As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has begun to spread outside of the Wuhan province of China, many countries and its citizens are facing fear over the unknown ramifications of the virus. One of the many questions many women are facing is how this virus could potentially impact fertility or a current or future pregnancy.
The coronavirus typically leads to cold/flu-like symptoms and the severity of symptoms seems to be in relation to the age of the patient and other comorbidities. According to the CDC, spread of the virus is thought to be through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and the best form of prevention is adequate and frequent hand-washing as well as avoiding close contact with infected persons. Unfortunately, not much is known about the coronavirus relative to reproduction and pregnancy, but this article aims to tackle some of these questions.
CAN THE CORONAVIRUS AFFECT MY REPRODUCTION AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH?
Unfortunately, this is information we do not know at this time. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ASRM and SART) recommends that pregnant women or those who intend to become pregnant soon, as well as potential oocyte or sperm donors and gestational carriers, avoid travel to known parts of the world with active viral transmission as well as to avoid contact with infectious individuals. These restrictions are being updated continuously via the CDC website.
If I am pregnant, am I more susceptible to the coronavirus?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to viruses and infections due to a weakening of the immune system that occurs as a natural state of pregnancy. However, according to the CDC, there is no specific information regarding the transmission of the coronavirus and pregnancy. It is likely that pregnant women, along with other individuals with weakened immune systems, like the elderly or those with other comorbidities, are at an increased risk of acquiring the virus. Additionally, there is not enough information to state whether pregnant women are at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes if they become infected with the coronavirus. Based on limited data, infected women may be at an increased risk of preterm labor, however it is not clear if this was due to the virus or other prenatal or external factors.
Should I travel if I am considering getting pregnant or if I am already pregnant?
Women who are considering pregnancy or who are already pregnant should follow national travel advisories that are in place for all U.S. citizens. Currently it is recommended to avoid all non-essential travel to countries where the virus is actively spreading and these countries are updated on the CDC website.
What about breastfeeding and coronavirus?
Limited data suggests that, right now, the virus has not been detected in the breast milk of women infected with the novel coronavirus. Per the CDC, a mother who is showing signs of the coronavirus or tests positive for the virus should take all necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the virus to her infant while breastfeeding. This includes adequate handwashing and wearing a mask if symptomatic. Per the CDC, whether to start or continue breastfeeding in a woman who tests positive for the coronavirus should be a decision made between you and your physician.
Is there a risk of long-term health issues in my newborn if I was infected with coronavirus while pregnant?
According to the CDC, there is no data on long term health implications to a newborn who was exposed to the virus in utero or contracts the virus. In short, we do not know at this time.
There is a lot of fear due to the unknowns of the coronavirus and it is important for all individuals to take the proper precautions according to the CDC and to practice proper hand hygiene. Additionally, you can stay informed with new information regarding the coronavirus, travel, and pregnancy recommendations on the CDC website.