 9, 2020, and January 24, 2021. It is not clear whether there is any connection at all with the vaccinations. In the following six weeks - in the period from January 24 to March 7 - this number rose to a total of 28 miscarriages - so another 22 were added. That is an arithmetic increase of 366 percent, so far, the report is correct. But the authors do not put the increase in relation to the total number of women who received a vaccination in the same period. And this number has risen sharply.
As a spokesperson for the MHRA explained to the news agency Reuters, the total number of first-time vaccinations increased from 1,340,043 people to 4,322,791 people between the two reports. The agency estimates that the proportion of women capable of bearing children among those vaccinated increased from 665,424 to 2,146,866 during this period - more than tripling.
The report does not say how many of the women were actually pregnant at the time of vaccination. However, since about a quarter of all pregnancies in Great Britain already ended in miscarriage before the pandemic, a total number of 28 miscarriages among more than two million women of childbearing age among the first vaccinated women is expectable in the opinion of the authority - completely independent of the vaccination. A spokesperson said that reports of miscarriages in connection with the vaccination were being closely examined, but that there was "no pattern" so far that indicated an increased risk.
Conclusion: The permanent vaccination commission (Stiko) does not yet recommend a corona vaccination for pregnant women - as there are no controlled studies on this yet. They therefore leave the decision for or against a vaccination to the women themselves. In particular, pregnant women who have an increased risk of a severe course of the disease or of infection should be offered a vaccination after detailed counselling.
Eleven German gynaecological organisations recommend that women get vaccinated. This is because systematic evaluations of side effects in vaccinated women from the United States have not found any evidence of an increased miscarriage rate in more than 5,000 vaccinated pregnant women. On the other hand, the risk that pregnant women will fall seriously ill with Covid or suffer a premature birth or stillbirth is increased, according to various studies.
So where does the figure of 400 per cent come from? It comes from an article on a British disinformation website that was widely shared on social networks. The authors refer to evaluations of a British agency on possible vaccination side effects, but do not put the increase in relation to the increased number of vaccinated women - and thus come to a false conclusion.
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