Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Is TTC after COVID Safe?

Q&A on how long to wait

Emily Oster

2 min Read

Hi, Emily. My family recently recovered from COVID, and my husband and I are trying to conceive (TTC). We delayed trying while we were sick but would like to understand any data around TTC in the weeks or months after recovering from COVID. From my initial reading, it seems like there is a small risk to overall sperm quality that can take a few months to recover from as a result of fever. Any insight on the data here would be greatly appreciated!

—Katie

Men are making sperm all the time (unlike women, whose eggs are there from birth). This means that all kinds of environmental and other variations can impact sperm count and motility at a particular moment. Spermatogenesis seems to be especially sensitive to heat: hot tubs, tight underwear, too much bicycling — these can all impact sperm count.

Internal heat matters too. We know that sperm count can be lowered after an illness with a fever. COVID-19 often comes with fever, making it plausible that we could see changes in sperm after COVID infection. Fortunately, you are not the only person worried about this, so it has been studied. This paper analyzes sperm in men after COVID-19 infection. The researchers found, first, that the virus doesn’t live in sperm (good news; not surprising). They found that for a majority of men, sperm motility and sperm count were reduced in the first month after infection. For a much smaller share, these changes persisted for more than two months. It was unclear in the data what drove some men to have longer impacts, although it seemed to be correlated with the level of antibodies produced.

Lower sperm count and motility could make it more difficult to conceive. However, if you do conceive, there isn’t anything to worry about pregnancy-wise. So it’s fine to try! You just might need a little longer (or maybe not! After all, it only takes one).

Note that the COVID-19 vaccine does not appear to affect sperm count.

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