By now, we've all had plans—big and small—that were disrupted, changed or completely canceled by coronavirus: family visits, sporting events, concerts, conferences, work trips, vacations, weddings and even haircuts, to name a few. For many who had plans to start trying to get pregnant, the pandemic has brought a lot of concern and confusion.
As we move forward in this new world, women at our clinics are thinking seriously about whether this is the right time to try to get pregnant. The answer will be different for everyone, of course. As the Chief Medical Officer of a large women's health care provider, I've seen first-hand that you can have a safe pregnancy and birth during this time.
I'm writing to help women think through challenging questions about getting pregnant and giving birth during this pandemic.
Is it safe to go to the doctor for conception consultations and appointments if I become pregnant during the pandemic?
For women trying to conceive and pregnant women, telehealth may be an excellent option for some appointments. Some insurers are also taking steps to remove co-pays during coronavirus (and hopefully beyond), so your telehealth visit could be free.
Any appointment where a provider doesn't have to physically examine, or appointments that don't involve any testing can be a telehealth appointment. These might include:
- Consultations on getting pregnant
- Pregnancy check-ups where an ultrasound or blood work isn't needed
- Mental wellness check-ins
- Postpartum visits if a physical assessment is not needed
- Lactation consultations
- Surgical incision healing check
For women who have a blood pressure cuff and ability to dip their urine at home, our offices have made telehealth an option for many pregnancy appointments.
Telehealth is a great complement to in-person care and it's exciting that more and more women are taking advantage of its convenience. However, in-person visits are still essential for identifying potential concerns, especially for those with high-risk pregnancies.
For necessary in-person visits, practices are helping women stay safe through distancing, limiting guests, cleaning frequently and requiring protective equipment. At our clinics, we're also screening all patients, doctors, and staff before appointments to make sure they don't have coronavirus symptoms.
If you're nervous, ask your provider about what their practice is doing to keep safe, and make sure you feel confident about the proactive steps they're taking. It's not too much to expect your doctor's office to be prepared to protect you and their staff from coronavirus.
Would becoming pregnant make me more at risk for coronavirus?
Coronavirus research in pregnant women is limited—we just don't know enough about the virus and its impact. However, the little research we currently have suggests that there is not an obvious direct increased risk to pregnant women. Current information indicates that:
- Pregnant women do not seem to be more likely than the rest of the public to get the virus.
- There are no cases yet of the virus passing to the baby during pregnancy or birth, though some evidence is emerging that vertical transmission may be possible.
- The virus has not yet appeared in breast milk.
This information is continuing to evolve as doctors and scientists gather more data. At my institution, we have brought a group of OB providers together to review the data regularly and create a set of guidelines for how to manage expectant mothers through this pandemic.
Regardless, expectant mothers are at a higher risk of contracting illnesses in general and should always be careful. For now, it's best to take every precaution. If you haven't read them already, here are the CDC's guidelines on how to protect yourself.
Is it safe to deliver at a hospital during the pandemic?
Providers are doing everything they can to make sure that the childbirth experience during a pandemic is still safe and joyful. Coronavirus has caused many women to consider changing their birthing plans. While these concerns and fears are clearly understandable, it's important to know that delivering in a hospital or a certified birthing center is still a safe option.
Newborns are susceptible to coronavirus transmission. To protect the health of infants, many hospitals are taking extra precautions with patients, especially those who are symptomatic or positive for coronavirus. Specific guidelines vary from hospital to hospital, and may include limiting the number of people in a delivery room, and for mothers positive with coronavirus, limiting initial skin to skin contact when coronavirus is present.
If you're worried about continuing with your birth plan, check-in with your provider about what guidelines they're following and how they will protect you and your baby's health. One Advantia OB-GYN, Dr. Prust, said it best: "You're coming to us for the most important experience of your life. We want you to still be able to enjoy [it]."
Will getting pregnant during the pandemic make me too anxious or stressed out?
Stress and anxiety can impact all of us, particularly during uncertain times, and definitely before, during and after pregnancy. Feeling isolated and worrying has taken a toll on just about everyone's mental health.
If you are experiencing sadness, stress or anxiety, remember that what you're going through is completely normal, and thousands of other women are feeling the same way. Call your provider and get the care you need. Many practices have telehealth options for mental wellness to support you through these difficult and challenging times.
For pregnant women, prioritizing good nutrition, staying hydrated, exercising and getting enough sleep are very important and can actually help with anxiety and stress levels. I also recommend taking breaks to focus on yourself or your loved ones. Whether through meditating, exercising or curling up with a good book, I try to make a little time for these self-preservation activities. It has truly helped my well-being.
There is never a "perfect" time to start the pregnancy journey. Making the choice to conceive during coronavirus is personal, and everyone will have different feelings about it. Whatever choice you make, the medical community is working hard to make sure you and your baby are healthy and supported, and that the experience remains a joyous one.
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