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Navigating conception and infertility in a pandemic

For anyone planning or hoping for pregnancy in the coming months, a pandemic just adds to an already stressful situation when it is difficult to conceive. Whether or not to put plans on hold or to seek infertility treatment – or even determining when it is time to consider that treatment – can be a momentous decision. 

Though much is still unknown about COVID-19, there does appear to be encouraging news for those trying to grow their family. 

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” John Payne, a reproductive endocrinologist with PREG – Piedmont Reproductive Endocrinology Group, said. “We’ve never had experience with this particular virus before.”

Payne said there is limited information from experiences that pregnant women had with similar illnesses, such as SARS and MERS. 

“There doesn’t seem to be direct spread from the mother to the baby,” Payne said. “We don’t think that being pregnant increases a woman’s risk of getting the virus.”

Pregnancy outcomes are still thought to be good, even with the virus, but obviously that can be different if a woman becomes critically ill.

Payne said people can certainly still try on their own to become pregnant or they can wait if they are concerned, but currently there is no recommendation to delay. Early on in the pandemic, Payne said some practices did shut down or delay infertility treatments where there were other concerns, such as shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“At PREG, we’ve been offering all of the treatment that we can do, as safely as we can,” he said. “We don’t have to wear the same level of PPE.”

Payne said safety measures have been put in place, such as screening patients for exposure to the virus, checking temperatures and having patients wait in their cars for appointments rather than in a waiting room. Some appointments are also handled virtually, if appropriate.

For those who are or will soon be in treatment for infertility, Payne said it might be best to reduce the risk of exposure as much as possible because treatment would have to be delayed if a patient is positive for COVID-19, so staff and other patients are not exposed. 

For those who have been trying to conceive on their own, it can be tough to know when to seek some outside help.

“The basic definition of infertility is unprotected intercourse for one year without conception,” Payne said. 

For those women who are age 35 or older or who have had a pregnancy before and have been trying to conceive for six months, it can be important not to delay. Other factors, such as irregular periods or prior infertility negate the need to wait to seek an evaluation. At any point, patients should feel free to consult with their physician.

“When we see them for an infertility evaluation, we’re trying to see if they have the minimal things happening that are needed to get pregnant,” Payne said.

Learn more about when to seek help for infertility and possible treatment options at and 

Stay up-to-date on the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s COVID-19 patient resources at