Growing a family is a stressful experience, even without a global pandemic in the mix. Many concerns arise during pregnancy, and those concerns can only multiply during a pandemic.
These concerns led Kindbody and One Medical to collaborate with Justworks on a webinar covering pregnancy and family planning during the time of COVID-19. Kindbody’s Dr. Fahimeh Sasan and One Medical’s Dr. Navya Mysore offered up some valuable information to help anyone who’s considering pregnancy during this time. Read on to learn more from the expertise that was shared in the session.
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Family Planning During COVID-19
Deciding to start a family is a big decision to make. Whether you’re making that decision on your own or with a partner, you’re likely to have questions. With the risk of COVID-19, the list of questions will probably grow.
For those wondering if it’s better to wait to have a child until a vaccine is developed for COVID-19, it’s important to remember that time is often not on your side. According to Dr. Sasan, 20% of women under the age of 35 have diminished fertility and aren’t aware of it.
There’s also no medical evidence to show that someone should not get pregnant specifically because of COVID-19, so it’s more important to get a fertility assessment to ensure there aren’t any biological factors that may impact your ability to become pregnant.
Building a Care Unit During COVID-19
Building your care unit, or support team, is an important decision to make. What might be a good fit for you might be a poor fit for someone else, so exploring your options is especially important while COVID-19 remains a concern.
In addition to having your spouse or partner and your healthcare provider as members of your support team, you might want to consider including other professionals as well. Dr. Mysore, for example, shared that she worked with a doula during her pregnancy and delivery.
“If you don’t feel comfortable with the OBGYN you’re with, or whoever is taking care of you during your pregnancy, definitely don’t be afraid to say something or do something about it,” Dr. Mysore said.
Pregnancy and Hospitals During COVID-19
The decision of where you’ll deliver your baby is another important one. If you’re considering a home birth in light of COVID-19, Dr. Mysore said to make sure you discuss your options with your obstetrician. Factors like your age, or the positioning of your baby, might make a home birth more of a risk.
“Depending on your medical history, you might not have the option to have a home birth, and it may be safer to have it in a hospital,” she said. With COVID-19 still an active risk, some people may have concerns around the safety of delivering in hospitals. Both Dr. Sasan and Dr. Mysore confirmed that, while it varies by location, hospitals are taking extensive precautions to decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Hospitals are screening you for symptoms of COVID when you do come in,” Dr. Mysore said. That said, it’s best to check the policy at your local hospital or chosen delivery location regularly to understand what measures are being taken while the state of COVID-19 continues to change.
It may also help to know that pregnant women are not believed to be a higher risk of getting COVID-19 as compared to the general population. According to Dr. Sasan, “there has not been shown any specific facts that COVID-19 puts pregnant women at higher risk.” She went on to explain there’s no evidence to show that COVID-19 causes any birth defects or causes any specific harms to pregnancy itself.
Pregnant women don’t need to get tested for COVID-19 unless they have symptoms, either. “COVID-19 hasn’t been shown to be a direct risk,” Dr. Sasan said, “and you don’t need to be tested more often or more frequently as a result of it.” As long as you’re washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and following social distancing guidelines, Dr. Sasan confirmed women don’t need to do anything differently simply because they are pregnant or planning to be pregnant. That said, any woman with other health concerns or underlying conditions should consult their physician to determine their individual level of risk for contracting COVID-19.
Given this fact, it’s important to maintain your check-up schedule. If you have concerns about the safety of visiting your healthcare professional in person, ask about virtual appointments or consider working with One Medical or Kindbody (or both) to facilitate virtual check-ups from the safety of your own home.
Seeking Postpartum Care During COVID-19
Check-ups aren’t just necessary before giving birth — they’re necessary after giving birth, too. Post-delivery, your mind and body will have just gone through a lot. The first few weeks of motherhood can often be a blur of emotions and new experiences, and the transition to the role of a mother may be tough to navigate.
“Often, you’re giving, giving, giving, and you’re not necessarily looking at yourself or taking the self-care that you need,” Dr. Mysore said. “We often spend so much time taking care of our baby, taking care of our family, making sure everything is the way you feel it should be.” If you’re shouldering all of that responsibility, it can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself.
Until recently, the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists used to recommend the first postpartum visit take place six weeks post-labor. That recommendation has been modified to 3 weeks after the Association realized the importance of having that check-in earlier.
Whether you’re struggling three weeks or three days after delivering your baby, don’t hesitate to seek the care and support you need.
That support can come in many forms, from lactation consultants and sleep experts to pediatricians or primary care physicians. It can be easy for new parents to blame themselves for common problems like breastfeeding difficulties. Dr. Sasan said that breastfeeding is actually a really difficult process, despite what the media may lead us to believe.
Regardless of where you seek support, the most important thing is that you make it a priority. As Dr. Sasan said, “If you’re not well, you’re not going to take care of your baby well. Those two things really go hand in hand.”
If you’re interested in family planning during COVID-19, try taking our short course on fertility through The Guidepost in addition to getting a fertility assessment. From there, you’ll have the knowledge you need to decide what’s best for you and your future family.
Fahimeh Sasan, M.D. is passionate about creating a new generation of women’s health and fertility care. She did her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC and has been practicing and delivering clinical excellence for 12 years. She was rated one of NY Times Top Doctors in 2016 and 2017.
Navya Mysore, M.D. is a primary care provider who works collaboratively with her patients, providing guidance and resources to help them achieve their health goals. She completed her family medicine residency and maternal child health fellowship at McGill University and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.