Miscarriages and COVID-19 Vaccines
So there have been a number of reports of miscarriages within close proximity of COVID vaccinations, and there is a number of people who are trying to use these events to dissuade mothers (and soon to be mothers) to not protect themselves against COVID and also to try and show that these vaccines aren’t safe. So let’s talk about the miscarriages that have been reported, the likelihood of miscarriages, and whether or not these reports can/should be used to “prove” that the vaccines aren’t safe.
First, we need to reference that these reports are from VAERS, which we wrote about earlier today. While there’s no indication that these are false reports, it’s important to note that we have limited information about each report, but there is certain data points which are important and can help us understand the likelihood of whether the miscarriage is related to the vaccine, or an unfortunate event which occurred in close proximity to the vaccine.
See here for our post about VAERS.
As of the end of January, there was 9 reports of miscarriages submitted to VAERS. Let’s talk about each of the nine submissions briefly.
1. 35 year old female who was 28 weeks pregnant, being seen by high risk OB for velamentous cord insertion. We will talk about velamentous cord insertion in a moment. Two days post-vaccination, the mother experienced absence of fetal movement, and on examination was found to have no heartbeat. The mother shortly after delivered a nonviable fetus.
2. 34 year old female with a fairly extensive health history (pancreatitis, fertility disorders, abdominal surgery/procedure, retroperitoneal fibrosis) had a miscarriage approximately 2 weeks post vaccination. The fetal age was estimated at 5 weeks. This was the female’s first pregnancy.
3. 34 year old female with a history of sleep apnea. Had the vaccine while she was 3 weeks pregnant, and miscarried seven days post-vaccination. She was tested for COVID-19 the day prior to her miscarriage which was negative and tested a second time post-miscarriage with an unknown result.
4. 35 year old female with an unknown medical history. Had the vaccine while about 6 weeks pregnant, and on follow up OB appointment no fetus was found, so had miscarried between her two OB appointments (no documentation of bleeding or previous OB history),
5. 37 year old female with an medical history of dystonia (dystonia is linked to early Alzheimer’s disease). Had the vaccine when about 7 weeks pregnant. Miscarried the fetus 2 days later.
6. 31 year old female with no previous medical history. Received the vaccine when 3-4 weeks pregnant. Female had a miscarriage 2 weeks post-vaccination (5 weeks pregnant).
7. 40 year old female with a previous pregnancy and no medical history. Received the vaccine while 18 weeks pregnant. Had a normal ultrasound 3 days post-vaccination and had a miscarriage (believed to be placental abruption) 6 days after vaccination.
8. 29 year old female with a history of depression. She had the vaccine while 4 weeks pregnant and miscarried approximately 3 weeks post-vaccination.
9. 27 year old female with unknown medical history. Minimal information available in the report (no lot number or manufacturer). No gestational age, LMP, or due date given. Filed report states that the female miscarried 2 days post vaccination.
Six of the nine miscarriages submitted to VAERS were gestational ages less than ten (10) weeks. This is important because a large number of miscarriages occur within the first trimester, especially during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. It is estimated that between 50-70% of spontaneous pregnancies result in miscarriages prior to the second trimester, with the highest being in the first 2–3 weeks, where over 35% of pregnancies will spontaneously miscarry. By week 4, the chances of miscarriage falls to around 20%, and this falls to less than 10% by week 14. The age of the mother significantly increases the odds of miscarriage, one the female’s age exceeds 30. Here is a tool to calculate miscarriage risk based on age, previous pregnancies, etc.
So for 6 of these pregnancies, the risk of miscarriage was fairly high (between 20-30% miscarriage rate based on mother’s age and gestational age). While it’s possible that the vaccine may have contributed to this risk, the only way we can determine this is to look at whether the miscarriage rate with the vaccine is significantly higher than without the vaccine. Without knowing exactly how many early pregnancies are being vaccinated (probably a high number based on the shear number of vaccines given to healthcare professionals), it’s unlikely that six (6) miscarriages is abnormally high when 30+ million individuals have been vaccinated thus far. Thus, while these events are heartbreaking for the mother and families, it’s unlikely that they are occurring outside of what would normally occur.
So let’s talk about the three remaining cases. We have a 28 week miscarriage, an 18 week miscarriage, and one we don’t really have any information about. Unfortunately, the one which doesn’t have any information isn’t helpful, which illustrates perfectly some of the barriers with attempting to use VAERS outside of its intended use. Since we don’t have enough information, we are going to have to discard that case, as we can’t make any conclusions without additional information.
So that leaves two cases which we will look at. The first is a 35 year old female with a high risk, 28 week pregnancy. The pregnancy is high risk due to the placenta having a velamentous cord insertion. So what is a velamentous cord insertion and what does that mean. Velamentous cord insertion is when the umbilical cord attaches to the exterior membrane of the placenta and not to the body of the placenta. VCI has a fetal death rate of about 70% (depending on the study viewed, they show between 40 and 100% mortality rates). So while it is unfortunate that this mother miscarried, the pregnancy is already extremely high risk for fetal demise, and it’s unlikely that the vaccine contributed to this risk. The lack of fetal movement and subsequent miscarriage seems to indicate that the VCI progressed to a fetal exsanguination when the umbilical cord departed from the placenta.
The last case is a 40 year old physician who was vaccinated at 18 weeks gestation. She had a normal ultrasound 3 days after vaccination and subsequently had a miscarriage 3 days later. They believe the miscarriage was related to placental abruption, which is where the placenta separates from the uterus and you bleed into the uterus. About 1:100 pregnancies will have a placental abruption, so finding one in such a large number of vaccinated individuals is not surprising.
While all of these miscarriages do not seem related to the COVID vaccines, this doesn’t make pregnancy loss any less traumatic or stressful for the mother. As nurses, we empathize with these mothers and the loss of their pregnancies. Yet we also understand that while these unfortunate events occurred surrounding the vaccine, it’s unlikely that the vaccine increased their risk of miscarriage.