Dr. David Adamson, M.D., is a world-renowned, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist who founded ARC Fertility in 1997. He is a Clinical Professor, ACF, at Stanford University School of Medicine and recognized as one of the country’s top doctors for women. He is past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and a former board member of RESOLVE, the leading nonprofit fertility organization for patients.
The journey to becoming pregnant can be full of worry and fear. For those undergoing fertility treatments, who have had them put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty is immense. While it’s difficult coping with the wait, there’s reason to hope that patients may resume their treatments in a matter of weeks.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recently updated its Patient Management and Clinical Recommendations During The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, which has recognized the need to establish a timeline for a return to infertility care. That’s great news for patients. This means that clinics are now planning how they can open again. Most importantly, physicians and staff are prioritizing health and safety. They’re figuring out the mapping of their facilities so that they can keep staff six feet apart, and they’re identifying PPE resources and protocols for their use. Clinics are also establishing guidelines for patient management to keep individuals physically in the clinic as little as possible, and they’re finding ways to use telehealth and other technologies to continue communications. With plans in motion, it’s likely that some clinics will start seeing a few patients in the next week or two. How fast this happens will depend somewhat, of course, on federal, state and local requirements for social distancing and essential services.
Clinics are also establishing guidelines for patient management to keep individuals physically in the clinic as little as possible, and they’re finding ways to use telehealth and other technologies to continue communications.
So, what can women and men do right now to prepare for when fertility treatments do restart?
It begins with some perspective. While most of the focus is traditionally on women when considering the causes of infertility, male partners also factor in significantly. In fact, approximately one-quarter of infertility is attributed primarily to the male partner and another one-quarter of the time he is a contributing factor to his partner’s problems. About 40% of the time the major issues are attributed to the female partner. For the remaining 10%, the reason is unknown.
It’s important then that while waiting for treatments to resume, both women and men focus on a few key areas to ensure they’re giving themselves the best possible chance to get pregnant.
While there isn’t enough evidence to link stress directly to infertility, it has been proven that the byproducts of stress—lack of sleep, weight gain, unhealthy eating habits—negatively affect the chances of getting pregnant. Some studies have even suggested that mindfulness practices and yoga could benefit women trying to get pregnant. Though more research needs to be done to prove this definitively, learning breathing and mindfulness techniques, or practicing yoga are still beneficial for decompressing and reducing stress and helping to manage infertility.
Fueling your body with wholesome, nutritious food is a relatively simple way to prepare for a pregnancy. Since obesity can be an underlying cause for infertility, it’s crucial to adopt healthy eating habits now. A diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, like zinc, vitamin C and folic acid, should form the basis of meals and snacks. It is important to note, however, that it is not helpful, and may be harmful, to take excessive amounts of vitamins.
A diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, like zinc, vitamin C and folic acid, should form the basis of meals and snacks.
Avoid excess alcohol
In general, drinking heavily will negatively impact your chances of getting pregnant. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking, which is roughly four drinks for women and five drinks for men in an approximate two-hour period, five or more times per month. Moderate drinking is defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. So, while there’s nothing stopping you from having an occasional drink, if you’re looking to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant, heavy alcohol consumption is something you should consider cutting out right now. And, of course, it is imperative for women not to drink when pregnant.
There could be many reasons why people don’t get pregnant. But in times of uncertainty, we can still focus on areas where we do have some control. Prioritizing your mental and physical health are things you can do right now while you wait for fertility treatments to restart. Stay hopeful, because we’re seeing good indications from leading organizations like the ASRM that it’ll be weeks, not months, for fertility treatments to start again.