Is now a good time to get pregnant?

All Woman
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BEING at home with a spouse for an extended period, for many, will result in more romantic activity. And when caught up in the heat of the moment one might even be tempted to think, 'Well, COVID-19 won't be a problem in nine months time, so I might as well get pregnant now.' But doctors are warning that while you take steps to avoid contracting the virus, that you also consider taking steps to avoid a pregnancy for now.?p>

Consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Jordan Hardie says it is not an ideal time to get pregnant, even if the pandemic is under control by the time you expect to deliver.

“I would definitely advise any couple thinking about conception to consider delaying at this moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “We as health care providers are learning more about this new condition daily, and as more information becomes available it may indeed show that there is an increased risk to our pregnant patients.”

Dr Hardie pointed out that the information available thus far does not show that pregnant women are at increased risk of getting sick with COVID-19 or having complications during delivery, but he was quick to note that the spread of the virus has been affecting access to health care globally, and he anticipates that it will have the same effect locally should our number of cases continue to escalate.

“What you must consider before embarking on a pregnancy during this time is access to care,” he highlights. “Will you be able to access care at a time when the health care services are under so much strain?”

As an example, he pointed out that the blood bank is currently experiencing a shortage of blood products which may become critically needed in delivery.
“This lack of access may complicate the labour and delivery process,” he says.

But what if you are already pregnant? What now?

Dr Hardie reassures that you do not need to panic. It is imperative, however, that you take all the necessary steps to protect you and your developing foetus from the virus.
“Precautions pregnant women can take are primarily related to good hygiene,” he says. “These include frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and having their environment as clean as possible to reduce the chance of exposure to COVID-19.”

In addition, he recommends general health care steps that will improve your wellness during pregnancy, which may reduce your need for hospitalisation along the way.
“Adequate nutrition and moderate exercise are essential,” he prescribes. “The volume and intensity of the exercise programme will be dependent on the expectant mother's pre-pregnancy fitness level, and should be discussed with both your ObGyn and physical trainer.”

In addition, Dr Hardie recommends that pregnant women discuss birth plans with their doctors very early in the pregnancy, and prepare for any eventualities.

“Mothers should have open dialogue with their health care providers to be able to identify if and when they need to go to the hospital whether for delivery or for treatment of any condition that affects the mother-to-be during pregnancy,” he says.

“By being able to identify red flag signs they will be able to reduce risk of exposure to mother and foetus by ensuring that she only visits the hospital when absolutely necessary."

On an optimistic note, he adds that some hospitals are already making adjustments to maternity wards to prepare for COVID-19.

“Most maternity wards, and in the case of Victoria Jubilee Hospital, have taken steps to identify and separate COVID-19 patients from patients who have not been exposed to COVID-19,” he says reassuringly.

So far, the World Health Organization has not stipulated any drastic changes for the delivery and breastfeeding processes for mothers who test positive for COVID-19. The global body recommends, however, that the mother and health care workers present should practise respiratory hygiene to avoid exposing the newborn to the virus.

"But COVID-19 is teaching us a lot as a society, not just as physicians. We have to think short, medium and long term,” Dr Hardie says. “I definitely recommend contraception or abstinence for the time being, but of course every couple's situation is unique, so each couple considering pregnancy should have a very detailed conversation with their doctors.

Dr Jordan Hardie is an obstetrician/ gynaecologist located at 37 Windsor Avenue in Kingston. For more information e-mail drjhardieOBGYN@gmail.com or call 876-505-5829.

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