4 Misconceptions About Conception: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Your Fertility
Infertility can be a stressful and challenging experience even in “normal” times, let alone during a global pandemic. As a reproductive endocrinologist, I spend my days working with individuals and couples to help them achieve their dream of building a family. During this challenging year, I have watched many of my patients grapple with questions about how to reconcile their concerns about COVID-19 with their desire to have a baby.
These are not easy questions, and there are no simple answers, but after many months of counseling patients, I wanted to share some of the most common questions and concerns that I hear about fertility treatment and pregnancy in the Coronavirus era.
COVID-19 and Pregnancy
Given the long duration of pregnancy and the fact that COVID-19 has only been widespread since spring 2020, long-term research on this subject is still ongoing. Current studies do not show that pregnant women are at increased risk of death from COVID-19, although they may have an increased risk of hospitalization and other complications.
Fortunately, the overall risk of serious illness is low. As a physician who cares for pregnant women and those who are attempting to conceive, my number one goal for all patients during this pandemic is prioritizing safety. Transmission risk can be significantly lowered by taking precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks, and frequent handwashing.
4 Misconceptions: Fertility and the Pandemic
1. You should delay fertility treatment.
In the early days of the pandemic, when cases were rapidly rising in the US and particularly in the Northeast, many fertility clinics temporarily paused treatment. The pandemic was brand new and rapidly spreading, hospitals were overwhelmed, and PPE was in short supply. We, as a field, needed time to regroup and to develop proper protocols to maximize safety and minimize infection risk in our patients.
We now have rigorous safety measures in place, limit the number of patients in the office at one time, and perform COVID testing prior to all procedures requiring anesthesia.
These and other measures have allowed us to resume treatments in a careful way while minimizing the risk to our patients.
Given the uncertain duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients need to weigh the risks and benefits of proceeding with fertility care versus postponing building their family for a long period of time. Many patients are choosing to move forward with fertility treatment, due to concerns about declining fertility with increasing age or conditions such as diminished ovarian reserve. If you are healthy and desire to grow your family, there are procedures in place to help you to do so in a safe and careful manner.
2. Social distancing will slow down my treatment.
We are accommodating all patients who wish to proceed with testing and treatment. Patient care is not being delayed, but COVID-19 has changed our patient care workflows. There are fewer patients physically in our office at any given time.
We conduct new patient visits and follow-up consultations through telemedicine appointments, which can be done from the convenience of home. Patients coming in for ultrasounds, blood tests or procedures will notice changes in the flow of traffic around the office and will wait in their cars instead of in our waiting room prior to being seen.
We are able to provide care safely and efficiently so that you are not delayed in pursuing your goal of having a family.
3. If I get COVID-19 while pregnant, my baby will get it, too.
Recent research suggests that pregnant women might be more susceptible to complications from COVID than those who are not pregnant. Pregnant women who do get very sick, or require hospitalization, may be at increased risk for preterm labor. Fortunately, the vast majority of pregnant women with COVID have recovered without facing serious complications.
There have been reports of women passing COVID to their babies at the time of delivery, but this seems to be very rare. And it appears unlikely that the virus can spread through breastmilk. We do know that once a baby is born, he/she can be susceptible to catching COVID just like any other person, so it is important to take precautions for safety (social distancing, hand hygiene, etc.) in the postpartum/newborn period. Many new parents are choosing to limit their baby’s exposure to people outside the family in the early weeks of life, in order to minimize the risk of infection.
4. If I’m undergoing fertility treatment or pregnant, I should isolate myself.
Each individual needs to find their own balance between living life and protecting themself from the virus. Fortunately, in our geographical area, transmission rates are much lower than they were last spring, and there has been widespread focus on safety precautions to greatly lower the risk of infection spread.
I recommend finding ways to safely connect with the important people in your life. This has been a stressful time, and it is important to tend to mental wellbeing in addition to physical health. Fostering relationships with loved ones (while socially distancing and practicing heightened sanitary precautions) can help to relieve anxiety during this uncertain time.
The First Step is a Fertility Consultation
It can be daunting to plan for your family during this disruptive and stressful time. Fortunately, with our patient-focused policies and protocols, you can still safely pursue your dreams of having a family. We are committed to caring for our patients and maintaining the highest safety standards during these unprecedented times.
To start on the path to expanding your family, you can set up a virtual consultation to learn more about your options from the safety and comfort of your home.
Are you ready to discuss your family building journey?
About Dr. Laura Meyer
Dr. Meyer provides comprehensive, compassionate, and individualized care to all of her patients on their journey to parenthood. Says Dr. Meyer, “I believe in empowering patients through education and counseling, and partnering with them to develop care plans that meet their specific needs, values and treatment goals.” Dr. Meyer has extensive experience in ovulation induction, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic testing, and recurrent pregnancy loss. Her areas of interest include reproductive genetics, third party reproduction (donor sperm, donor egg, and gestational surrogacy), and medical fertility preservation for girls and women with cancer.