In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically changed our communities. Schools, economies, and cities have shut down as we attempt to mitigate the virus. Individuals and couples who have waited months to conceive are now questioning whether it’s safe to try to get pregnant. For those who are pregnant, you may have concerns about the impact of the virus on your pregnancy.
While initial research is limited, the effect of this disease on fertility and reproductive health remains unclear, thus creating uncertainty as hopeful and expectant parents navigate the unknown.
COVID-19 and Conception
If you are trying to get pregnant, theoretically, there should not be any reason you should not. However, please keep the following in mind:
- Limited research exists about the transmission of the virus between mother and child. Therefore, medical providers have recommended that women abstain from actively trying to conceive until more data becomes available.
- Since each individual’s fertility journey is unique, adhering to the guideline to wait may feel frustrating.
- For those who struggle with fertility issues, postponing trying to conceive exacerbates an ongoing emotional wound. You should ask yourself how it would feel to wait even longer, as well as how you would feel about managing a pregnancy during a larger medical crisis. It is a personal decision that is best discussed with your partner, medical provider, and perhaps your therapist.
- Should you become pregnant, access to medical care may look different as medical providers move to virtual appointments or performing specific exams in your vehicle. At individual offices and hospitals, partners are prohibited from attending appointments or from being in birthing rooms.
- If you don’t have COVID-19 and want to pursue Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) supports clinics resuming care with precautions. Those precautions include performing general risk assessments, mitigation measures for the clinic and staff, and building testing capacity. The guidelines also suggest that clinics can open when certain milestones are met (e.g. reduction of cases for at least 14 days) and when local hospitals can safely address crisis care without overwhelming their capacity.
- If you meet the criteria for COVID, please check with your doctor about when it is safe to resume trying to conceive or pursue ART.
COVID and Pregnancy
- The impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy is still unknown. As stated earlier, little is known about the transmission of the virus between mother and child.
- A small study of nine pregnant women in Wuhan, China, revealed that infected mothers were no more likely to have worse symptoms than non-pregnant women.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that “pregnant people seem to have the same risk as adults who are not pregnant.” However, they also noted that since individuals’ bodies constantly change during pregnancy, there is an increased susceptibility to infections in general.
COVID and Fertility Treatments
When the pandemic hit the US, many individuals and couples saw their fertility treatments postponed or canceled. Having spent months or years and thousands of dollars to prepare for cycles to have them delayed caused great emotional hurts.
The taskforce for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recognizes the unique challenges faced by patients in the fertility community. In its latest report, ASRM noted that US states and cities are increasingly recognizing infertility care as essential services and have provided guidelines for resuming care when appropriate. As such, the benefits of providing treatment will be balanced against the risks of patient and staff exposure to the virus.
Coping During Fluid Times
We are living through an unprecedented time in our history, one that is heightened by uncertainty and anxiety. Therefore, self-care is even more critical. You may want to try:
- Sticking to your routine as best you can. Waking up, eating, and going to bed at the same time each night help to bring some structure to your day, especially when information is constantly changing.
- Meditating or practicing mindfulness to soothe anxious thoughts. Anxiety is expected during a medical crisis, so find what a practice that works for you.
- Exercising can be challenging, especially with restrictions on being able to go outside. However, you can find many exercise programs online that can be done in the safety of your home.
- Giving yourself permission and space to grieve the loss associated with needing to wait or postpone treatments. You are living through a disappointing time that deserves to be honored.
Everyone, pregnant or not, should be following the precautions outlined by the CDC. As medical guidelines change as we move through the pandemic, please check with your doctor about how they directly affect you.
Also, if you need more emotional support, most licensed mental health professionals are equipped to provide services online.