With the launch of our Trying to Conceive program earlier this year, we grew our Baby2Body community to include so many women wanting to get as healthy as possible for a future pregnancy. It’s also brought up (very valid) concerns about becoming pregnant during a pandemic, and we’ve been asked a lot of different variations on this question: “Is it safe to get pregnant or should I wait until after the pandemic to have a baby?“.
Ultimately, that’s a decision for you (and your partner) to make together. But if it’s a question that’s run through your mind, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent report published by the Guttmacher Institute found that 40% of the women they surveyed had decided to change their family plans — either waiting to have kids later, or having fewer kids in general — because of the pandemic.
We can’t deny the fact that COVID-19 has radically and devastatingly disrupted so many plans and too many lives; but waiting around for a post-pandemic future might leave us in limbo for a long, long time. If we want to thrive, we have to navigate this new normal as best as possible.
If you’re ready (or have been ready) to start your motherhood journey or grow your existing family, we want you to feel confident in doing that. The promising news is, incoming research and many women’s health experts suggest that you should feel confident in moving forward with your pregnancy plans, as long as you’re aware of the risks and taking the right precautions.
We covered how to handle COVID-19 if pregnant or a new mom back in the spring (our most popular post, to date), and we recommend giving it a read as the takeaways are still so relevant. Of course, we’re learning more every day as additional research is being conducted, and we want to update you on the latest stats, findings, and guidance on becoming pregnant during a pandemic, so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
What are the latest updates and recommendations on COVID-19 and pregnancy?
We’ll keep it simple with the top bullet points:
- Pregnant women should attend prenatal or postpartum appointments — whether in-person or through telehealth to receive full antenatal care. (CDC)
- Health agencies differ in regards to classifying pregnant women as being at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (CDC vs NHS). However, there is agreement that pregnancy does put you in a ‘clinically vulnerable’ population due to reduced immune response and increased demand on the lungs.
- In the US, flu and Tdap vaccinations are recommended for additional protection and immune health. (CDC)
- At present, there is no evidence of increased risk in fetal malformations or miscarriage due to the mother having COVID-19. (CDC, NHS)
- It is still suggested that there is a very low risk of passing COVID-19 on to your baby. (CDC, NHS)
- Current evidence suggests that breastmilk isn’t likely to spread the virus to baby. (CDC, NHS)
Will contracting COVID-19 impact my fertility in the future?
Unfortunately, there’s a lot we don’t know about longer term impacts of having COVID-19 and research is still ongoing. At present, there are no studies indicating that contracting the virus has an impact on your fertility. Of course, you should still take prevention very seriously to reduce your risk of exposure. Since pregnant populations are already identified as ‘higher risk’ for COVID-19 due to having a suppressed immune response, it’s advised to follow all preventative practices when TTC as well.
Should I freeze my eggs, just in case?
This is a discussion you’ll want to have with your doctor directly. If you are in a higher risk group, at an older reproductive age, or have been advised to delay your pregnancy plans by a medical professional, then you have every right to discuss this as an option. However, egg freezing ‘just to be safe’ is not recommended as a preventive measure to the pandemic.
What about pursuing IVF (or other ARTs) during the coronavirus?
We know so many couples had their IVF/ART plans derailed by COVID-19. ARTs are time-intensive, cost-intensive, and physically and emotionally draining in normal times and our hearts go out to those who were impacted by the pandemic.
Since this is a topic that can vary widely based on where you live, what your local fertility clinics are doing based on country-specific guidelines, and more importantly your specific situation, you’ll want to discuss this with your doctor directly.
Can my baby get COVID-19 while I’m pregnant?
There’s a lot of noise out there and not a huge amount of research to pull from, but here are the top-line findings, to date:
- There have been published cases of newborns testing positive for COVID-19 and exhibiting respiratory symptoms (you can read more here and here). Researchers now believe that in utero transmission is possible. However, these cases are still very rare.
- Medical professionals also note that the highest levels of the coronavirus were found in the placenta (higher than those in the amniotic fluid and in the blood of the mother and baby) and they suggest that the virus might be able to replicate in placental cells, but there appears to be a relative protection to the fetus.
- Placental infection, transmission rate and negative side effects on fetuses from viruses such as Zika and rubella appear much more common than that of COVID-19. At this stage, it has been suggested that COVID-19 is ‘unlikely’ to cause birth defects.
Why mental health and wellness matters more than ever
Mental health in pregnancy and postpartum still isn’t talked about enough, but with the ongoing pandemic it’s an even more pressing discussion. A study out of the University of Alberta conducted a survey in June that found that 29% of pregnant women reported experiencing some type of anxiety pre-pandemic, and that number has ballooned to 72% of pregnant women experiencing anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s OK to not be OK during this time in your life, and especially so during this unprecedented pandemic. We promise, you are not alone in these feelings. What’s not OK is thinking that it’s something you have to suffer through alone. Please, please reach out for help and support if you are struggling, and for more information on maternal mental health, please go to this post.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available?
This overview from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health gives a great overview of potential COVID-19 vaccines and what it means for pregnancy. They state that clinical trials will most likely be conducted on non-pregnant women of reproductive ages to first determine potential side effects, and how that might impact a pregnancy, to then determine if women can or should receive the vaccine while expecting. For more on vaccinations in pregnancy, check out this post.
How else can I prepare for pregnancy during a pandemic?
Here are our top 5 tips:
- Talk openly with your partner and your doctor/midwife when deciding on when you want to start trying to conceive. New information is coming out all of the time, so please refer to your healthcare professionals as an ongoing resource.
- Identify the primary risks for exposure in your current situation, and start planning for how you can minimize those risks and what additional prevention measures you can take.
- Get intimate with your finances. Even if you or your partner’s job has not been affected by the pandemic, it’s important to discuss how you will manage the costs of having a baby should something unexpected happen.
- Start thinking about childcare. We know it sounds like something so far away, but look into what the options are where you live, start thinking about what you’re comfortable with, and begin planning ahead.
- Prioritize your own health and wellbeing. Now, more than ever, your health and wellbeing should take the ultimate priority to give you and baby the best chance of healthy outcomes. Of course Baby2Body is here to help you do just that.
If you have further questions on trying to conceive during a pandemic or what COVID-19 means for pregnancy and postpartum, please leave them in the comments below and we’ll work to get you the answers you need.
Baby2Body’s Trying To Conceive program will help you focus in on the things you can control when it comes to your health, including: diet (with easy to make, nutritious recipes rich in fertility-friendly foods), exercise (no need to go to the gym, we’ve got complete at-home workout plans), and wellbeing (guided breathing exercises and quick meditations to help you manage all the new stressors at this time). Download the app to get started today.