You’ve decided you want to try to get pregnant. You’ve already crunched the numbers, talked to your friends and family, dreamed about names and brainstormed your birth plan. Just as you’re ready to take the next step, the world is completely disrupted by COVID-19, and you’re left wondering if this is really the right time.
No doubt you have many questions floating through your head: Will my baby be okay if I catch COVID-19? Will I have to stay in my home for the next nine months? Can I even go to a doctor’s office if I need help or have an emergency? The short answer is that much of what you’ve already learned about living during a pandemic can be applied to a safe, healthy pregnancy. With a little caution and clear expectations, you shouldn’t have to delay your dream of adding to your family.
What if I catch COVID-19 while I’m pregnant?
It’s very important to note that even though it feels like the pandemic has gone on forever, there is still relatively little known about COVID-19 and its effects on different groups. There is, however, some good news for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.
“There are reports of women who have tested positive for COVID-19 delivering babies free of the disease,” says Dr. Randal Robinson, an OB-GYN and fertility specialist at University Health System. “This data is reassuring but must be interpreted with caution given the small numbers.” Dr. Robinson also emphasized that coronaviruses are unrelated to the ZIKA virus, which had very clear implications for pregnancy and fetal development. If you're confirmed to have COVID-19 or you think you might have been exposed to the virus, it’s a good idea to avoid pregnancy until you’ve been cleared by your doctor.
“Fortunately,” says Dr. Robinson, “women appear to be less severely affected than men regarding the severity of COVID-19.”
What health factors should I consider before getting pregnant?
You should always discuss your full health history and medical conditions with your doctor before becoming pregnant. This information can help your doctor provide appropriate care throughout your pregnancy. Some underlying health conditions can increase your risk of serious illness if you become sick with COVID-19. “Individuals with underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, obesity, immunocompromise, diabetes or chronic lung disease are at increased risk from COVID-19,” says Dr. Robinson. “These patients should check with their doctor before pursuing pregnancy.”
How different will pregnancy be during a pandemic?
The whole world has changed because of COVID-19, especially when it comes to medical care. For one thing, fewer visitors are allowed in medical facilities, which means you might need to go to doctor appointments alone. In addition, Dr Robinson says, “There may be slight changes in the frequency of obstetric visits and how care is delivered by your physician such as greater use of telehealth.”
When entering a medical facility, there will likely be increased screening measures, and some offices will ask you to wait outside or in your car until you are called in for your appointment. These protocols can change and are updated as the pandemic progresses, so it’s always a good idea to call your doctor’s office before visiting for up-to-date instructions.
Can COVID-19 increase my risk of pregnancy loss?
"There currently is not any data that suggests there is an increase in pregnancy loss risk,” says Dr. Robinson “There have been some isolated reports of preterm delivery in a few women with COVID-19 but it is unclear if the reason was directly related to the COVID-19 infection or from another reason.”
It will take time to gather enough information to make an informed decision about whether COVID-19 is linked to preterm delivery or pregnancy loss, so the best practice is to protect yourself from the virus. Any illness during pregnancy is cause for concern, so do your best to stay healthy.
How can I protect myself and my baby from COVID-19?
You probably are already taking precautions to keep yourself safe during COVID-19. “The same precautions for women attempting pregnancy should be taken as for the general population,” says Dr. Robinson. “Avoid large crowds, wear a face mask, ensure good handwashing and hygiene practices and physically distance yourself from others.”
Although limiting settings where you’ll encounter large groups is a good idea, remember to stay active during your pregnancy is also important. Ask your doctor before starting an exercise routine while you are pregnant. You can still go for walks or light jogs in your neighborhood or do exercises around your home. If you think you might encounter neighbors while out for a walk, wear a face mask and keep six feet of distance between yourself and others.
If you have visitors in your home, it’s okay to politely ask them - to wear a mask, wash their hands when they arrive and keep six feet of distance from you. There will be plenty of time for hugs once the pandemic is over.
If you're pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant here are some helpful resources:
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ message for patients
CDC pregnancy extra precautions