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I can still recall the panic of going through my first pregnancy during the Zika virus outbreak. Panic would rise into my throat every time a mosquito came near, and I slathered myself with bug spray every chance I had.

At the time, it seemed to me that no potential problem could be as nerve-wracking to a pregnant woman like that one.

Little did I know that in a few short years, a new threat would throw our entire world into a tailspin.

Enter the Coronavirus.

As I listen to the white noise of constant news briefings and press conferences, I find myself consumed with worry over dear friends who are currently expecting during this nightmare.

As I lovingly reflect on my own pregnancies, I realize that Zika had nothing on this. Especially not for someone living in North America, where the Zika threat was never as great as we feared it might become.

For anyone who is currently expecting or trying to get pregnant during these difficult times, we know you are wondering how COVID-19 might affect the experience. While there is not a lot of information at this time, scientists are beginning to conduct studies that have yielded valuable insight.

Will Covid-19 Make it Hard for Women to Conceive?

If a woman is trying to conceive while she has COVID-19, it doesn’t appear there is any significant risk. This is in large part because our eggs don’t seem to be affected by the virus.

The only possible risk factor to be considered for conception is if she has a fever over 102°.

Since sperm doesn’t bode well in high temperatures, there is the potential for them to die off before the egg can be fertilized.

There is one point I would strongly consider, though: the risk to your partner. If you actively have COVID-19, you likely shouldn’t be in close enough proximity to your partner to conceive, or be going into doctor’s offices for fertility cycles.

How Can Covid-19 Affect Infertility Treatments?

When an individual or couple has been trying so hard to get pregnant, the last thing they want to hear is that their cycle has been canceled due to Coronavirus.

Sadly, however, cancelled IVF cycles have become a reality for patients throughout the United States and beyond.

Infertility treatments like IVF or IUI have been deemed elective procedures. Treatments like these are being placed on the back burner amongst the medical crisis our country is currently facing.

If, by chance, your fertility clinic has not canceled your cycle, it’s important to be up front about how you’re feeling.

If you’ve experienced fever or Coronavirus-related symptoms within two weeks of your cycle starting, it’s crucial to postpone the process and begin self-isolation.

pregnant woman washing her hands with soap and warm water

Are Pregnant Women More Susceptible to the Coronavirus?

COVID-19 or not, studies have shown that pregnant women are more susceptible to a variety of viruses and bacterias, such as the flu.

That being said, there are conflicting beliefs about how the Coronavirus can affect a woman throughout her pregnancy.

UK government officials, for example, consider pregnant women to have an increased chance of experiencing severe reactions if they contract the virus. On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims there is no scientific evidence that pregnant women have a higher risk of complications.

While demographic data is currently limited, a small study of 64 pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 yielded the following results:

  • 8% suffered from serious conditions that required hospitalization
  • 1% received critical care in the ICU

Can Covid-19 Cause Pregnancy Complications?

For many women who are currently expecting, their primary concern is whether contracting the coronavirus can lead to pregnancy complications or pregnancy loss.

While there is presently no data that confirms a connection between pregnancy complications and COVID-19, this doesn’t mean possible links don’t exist.

One study of 32 expectant mothers showed that 15 (47%) delivered prematurely after contracting the disease. Under normal circumstances, 10% delivery prematurely, so this small study could indicate an increased risk of 37%.

Of these fifteen mothers, six of the babies were found to be in fetal distress before delivery.

It’s important to remember, however, that this is a very small collection of data.

While it’s perhaps the best source of information we have now to form educated guesses about how the novel Coronavirus could affect pregnant women, it is not nearly a large enough sample size to develop any strong scientific theories.

In other words, it’s hard to determine how these numbers may eventually relate to pregnant women around the world.

Your best bet is to listen to your doctors and abide by any regulations they set forth for your prenatal care. If you’re concerned about premature delivery, discuss kick counting with your doctor as a way to self-monitor from home.

What Precautions Should Expectant Mothers Take Against Covid-19?

This is a loaded question.

After all, every panel of experts seems to have a different opinion on prenatal care during the novel Coronavirus pandemic.

First and foremost, aside from guidelines used specifically for pregnant women, it’s vitally important to abide by the preventative measures put into place by the CDC, including:

  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a safe 6ft distances between yourself and other people
  • Avoiding crowds of 10 or more people
  • Following shelter-in-place guidelines put into place by your local government

At Undefining Motherhood, we advocate staying home as much as possible.

In terms of changes in pregnancy care, here’s what we know, so far:

(1) Self-Isolation

According to Time Magazine, he UK government is recommending that expectant women self-isolate for 12 weeks as a precautionary suggestion.

In the United States, however, many scientists don’t believe this sort of prolonged quarantine is necessary. They do advise that women stick to the same 2-week self-quarantine protocol suggested for any individual who’s recently traveled, been exposed to COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms of the novel Coronavirus.

Again, consult your own physician and follow the guidelines of your local government.

The general feeling at Undefining Motherhood is that, to whatever extent you can control, it’s best to be as cautious as possible.

(2) Attend All Prenatal Appointments

Whether in the middle of a global pandemic or not, one of the best pieces of advice we could offer any pregnant woman is to attend all of their prenatal appointments, with your doctor’s approval.

Each appointment includes different information that’s crucial to the remainder of your pregnancy, your baby’s health, or your upcoming delivery.

With this in mind, however, it’s essential to speak with your doctor regarding their current preferences.

Many obstetricians and midwives are allowing women to schedule phone appointments instead of having them come in and risk possible exposure. And some tests, like glucose monitoring, can be done at home through different measures.

If you’re not experiencing any complications, and you’re feeling regular fetal movement, this is an option worth discussing with your healthcare practitioner.

(3) Preparing for Different Birth Plans

It’s become widely-discussed that husbands, partners, and wives are not currently allowed to join expectant mothers in most delivery rooms. In some areas, partners may not be allowed at all, while in others, only 1 visitor is allowed during the entire labor, delivery, and postpartum process.

In an effort to control the number of people coming in and out of hospitals, tight restrictions have been put into place that, subsequently, prevent visitors from seeing their loved ones.

I personally cannot even imagine the anxiety I would feel at the prospect of having my child without my husband by my side. My heart breaks for the soon-to-be mothers and fathers who might miss seeing their child’s birth.

Despite this, however, many doctors do not recommend changing your current birth plans.

Many expectant parents are weighing the option of a home birth to avoid a hospital setting. Many traditional obstetricians do not feel that this type of decision is warranted or even safe.

Again though, speak with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for you and your family.

What we do recommend, though, is preparing for birth disappointment if you do end up giving birth alone at the hospital.

Even if you’re guaranteed to have your partner with you, many expectant moms are grieving that their parents can’t be present, that older siblings cannot meet the new baby at the hospital, and other potential changes.

The better prepared you are to deal with these changes (like packing ipad chargers for increased FaceTime calls), the less likely you are to experience major stress or disappointment.

Keeping Calm During the Coronavirus Outbreak

There’s no denying that these are trying times we’re living in. Many of us have near-constant feelings of uncertainty and fear. We face daily struggles wondering when our lives will return to normal and the term ‘Covid-19’ will become a distant memory.

Until that day arrives, though, it’s important to find ways to keep calm during periods of worry and doubt.

Some of the most popular relaxation techniques for people stuck at home include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Getting Sunshine and Fresh Air, Whenever Possible
  • Taking Up New Hobbies or Enjoying Old Ones
  • Allowing yourself to rest and know that being unproductive is okay

Getting Through Your Pregnancy During a Pandemic

Whether you’re trying to conceive or are already pregnant, our current circumstances can be overwhelming. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is follow your doctor’s orders, practice CDC-approved precautions, do everything you can to stay calm.

Just remember, this is a single period in our world’s history.

The day will come when we’re past these anxieties. Then, we can appreciate all of the things our world and our relationships with one another have to offer.

Take things one day at a time and do what you can to stay focused on the beautiful baby who will soon enter your life.

How are you dealing with pregnancy during the novel Coronavirus?

female patient wearing a N95 mask and giving the camera a thumbs down

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