Deciding to try for a baby is a monumental decision — one that’s suddenly been made a whole lot more complex by the coronavirus pandemic.
So is this the time to try and get pregnant? Or would it be wise to hold off?
HuffPost spoke to two OB-GYNs about trying to conceive during a global pandemic. Here’s what they think you should consider before making a decision:
There are so many unknowns.
It’s been months since the first case of the new coronavirus was detected in China, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it clear that there is still not much scientific research available on COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus — and pregnancy at this point.
Health experts do not know if pregnant people are more likely than others to come down with the virus. They also don’t know if they’re more likely to have severe symptoms if they do become infected — nor do they know if getting sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy could hurt the baby in any way.
“We don’t know a lot,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University, told HuffPost.
… but there *are* some reasons to be cautiously optimistic about pregnancy and COVID-19.
“We don’t seem to see transmission to the fetus, which is great,” Minkin said.
That means if someone who’s pregnant gets COVID-19, the evidence we have so far suggests that it’s unlikely they would pass the virus on to the baby during pregnancy or delivery.
Similarly, there’s no evidence that the virus enters breast milk — though Dr. Daniel Roshan, a high-risk maternal-fetal OB-GYN in New York City, said there may be some times when breastfeeding isn’t necessarily the best idea.
“If a woman has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, it’s recommended that she express her milk and feed the baby indirectly so she doesn’t breathe on her newborn,” he told HuffPost.
All that said, pregnancy can lead to some pretty big immune system changes, which can put you at a higher risk of serious outcomes if you catch other respiratory viruses, like the flu. (It’s a major reason why pregnant women are urged to get a flu shot.) And those immune changes are why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said pregnant women should be considered an at-risk population for COVID-19.
Your first step? A virtual appointment with a midwife or OB-GYN.
If you’re considering getting pregnant, you should go ahead and book an appointment with an OB-GYN or a midwife, Minkin said, even if you’re not entirely sure who you would like to deliver with.
“That’s a great telehealth visit to have,” she said.
An OB-GYN or nurse midwife (or whatever qualified professional you see) can walk you through what the research says about pregnancy and COVID-19, because it truly is changing by the minute. And that expert can take a look at your history and consider whether you’ve got any underlying health concerns that might be pertinent.
They can also walk you through some really important preconception basics, such as taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for a month or more before you try and get pregnant to protect against neural tube defects. They’ll also likely walk you through some best practices for staying healthy if you do decide to try and conceive, like hand-washing and social distancing.
“I’m hearing from patients all the time, and what I am telling them is not to panic,” Roshan said. “Many people are going to get this, and most of them are going to recover.”
There are certain groups who should NOT try to conceive right now.
Though it’s pretty damn heartbreaking for people trying to get pregnant using reproductive medicine, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has called for a suspension of most treatments right now — including new treatment cycles of intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization. It is also calling for doctors to “strongly consider” canceling all embryo transfers. (The group noted that it’s constantly revising its recommendations and will revisit them by the end of March.)
Women who have a history of heart and lung issues should probably not be trying to get pregnant right now, Minkin said, though again, she emphasized that these are conversations for individuals to have with their providers.
“If you do have an underlying health condition, you might want to rethink getting pregnant right now,” she said.
Be sure to really consider your mental health.
In New York City, which has emerged as an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain hospitals are telling pregnant people that not only can they not have a doula with them, but they also can’t have a partner — or anyone — with them during labor.
It’s unclear whether that practice will be rolled out to more hospitals in other parts of the country, but the fact that all of this is changing so quickly is something to keep in mind. Even the best epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists and other experts can’t predict what will be happening in the world in terms of COVID-19 in nine months’ time. Pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period can all be amazing experiences, but they can also be physically and emotionally taxing under the best of circumstances.
These are all things to keep in mind as you consider getting pregnant. Will you find that sort of uncertainty too stressful? Have you thought about what it might be like to get through the postpartum period while practicing social distancing? How do you weigh all of this against what may be a very deep desire to start or grow your family as soon as possible?
“We’re all hopeful a vaccine will be available at some point,” Minkin said. “That may not be in nine months, though. Hopefully we’ll have something in the one- to two-year time frame.”
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