Deciding when to try to conceive a baby can be complicated during the best of times. Even when your jobs are stable, are you sure you’re really financially ready? Even if you’d like to wait a little longer, is your age starting to creep up enough that you worry your window may be closing? What about sibling age gaps and too-short parental leaves and too-high daycare costs? Now let’s throw a global health crisis into the mix, too, and see how we feel.
Whether to try to conceive at this particularly fraught moment in time is a topic I’ve seen discussed across parenting groups and wrestled with in published essays as it becomes clearer and clearer that the pandemic we’re facing isn’t going away in a couple of weeks or even months.
Stephanie Land writes for the Washington Post that after a recent, pre-pandemic miscarriage, she is struggling with whether to try again:
Thinking back to my meditative moment, how we were both so filled with hope, sitting in that dark room, holding hands and nervously laughing, I see how different it would be now. My husband wouldn’t be there for the ultrasound. In-person appointments with my doctor might not even be possible. The stakes for an easy, healthy pregnancy would be much higher. All the testing we had wanted because of our ages would possibly be deemed unnecessary. I would probably try to find a midwife who could facilitate a home birth.
Land’s points are all valid. What condition will our hospitals and healthcare professionals be in nine months from now? We don’t know. Will you be allowed only one support person in with you during labour and delivery? Or no support people? We don’t know. How will prenatal care and appointments be affected over the course of the upcoming weeks and months?
It’s likely all going to depend upon where you live, how effective social distancing has been, whether we see another big wave of infections and the policies of your specific doctors and hospitals—not to mention your own personal situation or medical needs.
I started researching this topic with the hopes of providing potential future parents-to-be with some solid advice on whether to move forward or press pause on your family-building plans. But even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t have much to offer by way of recommendations:
This is a personal choice. You can make the decision based on your health, the potential risks of COVID-19, and other factors.
Researchers are still learning how COVID-19 affects pregnant women. Current reports show that pregnant women do not have more severe symptoms than the general public. But people with some health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, lung disease, or heart disease, have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Based on current research, it is not likely that COVID-19 passes to a foetus during pregnancy, labour, or delivery. But more research is needed on this. After birth, a newborn can get the virus if they are exposed to it.
Talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional about how your pregnancy care and childbirth may be affected while COVID-19 is spreading.
That’s not especially helpful, but it’s the best the experts can offer right now, given how much we still don’t know or can’t predict. And the information is changing so rapidly that the New York Times is continuously updating this article about pregnancy and the coronavirus as new studies come out or new recommendations are announced. Even so, they can’t promise the information is always up-to-date.
I asked the parents in our Offspring Facebook Group how they’re approaching this decision, and unsurprisingly, the responses ranged from those who are pausing their attempts indefinitely to those who are waiting to see what the next couple of months bring to those who are going forward with their plans and hoping for the best.
Allison says she is waiting to see how things look in the next few months, particularly because of how the pandemic could add additional stress to a pregnancy:
“We were planning on trying for #2 soon, but are going to hold off for a few months and see where everything is at by the summer,” she says. “Hopefully by then we know more about the virus and how to fight it. I figure pregnancy is already stressful, but add all of these new stresses to it and that can’t be good for Mum or baby.”
Michelle, who has always wanted a second child and has had two miscarriages in the past six months says her doctor didn’t voice any reservations about her continuing to try to conceive:
“When I was pregnant before miscarrying in March, I was concerned about being pregnant during the pandemic,” she says. “But now that we’ve settled into somewhat of a routine working from home with a 2.5-year-old and no end in sight, I am comfortable trying to conceive and just taking precautions to prevent COVID-19.”
And then there are the parents who need fertility treatments in order to be more likely to be successful in conceiving—many have had to indefinitely postpone their appointments to start new treatment cycles. Or others, like Robin, who are coming to terms with the idea that holding off on trying “for now” might effectively end up being “forever”:
“We were supposed to start trying again in June as a final attempt (I’m 42),” Robin says. “I cannot imagine going in for OB appointments or giving birth in the next year… So maybe we end up with just one kid?”
And finally, there are those like Carrie who—after weeks of being isolated at home with the kids they do have—says, “I wanted to have three kids, but now that we are home all the time with two, I am not so sure.”
It’s a personal decision without a clear or “correct” answer. Do you hold off temporarily or indefinitely? Do you go forward because either time is of the essence or because potential changes to prenatal care, labour and delivery are things you’re willing to risk or accept?
Tell us in the comments: How are you and your partner deciding whether to try to conceive right now?