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8 women on navigating the decision to conceive during the COVID-19 pandemic

8 women on navigating the decision to conceive during the COVID-19 pandemic

7 min read

This article was last updated on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 at 7:00pm.

When thinking about your reproductive goals during uncertain times, there are so many factors that can go into your decision making. For one, there’s the information we have (so far) about the coronavirus and pregnancy. We also have advice and recommendations from doctors and clinics. But, this is your body and your life we’re talking about — so, ultimately, the decision comes down to what feels right for you.

As Dr. Lucy Hutner, a reproductive psychiatrist and member of Alma, puts it: “Women and pregnant women are subject to a lot of unsolicited advice. Your heart is your heart — and only you know your heart.”

Because the decision to postpone or continue trying for kids right now is such a personal one, we’re sharing how eight different people made this very important choice for themselves.

First, let’s recap what we know about COVID-19 and pregnancy

Here’s a recap of everything we know so far about the relationship between the coronavirus and pregnancy:

  • Research is still ongoing and there have not been any studies done to see if contracting the COVID-19 infection now will make it harder to get pregnant later.
  • At this time, pregnant women don’t appear to be at a higher risk for contracting the virus.
  • If you don’t have COVID-19, there is no medical reason to change your plans about trying to conceive — and while we know the healthcare system is under a lot of pressure right now, it's impossible to predict just how access to prenatal care will be impacted.
  • If you don’t have COVID-19 and are pursuing assisted reproductive technology (ART), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has recommended that clinics postpone all elective procedures, including intrauterine insemination (IUI), in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and non-urgent egg or embryo freezing. But in regions where there are reduced transmission rates, the ASMR now says those areas may consider reopening fertility clinics after they assess disease analysis and hospital capacity.
  • If you meet the diagnostic criteria for COVID-19, it’s recommended that you avoid getting pregnant and wait until the illness subsides before pursuing ART.
  • Everyone, including pregnant women, should be exercising precautions to avoid infection.

To get pregnant or not to get pregnant during the coronavirus outbreak: how 8 Modern women made their decisions

Over in the Modern Community, members of the Slack channel dedicated to the coronavirus outbreak (aptly named #covid_19) are opening up about their thoughts on trying to get pregnant (and pursuing ART) right now. While each individual’s circumstances are, of course, totally unique to them, we hope you get some comfort from learning how others are making their own decisions.

Joy is waiting until the COVID-19 outbreak is over to start trying for kids

"I’m worried about bringing the virus back home from the hospital, and am saddened at the thought that he might not be able to have a more active role in the pregnancy, like going to doctor’s visits." – Joy, 26

Joy, 26, used to feel confident that she and her husband would keep trying for kids “no matter what." When the COVID-19 outbreak first began, she didn’t anticipate that she would change her mind — but she knew was nervous about how her husband’s immune system (which is compromised from type 1 diabetes) could impact pregnancy:

“I’m worried about bringing the virus back home from the hospital, and am saddened at the thought that he might not be able to have a more active role in the pregnancy, like going to doctor’s visits,” she explains.

Recently, she made the difficult decision to put off trying for kids. “I think I will be cheering other people on from the sidelines who are pregnant and who are able to get pregnant without risk [while I wait]. It won’t be the same, but it will be something,” she says.

Lauren’s plans for conception were put on hold by ASRM guidelines

“I am frustrated and emotional after trying for a year and a half to get to this point, only to have to stop … for an indefinite amount of time." – Lauren, 37

Since the outbreak is putting a strain on the healthcare system at large, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommended that fertility clinics postpone assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures like egg freezing or in-vitro fertilization (IVF) — unless doing so puts the patient at risk. Because of these new guidelines, many women who were planning on trying to conceive through ART in the near (or far) future — or had already begun the process — have to delay treatment.

(On April 24, 2020, the ASRM published an update saying it is now up to "national, regional, state, and municipal regulations produced by authoritative health organizations and agencies" to determine their next course of action in regards to reopening fertility clinics, "based on their analysis of disease transmission and hospital capacity data.")

Lauren, 37, was scheduled to begin ovarian stimulation for her first egg retrieval and IVF cycle (after six intrauterine insemination cycles) before her IVF coordinator told her that the clinic was postponing all new cycles. Though Lauren agrees with the decision — in fact, she and her husband were going to postpone treatment anyway to avoid exposure to the virus and decrease their stress levels during the outbreak — she’s feeling anxious about the unknown.

“I am frustrated and emotional after trying for a year and a half to get to this point, only to have to stop … for an indefinite amount of time,” she says. For Lauren, focusing on what’s happening in the moment provides her with some comfort: “I am taking everything one day at a time, managing anxieties and expectations,” she says.

Milena and Maggie have hit pause on freezing their eggs

“I basically went through all the stages of grief in the span of 12 hours. I was devastated, confused, and felt hopeless," – Maggie, 26

After learning that her AMH was low, Milena, age 35, reached out to a local fertility clinic to talk about egg freezing.

“I received a call from them that they will not be starting new freezing cycles for patients like me. They'll do it only for people that are going to have chemotherapy or [have] another immediate fertility risk,” she says. Like Lauren, Milena’s worried about her delayed ART plans “because of the uncertainty of how long the outbreak is going to last and when the healthcare system will revert back to normal.” To help ease her anxiety, Milena is staying home as much as possible, going for hikes with her dogs, and maintaining her fertility supplement regimen.

Maggie, 26, was 10 days into Lupron injections (which trigger the release of follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH) and two days away from ovarian stimulation when her clinic called to tell her the entire cycle was canceled until further notice.

“I basically went through all the stages of grief in the span of 12 hours,” she says. “I was devastated, confused, and felt hopeless.”

Now that Maggie’s had some time to process, she’s trying to approach the situation with positivity. “This decision was obviously made with the health and safety of reproductive patients in mind — and I trust that this is the right decision,” she explains. She’s staying positive (and active) by dancing around her house to her favorite songs. She’s also making sure to take good care of her body so that when her cycle can begin again, she’s ready to go.

In the end, she says, “I am glad that this decision was made to preserve my health and the health of my future little one.”

Ana is still on the fence

“We don't want to be in a situation where we start trying nine months from now, only to find out 12 months later that we have a problem." Ana, 31

When Ana, 32, first began trying to get pregnant with her husband, the COVID-19 outbreak was starting to get more serious. She reached out to her doctor for advice and was told to consider waiting until the healthcare system was under less pressure.

“This made us decide to pause our attempts — at least in the beginning,” she says. But now, she’s not so sure they’ll stick with that choice. “Our decision is still a bit fuzzy,” Ana says. “First, we thought waiting would be the best course of action, but now, knowing that the pandemic is likely to last a long while — and not knowing how long it would even take us to get pregnant — we're wondering if we should keep trying.”

Ana says that she and her husband feel conflicted about what to do, but they’re leaning toward continuing to try. “We don't want to be in a situation where we start trying nine months from now, only to find out 12 months later that we have a problem,” she explains.

ShaRhonda and Maria are continuing to try to get pregnant

“At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision that only you can make. You have to do what’s best for your family." – ShaRhonda, 40

Some women have made the decision to keep going with their plans for trying, like ShaRhonda, who’s 40. “[I met with] two REs (reproductive endocrinologists) who both told me it wasn’t impossible to get pregnant, but it would take some time,” she explains.

Because ShaRhonda thinks that her road to parenthood could be a long one, she doesn’t want to prolong the process by waiting out the pandemic. “Stopping for us does not make sense,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision that only you can make. You have to do what’s best for your family.” ShaRhonda and her husband are taking precautions, like staying home and using supplements, to keep themselves safe and healthy throughout the outbreak.

Maria, 36, who’s a project manager in the tech sector (and a natural planner), explains that with her husband’s below-average sperm count and sperm motility, as well as her “slightly high” FSH level (which she discovered through the Modern Fertility test), conceiving without any fertility treatment may take some time — and if they end up pursuing IVF, it would likely take a few rounds of egg retrieval. As a result, she and her husband have decided to keep trying for now and possibly consider ART in the future, once the clinics are fully operating again.

The bottom line

ShaRonda said it best: Deciding whether or not to keep trying for kids is a very personal decision — one that only you have the power and right to make. So, keep yourself updated on what’s going on (but don’t glue yourself to the news), know that we’re always here for you with support and information, and do whatever feel’s right for you. You’ve got this.

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Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs is a writer and editor at Modern Fertility. She lives with her creamsicle cat, Jasper, in New York City and doesn't believe in the concept of TMI.

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