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FAQs: What Women Need to Know About Coronavirus

Last Updated on March 19, 2020


Hela Health works to provide women of all ages and lifestages with trusted, evidence-based information to make informed decisions for their health and wellness. During this uncertain time, our medical advisory board is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and continuing to review the guidance and recommendation of the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), American College for Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). 


This guide covers the following:


  • Things EVERYONE Should Know About Coronavirus

  • Fertility

  • Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

  • Caretakers


We will update this guide as possible and as new information becomes available.



Things EVERYONE Should Know About Coronavirus



What is the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?


A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. While there are some more common coronaviruses like colds, COVID-19 is different and has unique symptoms, signs, transmission, and treatment. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.


The virus likely was transmitted from an animal to a human, and the virus can feel like a bad cold or flu and can progress into a more severe pneumonia-like virus that impacts the respiratory system, or your ability to breathe.


What are some important facts to know about Coronavirus?


  • Time it takes for symptoms show: Latest data is showing 2-14 days from when a person is exposed to when a person develops signs and symptoms. On average, a person feels sick about 5 days after exposure.

  • The signs and symptoms of coronavirus: Fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Other sources have reported flu-like symptoms including dizziness, feeling achy, and vomiting.


According to the CDC, if you develop emergency warning signs of coronavirus, seek medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, and bluish lips or face.


If you are sick and feel you need a test for coronavirus, or in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case, there are tests available but you should call your healthcare provider for guidance on if you are recommended and eligible for a test. Keep in mind that there are limited testing supplies that vary by your state and community, so not everyone who wants a test may be able to access it at this time.


How is the virus transmitted?


COVID-19 is a new disease and everyone is still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States. However, it is thought that the virus spreads mostly from person to person contact, people who are within 6 feet of one another, as well as when a carrier coughs or sneezes. The virus is thought to have the highest risk of transmission when someone is the most sick, but there may be cases when the virus spreads from a person without any symptoms but is a carrier.


According to the CDC, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.


How contagious is coronavirus?


The virus is thought to easily spread to people around those sick and carrying the virus, more so than the common cold or flu. In addition, while at-risk groups largely have taken the flu shot, there is little protection against contraction of the coronavirus for vulnerable populations.


Is there a treatment for coronavirus?


There are no known, proven medications for the novel coronavirus at this time. According to ASRM, there are no antiviral drugs licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients. Some patients have received an investigational new drug, Remdesivir, through compassionate use outside of a clinical trial setting. At this time, it is unclear whether the drug can be used safely in pregnant or breastfeeding women.


What should I do if I have been around a person who later is diagnosed with coronavirus?


Call your local healthcare provider for guidance and advice, or use a telemedicine service to get the latest guidance on if it’s necessary to be tested and how to go about doing so. Each state and community has different access and procedures for testing. DO NOT proceed to your healthcare provider for an in person visit unless you are specifically advised to do so.


In addition to the test, if you are exposed, most employers, doctors, public health officials recommend a 14-day isolation or social separation.


Should I stay away from certain groups of people?


You might be worried that particular groups of people are carriers of the coronavirus based on ethnicity or people who were previously in quarantine. That fear and anxiety leads to unneeded discrimination and can fuel gossip that spreads rumors and myths. But no one group is more likely to carry or transmit coronavirus. We urge, alongside the CDC, to take overall precautions to stay safe and healthy by taking the proper precautions towards all people, no matter their ethnicity or previous quarantine status.


How can I prevent further infection?


First, follow and monitor CDC recommendations and follow the specific recommendations and directions applicable to your state. Today, the best way to prevent infection is:


  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer frequently while out of the house.

  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others. Many sources have suggested at least six feet of space.

  • Minimize socialization and practice social distancing to the extent possible to prevent contributing to the spread or getting sick. Try to stay home as much as possible. When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.

  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.

  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

  • Keep household surfaces clean as possible to prevent infection.

  • Stop handshaking.

  • If you may have been exposed to the virus, do not use any ride-shares, public transportation, or taxis.

  • f you must go to an urgent care center or the Emergency Room, be sure to wear a mask so as to prevent exposing others (or yourself).


In addition to CDC updates, closely follow the latest guidance and advice from your state and local governments.


How do I know if I am high risk?


Early data shows that older people as well as people with autoimmune disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at higher risk of contracting and getting very sick from coronavirus. PCOS and hormonal conditions are not known to make you high risk. Pregnant women are also considered high risk by the American College of Obstetrics Gynecologists (ACOG). There is no known difference between men and women at this time. Everyone is still learning more but if you fall into those categories, please visit the CDC page to see resources on how to prepare your home, community, and caregiver in the event you become ill.


If you’re high risk, the CDC doesn’t recommend face masks, and instead focuses on good hygiene and isolation for disease prevention.


What additional precautions can be taken if a woman is high risk?


In addition to best practices above, those who are immunocompromised should be vigilant to practice social distancing, take great care to practice good hygiene and hand washing, and place boundaries to family. and friends where necessary. What you can do to help others at this time is enough, no matter any limitation or personal guilt felt.


How can I manage stress and anxiety during this time?


This is an uncertain time for many, and your mental health is just as critical to protect as your physical health and wellbeing. First, know that your response is completely normal, whether you are feeling anxious, depressed, scared, confused, and more.


The CDC has a recommended page for managing stress. On Hela Health you can sign up for live, video peer support groups by topic totally free. There are also many online platforms for therapy with a professional psychologist, such as Talkspace, that has a special COVID-19 management program and a coupon code for $100 off services.


Fertility


Should I try to get pregnant now?


There is no guidance yet to avoid becoming pregnant at this time, though not enough is known about the risks to advise. If you or your partner experience symptoms or develop a fever, there may be an impact on sperm from elevated body temperature generally. You should speak with your healthcare provider for individual guidance.


What happens if I become pregnant while ill with Coronavirus?


Currently, very little is known about the impact of coronavirus on early pregnancy. It is really important to know that COVID-19 is very different and unrelated to the ZIKA virus which has known and clear implications for pregnancy and fetal development. Different providers recommend different courses of action as to whether to proceed with natural conception at this time or to avoid pregnancy. However, for those already pregnant, COVID-19 is not listed as a reason to terminate on it’s own by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine as of today (March 19, 2020).


What happens if I am currently undergoing fertility treatments?


Each clinic has its own policy on whether a cycle will continue or be postponed. However, the latest guidance from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has released the following guidance:


  • If you have not yet started a fertility cycle, it is recommended not to begin a cycle at this time. This includes ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF) for both egg retrieval and return and frozen embryo transfers (FETs), as well as non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.

  • If you have already started a fertility cycle, physicians are recommended to continue treatment but not to move forward with an embryo transfer, whether fresh or frozen.

  • If you require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation fertility, physicians are recommended to continue care.

  • If you have an elective surgery and non-urgent diagnostic procedure, such as in the case of a non-urgent fertility workup or egg freezing procedure, it is recommended not to start or continue at this time.


Note: While age and diminished ovarian reserve are time-sensitive, at present these are not