People dealing with fertility challenges already have enough going on, but now there's the whole COVID-19 outbreak to consider. Can coronavirus affect your fertility in any way, or can you keep TTC as usual? Here's what several fertility experts have to say about the coronavirus pandemic and your family plans, based on the most current info.
Health experts are still learning more about the novel coronavirus every day, so no one has all the answers yet. "There are a number of unknowns at the moment related to the coronavirus pandemic, fertility, and pregnancy," Dr. Alex Polyakov, fertility specialist, obstetrician, and epidemiologist, tells Romper. This makes it difficult for anyone to make a definitive statement about the coronavirus and its potential effects on fertility.
"We just do not know enough about coronavirus yet," Dr. Grace Centola, Ph.D., a male infertility specialist, tells Romper. "Appropriate measures should be taken to avoid exposure to the virus and to remain healthy until further information is published from the medical community." So whatever your situation, it's wise to follow coronavirus prevention tips such as washing your hands and refraining from touching your face.
But what if you were trying to start a family with fertility treatments when the whole coronavirus breakout occurred? "If you are an infertility patient and in the middle of treatment, stay the course," Dr. Edward Marut, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois, tells Romper. "Remember that fertility patients and those of childbearing age are not in the high risk group." If you've had no known exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19, then discuss the options for continuing treatment with your doctor.
If you even suspect you've had exposure to coronavirus, however, then this may impact your family plans for the time being. "Women who have symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection (fever, shortness of breath, cough) and have either been exposed to a confirmed case or have tested positive themselves, should avoid getting pregnant until they are completely recovered," Barry Witt, M.D., the medical director of WINFertility, tells Romper. "This includes those who are planning on any fertility treatments in order to conceive."
Other experts back up this idea. "Most fertility clinics would advise patients that their IVF cycle may get canceled if they or their partners were to contract the virus," says Polyakov. Discuss the options with your doctor if you and/or your partner have COVID-19 symptoms, so you can make the best choice for your health and family at this time.
Experts are also considering whether COVID-19 may affect a person's fertility overall. "At this time, we cannot confirm if COVID-19 will impact long-term fertility, but we have no reason to believe it will hurt reproductive potential," says Marut.
For the most part, coronavirus affects a different part of the body entirely. "There is no reason to suspect that the coronavirus infection will have long term effects on fertility as it mostly involves the respiratory tract and not the reproductive organs," says Witt. "It is reassuring that other viral respiratory infections are unrelated to long term fertility issues."
If you do get pregnant at this time, could the coronavirus affect the pregnancy? "For those who are planning to conceive, there is not much data yet to know whether there will be any significant detrimental effects on a pregnancy, but the very preliminary information suggests that this virus (unlike the unrelated Zika virus) does not likely have a major impact on pregnancy or fetal development," says Witt.
However, some of the side effects from COVID-19 may affect a growing fetus. "The biggest risk appears to be fever," Serena Chen, M.D., of IRMS Reproductive Medicine tells Romper. "We know this virus can cause high fevers and temps over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Fever is known to cause birth defects, increase the risk for miscarriage, and have a temporary detrimental impact on sperm production." If you have a fever, speak to your doctor at once for more info.
If you're still pretty concerned about COVID-19 (and who isn't?), then the experts do offer some words of reassurance. "In general the little data we have about coronavirus as it relates to fertility and pregnancy are reassuring. We do not see evidence for transmission of the virus to the fetus during pregnancy and at this point it does not appear to be as deadly to pregnant women as influenza," says Chen. Keep up with your hand washing and remember that this will pass eventually.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Dr. Grace Centola, Ph.D., scientific director for Dadi
Dr. Edward Marut, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois
Dr. Alex Polyakov, Fertility Specialist, obstetrician, and epidemiologist
Barry Witt, M.D., medical director of WINFertility