The ongoing viral pandemic is certainly causing ripples and uncertainties. Not left behind are issues with reproduction, and the potential effects that may ensue during pregnancy. There are certainly some unanswered queries surrounding the Covid-19 exposure and infection during pregnancy. What’s not in doubt is that everyone, pregnant or not, should follow current guidelines on prevention and prompt evaluation if exposure is suspected.
If you are currently pregnant, you shouldn’t panic. Observe all current recommendations about avoiding exposure. You should continue with your antenatal clinics, but possibly request protected appointment slots to avoid crowded waiting rooms at your doctors’. If you notice unusual symptoms, regardless of any known exposure, please alert your healthcare team for additional advice. When the time to deliver comes, you should expect the hospital to already have precautions in place to avoid inadvertent exposure from other patients or staff members.
If you are planning to get pregnant, you have two choices. You could go ahead and conceive, and observe all the current precautions. Alternatively, you may choose to postpone conception for a little longer to see how the pandemic will evolve. This is especially so as it isn’t easy to predict when the pandemic will stop, and no one is completely immune from the virus. Unfortunately, any infections in pregnancy tend to run a more severe course, potentially leading to poor pregnancy outcomes.
Those requiring assisted conception are in a different category, and need to consider various options. If you are currently in the preliminary phases of commencing fertility treatment, prudence may dictate that you postpone your treatment to a more favourable time. If fertility treatment has already been started, this may need to go to full completion in the absence of being infected. But you may need to consider freezing all your eggs or embryos (fertilised eggs), then wait for the pandemic to ease off prior to using them and getting pregnant.
If the pandemic goes out of control, non-critical medical services would have to take a back foot. Some out-patient services would have to close, and this includes assisted conception services. Other non-emergency hospital services like planned (elective) surgical procedures would also be postponed. There would be an inevitable knock-on effect on those already pregnant and leading towards delivery. Anyhow, there would be ample measures in place to ensure continued care for those in need.
The bottom line on reproduction in the setting of a pandemic is to wait it out. Deferring conception in the interests of overall safety should be the default. If caught out in the middle, do not panic. Take all the necessary precautions, your pregnancy will likely progress normally.
- Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. [email protected]
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