Six Tips for Coping With Infertility and COVID-19
With the recent suspension of most medical treatments for infertility in the United States, people are worried. They’re concerned that their chances for having a child are decreasing. They’re wondering if they will have to go back to square one when it comes to getting treatment. And they’re concerned that COVID-19 could have negative effects for in utero development and for newborns. If they have embryos stored, they worry about them.
While all of these concerns are legitimate, the reality is that there are things that individuals and couples who are trying to get pregnant can do for themselves, even while medical care is unavailable. Here are a few ways to cope while IVF and other procedures are on hold.
- Get in shape and eat right. One of the biggest causes of infertility is obesity. According to the National Institutes of Health, a body mass index (BMI) over 30 “plays a significant role in reproductive disorders, particularly in women. It is associated with anovulation, menstrual disorders, infertility, difficulties in assisted reproduction, miscarriage, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.” If you’re going to be inside for the next few months, use the time to get physically fit.
- It’s not just for women. So many people trying to overcome infertility focus on the health of the mom-to-be, but male partners have a key role. Obesity can negatively affect sperm count, so healthy eating and exercising are important. If you’re stuck at home, it’s a great time for men to focus on their physical health. Adding antioxidants to your diet is also important. Things like vitamin C, vitamin E and foods like green tea and berries should be staples for the next few months.
- Take your supplements. Strive to have a healthy diet that includes recommended supplements. A regular multivitamin with omega-3 acids, folic acid, and zinc is important. There are many resources out there, some that contradict each other, so be sure to ask your reproductive endocrinologist for his or her opinion.
- Don’t smoke and drink. According to NIH, excessive alcohol consumption is a major factor in infertility, both for conception and long-term embryonic/fetal viability. Likewise, tobacco use has negative effects for men and women trying to get pregnant. If you’re a smoker, your doctor has probably told you to quit to maintain your overall health; if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s imperative.
- Focus on the basics with your partner. Try to focus on the positive aspects of each other and your relationship. Take a fixed time, say 30 minutes a day, to talk about COVID-19 and another 30 minutes to talk about your fertility. In addition to exercise, try some meditation, talk to your partner about other things and support each other as best you can when the other person is having difficult moments. While there are no data suggesting coronavirus harms early pregnancy, an abundance of caution would suggest not getting pregnant until we know a little more to confirm it is safe to get pregnant. A lot of research is going on regarding this, so hopefully there will soon be reassuring research published. But that does not mean you cannot be sexually active and work to rekindle your sexual relationship and intimacy outside of fertility attempts.
- Stay in touch with your clinic. You might not be able to see your reproductive endocrinologist for the next few months, but stay in touch by phone, email and telemedicine. Make sure you are ready to proceed as soon as your IVF clinic starts seeing patients again. We don’t know when this will occur, but we do know it will be as soon as safely possible.
In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s understandable to be afraid and worried. Pausing to process the emotional impact of your fertility treatment journey is one of the most important things you can do right now. Many medical procedures are on hold, and so it is also important to understand that now may not be the ideal time to get pregnant until we know more. But by taking a few steps on your own, many people can prepare themselves for when fertility treatments do resume.