By now you’ve seen the effect that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – and the disease it causes (COVID-19) – has on the world. If you’re like us, you may be riding an emotional roller coaster right now. And if you’re in the midst of trying to have a baby (or getting ready to start trying soon), these emotions are likely intensified.
Coronavirus spreads quickly, and there’s still a lot we don’t know about it; it simply hasn’t existed long enough for there to be reams of research on it (specifically within the fertility realm). Some early research has even been retracted. We’ll break down what we know for sure so far, so that you can feel confident regardless of how far along you are.
When it comes to attempting a pregnancy during a viral outbreak, the jury’s still out whether COVID-19 has a direct effect on your fertility. Back in 2002 during the first SARS coronavirus, experts found that those infected had a higher risk of damage to the testes, where sperm are produced.1 Since COVID-19 is related to that virus, it’s possible that if you are infected, it could cause similar damage, making pregnancy more difficult in the near future.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a fever can cause you to become temporarily infertile due to the fact that sperm production is impaired when your body temperature is elevated. Fever can also be a symptom of the common cold — a virus that comes from the coronavirus family — so this should be taken into account anytime you’re unwell (not just during this pandemic). And since it takes about two months for sperm to be mature enough for ejaculation, it can take that long before you’re back to prime fertility again.2 Consider having your sperm tested once you’ve recovered.
There’s currently no data out there saying you shouldn’t get pregnant right now (unless you have tested positive for COVID-19). Still, this pandemic is stressful and if you don’t want the added pressure of trying to conceive in this climate, it may be best to wait a few months and stick to recreational sex for now.
If you’re going through fertility treatments, your cycle may be put on hold for a while. This can be disheartening to hear, but many doctors are working with patients via telehealth as much as possible. This is for the safety of you and your partner. For women receiving ovarian stimulation, some data from Italy indicates that they may be at higher risk of lung and kidney complications should they fall ill with COVID-19.3
According to the CDC, being pregnant hasn’t proved to be an increased risk factor of contracting the virus.4 Small studies have indicated other coronaviruses can cause problems in pregnancy, but as far as COVID-19, we just don’t know yet.5
Make sure you’re staying in touch with your health care provider and let them know about your pregnancy ASAP so you can be sure to get an appointment when you need it. You may be dealing with clinics being short-staffed, but know your medical team will do whatever they can to maintain the best care possible. Your healthcare provider may also be able to direct you to a pregnancy support group. Connecting with others (virtually) could help provide an outlet, especially if you’re not ready to announce your pregnancy to your family and friends yet.
You might be experiencing a lot of uncertainty right now. Many hospitals are starting to limit spouses and partners in the delivery room and yes, that could mean you too. It may not be the birth experience you both were envisioning, but the safety of mom and baby is the most important thing. Your healthcare provider will have the latest scoop on what’s happening at your hospital.
You might be wondering if your baby can contract COVID-19 at birth, and the answer is, it’s not clear. Small studies have shown no concern, but doctors still need to wait for more information to come in.6 At the time of posting this article, the virus has not been shown to reside in the female reproductive tract, peritoneal surface, or in peritoneal fluid meaning that the virus is unlikely to pass between mother and child. As for breastfeeding, the risk is unknown. Scientists are finding out more information about the virus all the time, so as much as you can, take measures to decrease the anxiety you both may be feeling.
We know how hard it is to balance the desire to grow your family with the realities of a rapidly evolving public health crisis. The best thing you can do right now is make sure you’re getting your information from reliable sources and follow any protocols your state has in place so you both can be as healthy as possible. Stress and anxiety can intensify during a situation like this one, so check out resources for staying mentally healthy, and please reach out if there’s anything at all we can do to help.
It would be nigh impossible to find a bunch more passionate about fertility than the Fellow Team. We are a group of colleagues who loves to author articles in our free time (that is, when we aren't challenging each other to games of Code Names). You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.