The coronavirus has changed almost everything about people’s daily routines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social distancing guidelines recommend that people avoid public gatherings, stay indoors as much as possible, and limit their social interactions. If you’re quarantining with your significant other, you have a lot of time to watch movies together, eat frozen dinners, and hook up (not necessarily in that order). In fact, with all this time on your hands, you may be having more sex than usual. But as to whether it’s safe to get pregnant during the coronavirus outbreak, that information is still unclear.
COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) is still new, so much is unknown about its effects on people. “All that we know right now is extremely limited data,” explains Dr. Lauren Streicher, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University.
A March 16 study of four babies in China found that COVID-19 was not transmitted from mother to baby at the time of birth. The CDC says the virus has not been detected in samples of breast milk or amniotic fluid. The CDC also reports "a small number of reported problems with pregnancy or delivery in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during their pregnancy," like pre-term birth. However, it is yet unknown whether the virus itself is to blame for this, or whether these issues might have been due to unrelated pregnancy complications.
However, as Streicher points out, “there’s a very big difference between a term baby versus a baby in development.” The CDC website states it currently does not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the coronavirus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. “Certainly we know there are infectious issues that can cause problems with growth and development of the baby,” Streicher points out. Certain bacterial infections, viruses, and untreated STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea have been linked to birth defects and pregnancy loss.
Tristan Bickman, MD, OB/GYN and author of Whoa, Baby!, tells Elite Daily that “as far as we know, it is safe to get pregnant during the coronavirus outbreak.” However, Streicher urges caution if you’re planning to conceive. “I would put it off until we have a little bit more data,” she says. “But that’s not based on anything. We don’t know.”
It's worth noting that pregnancy involves regular doctors appointments, which means you'll have to take more trips outside and be surrounded by more people. If you are immunocompromised or quarantining with someone who is at high risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, this might not be something you want to do.
If you’re currently pregnant, the CDC recommends doing the same things as the general public to protect yourself: avoid people who are sick, wash your hands often with soap and water, and cover your cough with your elbow. “Isolate yourself and do everything you can to not be exposed,” Streicher says. You can always call your doctor if you’d like individual advice. An OB/GYN can answer questions about whether it will be safe to deliver the baby at a hospital, or whether home birth might be right for you.
If you are pregnant and want to get an abortion, you may have to do a bit of extra work to find care. According to Planned Parenthood's website, the organization continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19, but it does not clearly specify whether all clinics will remain open throughout this crisis. The National Abortion Federation recommends calling the clinics in your area to confirm their operating hours when you make an appointment.
As far as your sex life goes, you don’t have to put all physical contact on hold. If you’re self-isolating with a monogamous partner, you can be intimate as long as neither of you has been around any potentially contaminated situations in the last 14 days. “As best we know, the COVID virus does not seem to be transmitted in semen,” Streicher notes. But it can be transmitted through an infected person's respiratory droplets and the mucous membranes in the face, so kissing someone who might have been exposed to the coronavirus might not be the best idea. “I’m not going to tell someone not to have sex if it’s someone they’re intimate with on a daily basis anyway,” Streicher says. “Is this the time to go out and have sex with strangers? Probably not.”
Bickman encourages her patients to exercise caution when having sex. “Make sure to remain as safe as possible and use protection,” she urges. Use your regular method of birth control, and don’t have any sexual contact with someone you aren’t already quarantining with. As the months progress, more data will likely emerge about the specific effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy. Until then, it’s up to your individual discretion as far as how to proceed. “For me, I would say, put [pregnancy] on hold for a month or two,” Streicher says. “If you’re already pregnant, you just have to wait for information to come in.” Do your best to stay safe, isolated, and healthy while scientists continue to learn more about the virus’ effects.
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 Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.
Dr. Lauren Streicher, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University