Reviewed by: Lauren Thaxton, MD, MBA, MSBS
Written by: Ashley Lawrence
With couples quarantining together over the last several weeks, many have joked about seeing a post-quarantine baby boom in the next 7-9 months. However, the concerns surrounding COVID-19 and pregnancy are no laughing matter.
If you and your partner are trying to conceive or currently pregnant, the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 may have you on edge. But have no fear, because obstetrician and gynecologist Lauren Thaxton, MD, MBA, MSBS, in UT Health Austin’s Women’s Health Institute is here to answer your questions.
If I’m trying to get pregnant, should I wait to conceive?
Predictions surrounding COVID-19 are largely based on information from other coronaviruses, which have led some medical professionals to believe COVID-19 will become a seasonal illness. If this is the case, delaying pregnancy won’t necessarily prevent you from catching the illness while pregnant in the future. However, research specific to SARS-Co-2 (the virus strain that causes COVID-19) is ongoing, leaving us with several unknowns about how pregnancy can be affected by the virus.
“If you are ready (or have been ready) to take this next step toward growing your family, we at UT Health Austin’s Women’s Health Institute are here to support you every step of the way,” encourages Dr. Thaxton.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation, and information will be updated as it becomes available. You can stay informed by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
What do I do if my pregnancy test is positive?
If you take a pregnancy test and test positive, reach out to your Ob/Gyn right away. Your next steps will depend on how far along you are and the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy. Your pregnancy may be considered high risk if you have risk factors for ectopic pregnancy or are experiencing abdominal pain or bleeding.
“At UT Health Austin, we are scheduling initial obstetric visits with our nurses by telehealth,” says Dr. Thaxton, “and your first in-person visit would occur between 11 and 12 weeks from your last menstrual period. This is assuming you are not at high risk, in which case we would schedule an in-person visit sooner.”
What will my appointments look like during my pregnancy?
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, our primary goal is your safety, which is why your appointments will consist of a mix of telehealth and in-person visits. Telehealth allows you to talk to your medical providers directly, face-to-face, and access information virtually from the comfort of your home, reducing your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Dr. Thaxton explains, “For most patients at UT Health Austin, half of your visits are going to be through telehealth and half of them will be in person. We only want to bring you in for necessary visits that consist of labs, ultrasounds, and exams that cannot be completed through telehealth.”
What precautions should I be taking if I am pregnant?
You should continue to take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended precautions of social distancing (staying a minimum of 6 feet away from others), washing your hands often, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face mask if you must go out.
“Try not to go out unless it’s absolutely necessary,” suggests Dr. Thaxton. “If you do go out, avoid high-peak hours, be sure to wipe everything down with disinfectant, wear a face mask if you can, and do your best to adhere to social distancing.”
What precautions are being taken by the Women’s Health Institute to keep me and my family healthy and safe?
At UT Health Austin, providers are required to fill out a symptom index screening questionnaire and have their temperature checked before entering the clinic. They must also wear face masks and face shields, stay six feet away from patients unless an exam prohibits that, and rely on telehealth to limit in-person visits.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve incorporated block scheduling, in which we are working in weeklong segments for each assignment. This reduces the patient’s risk of exposure as well as our risk of exposure (or our risk of passing on that exposure to the patient). Unfortunately, this changes our availability at UT Health Austin and may cause appointments to be shuffled around. We are asking for your patience and flexibility as you may see a different provider or be asked to reschedule,” informs Dr. Thaxton.
Learn more about the enhanced safety precautions in place at UT Health Austin.
The Women’s Health Institute is also conducting telehealth appointments for contraception counseling, whether it be for information on choosing the type of contraception that’s right for you or concerns, such as irregular bleeding, while using a particular contraception. If you’d like to make an appointment with UT Health Austin’s Women’s Health Institute, call 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-883-2737) or visit here.