Does Suffering from COVID-19 Affect The Ability To Conceive in Women?

Covid-19 is in everyone’s mind, and women who are planning to get pregnant are no exception. In May 2020, the WHO reported that the clinical manifestations of Covid-19 in pregnant women were not different from those in non-pregnant women.

However, a May 2021 report published in the BMJ, that included 192 studies (64,676 pregnant women with COVID-19; 569,981 non-pregnant women with COVID-19), showed that pregnant women are more likely to suffer from severe symptoms and need intensive care for Covid-19.

The report also found several risk factors for Covid-19 in pregnant women including:

  • pre-existing comorbidities
  • chronic hypertension
  • pre-existing diabetes
  • high maternal age
  • high BMI

Ever since the pandemic began, the most common concern for every couple planning to get pregnant or the most common question during pre-conception consultations is – Will Covid-19 affect my ability to get pregnant? There’s no doubt that fear is omnipresent. Let’s understand the correlation between Covid-19 and pregnancy.

Can Covid-19 affect the ability to conceive?

There is no clear data that can establish a connection between Covid-19 and the ability to conceive. Though far from being proven, a study published in the NCBI reported that conditions such as fever and cold in women undergoing fertility treatments may interfere with follicular development during ovarian stimulation. Such symptoms have been associated with a longer fertility treatment cycle, a lower number of eggs, and a need for a higher level of medication.

However, another study published in NCBI states that the female reproductive tract has a low concentration of SARS-CoV2 receptors and hence the organs are unlikely to be susceptible to Covid-19 infection, or that Covid-19 is unlikely to have any negative impact on a woman’s ability to conceive.

Can Covid-19 pass from the pregnant woman to the baby?

When an illness gets passed on from the pregnant woman to her baby, it is known as ‘vertical transmission in medical language. The condition may occur during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

Though not very common, it is believed that Covid-19 infection can pass from the positive mother to the baby. According to a study published in the Jama Network, 33 babies who were born to Covid-19 positive mothers, were diagnosed with the infection.

In March 2021, newborn twins (born to Covid-positive parents) tested Covid-19 positive in Vadodara, India. Doctors are of the opinion that although the exact method of transmission of the virus is yet not clear, vertical transmission cannot be ruled out completely.

When is it safe to get pregnant after testing positive for Covid-19?

Covid-19 infection can last for weeks, there is no sure time measurement that can declare you completely safe. It is important for you to realize that indulging in any sort of intimacy in a haste can put your partner at risk of getting the infection too.

If you have tested positive, wait until your symptoms go away. It may take anywhere between 1-3 weeks. During this time, it is important that you isolate yourself and follow all the suggestions including food and medications as directed by your doctor.

You may develop fever, dry cough, headaches, or an altered sense of smell and taste. Wait until all these symptoms vanish and your body starts functioning normally. Once the symptoms disappear, get a test done. If your Covid-19 test results are negative, you may try with your partner to get pregnant.

Testing positive for Covid-19 is unlikely to have any negative impact on your menstrual or ovulation. So, there is hardly anything that you need to bother about in terms of your ovulation or fertility window. However, it is best if you and your partner consult with an experienced gynecologist before trying to get pregnant to rule out any potential complications.

The safety guidelines are no different for women undergoing IVF or those who are planning to undergo fertility treatments. When you embark on a fertility treatment journey such as IVF or IUI, you want to make sure you have the best chances of success. To minimize your risks of successful pregnancy and to ensure the best of health and care for your baby, it is important to be involved in thorough consultation with your fertility specialist.

Is planning to conceive during the Covid-19 pandemic a right decision?

Honestly, this is completely a personal decision. The world is not going to be 100% free from the Covid-19 infection anytime soon, and that’s a fact. If you get pregnant now or plan to get any time during the pandemic, there’s a very high chance that your baby will be just fine.

While that side of the story remains sorted, the difficulty lies in other non-health-related factors. Many hospitals worldwide have drastically reduced the number of attendants or have prohibited visitors including family members during the pandemic. Many gynecologists have asked pregnant women to follow strict quarantine after 37-weeks of pregnancy.

The need for social distancing and self-isolation may often interfere with the ability of the family members to extend any help to the pregnant woman. This also means that the loved ones cannot be there to offer to help right after the birth of the baby.

These situations may lead to or add to existing stress and anxiety during pregnancy.

There is no one who can currently guarantee when the world will be back to normal. There are many couples who are putting their decision to become parents on hold. If you are concerned about your fertility or ability or conceive, experienced gynecologists may help you with insights and make your journey to parenthood much easier.