COVID-19 and Pregnancy Complications:
Pregnancy is a time of joyous anticipation and excitement for women and their families. But the coronavirus pandemic raises concerns. Although the overall risks are low, people who are pregnant or recently pregnant are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to those who are not pregnant. This works both ways as well. People with COVID-19 during pregnancy are also at increased risk for preterm birth (delivering the baby earlier than 37 weeks) and stillbirth and might be at increased risk for other pregnancy complications.
Certain underlying medical conditions and other factors such as older age, obesity, preexisting respiratory disease, diabetes, and hypertension can further increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness during or recently after pregnancy.
This is what most of you readers would have heard from various sources of information - Be it social media, the news, your friends, or even your doctor. But what exactly does it imply for a woman trying to conceive? Should they wait or not? Well, the choice is always up to you. As a couple, it is your decision as to when you want to choose to become pregnant. But it would be best if you made an informed decision after knowing all facts regarding this COVID scare.
What Questions Do Couples Planning for Pregnancy Have?
Here are the top ones:
1. If I Have Recently Contracted COVID and Are Planning for Pregnancy. What Should I Do?
Here is what the ASRM says: COVID-19 infection can last for weeks. Since pregnant women are known to be at increased risk of severe complications, you can start trying ten days after symptoms started or after a positive COVID-19 test. Simply put, it is always safer to skip the cycle in which you have contracted COVID.
2. Do I Really Need to Get Vaccinated?
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy (American Society of Reproductive Medicine). Vaccinated individuals, in general, have lower chances of contracting a severe form of the disease, and the same applies to you as well. In case you are delaying the thought of getting the shot, do not regret your decision. Get the shot right away and stay protected. And remember, vaccination does not mean that you will not contract COVID at all. It only means that you are unlikely to experience the severe version of the disease and will most likely be cured with simple treatment and home isolation.
3. What if I Experience a Side Effect to the Vaccine When I Take It?
While COVID-19 vaccination can cause fever in some patients (up to 16 % of those vaccinated and mostly after the second dose), this risk should not be a concern when deciding whether to vaccinate a pregnant individual or a patient desiring pregnancy. Patients who experience fever following vaccination should take an antipyretic medication, like acetaminophen.
4. I Want to Pursue IVF or Other Fertility Medical Treatments. Should I Delay Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
It is tough to deal with uncertainty, primarily when you pursue the dream of a family and unexpected challenges are in the way. However, if you choose to go ahead with treatment, be ensured that your clinic takes all precautions to suppress the spread of COVID, and you do so as well.
5. If I Choose to Postpone My Fertility Treatment, Will It Affect My Ability to Have a Child?
It is challenging to consider postponing your treatment. Most people have gone through tremendous loss and grief by the time they get to where they are doing an IVF cycle. Now that you are at this point in your family building, you are dealt with a vast unknown with the COVID-19 pandemic and how you should proceed, or start, this medical treatment. It should be helpful to hear that there is no evidence that delaying treatment until vaccination will affect your ability to have a child, even if you have concerns about advanced age and diminished ovarian reserve (low egg supply). A recent 2020 paper in the peer-reviewed article in Human Reproduction concluded, "A delay in IVF treatment up to 180 days does not affect the live birth rate for women with diminished ovarian reserve compared to women who initiate IVF treatment within 90 days of presentation" to the clinic.
What Preventive Measures Should Be Followed by Couples Who Are Trying to Conceive?
All in all, the bottom line would be that you need to follow necessary precautions in order to prevent the contraction of COVID at home as well. Each person's actions play a substantial role in their risk of contracting COVID-19. We have all had to make adjustments to stay safe – physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands, or using sanitizers. It would be best to become even more strict about COVID-19 prevention during pregnancy or when trying to conceive. Avoid large crowds and opt for video chats instead of in-person socializing. In unavoidable circumstances, if you have visitors at home, ask them to wear a mask, wash their hands when they arrive, and keep at least six feet of distance between you. CDC guidelines state that pregnant women should not skip prenatal or postpartum appointments. Clinics and doctors around the country have transitioned to telehealth for many services. Patients can come to the clinic only for physical exams, lab work, and ultrasounds.
The uncertain, the unknowing, and the unpredictable future of the days to come might make you troubled regarding many important life decisions. One of which may be that of starting a family. But for many of you, the COVID-19 pandemic has clouded this time with fear and anxiety. But remember, in these trying times, doctors are there to guide you at every step and support you in your choices. Take the liberty of reaching out to your gynecologist or fertility specialist at every step of the decision-making process, as they are the best people to assist you.