Navigating COVID-19, Fertility and Pregnancy for Older Women

If you’re trying to get pregnant, the last thing you need is more stress.  This article is specifically for older women trying to get pregnant who are facing fertility challenges during the current coronavirus outbreak. 

Disclaimer:  Nothing in this article is meant to treat or cure the coronavirus.  This is my opinion as a clinician specializing in natural medicine for women trying to get pregnant for over 20 years.  My suggestions should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor immediately if you have any concerns.

I write this article for women over 35 or 40 years of age in particular because the chronic stress level is already high from the frustrating, long, and often expensive fertility journey. 

The additional worry due to the current global health crisis must be managed so that when life goes back to a more normal semblance, it will not have a long-term impact on your fertility.

At a time of such uncertainty with constantly changing situations to contain the coronavirus pandemic, it’s vital to stay calm.

Take a deep breath.  

Be the lighthouse during a storm when others are panicked, unsure, and scared.

We have been through similar challenges and we will rise above it.  In fact, we will be even stronger for it, using this opportunity to improve our response to future occurrences.

In the meantime, reassure yourself that your body is designed for well-being.  It WANTS to be healthy so you can thrive. 

We take it for granted that our bodies are masterpieces in self-healing.  For the most part, our bodies go about its own business without us having any awareness of it.  Part of its job is to protect you from unseen potential threats from the external and internal environment.

Your own body hosts trillions of microorganisms encompassing thousands of different species, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.

In a healthy person, most of these microbes are harmless and are, in fact, essential in normal human body functions.  However, a person can become more susceptible to illness if a potentially harmful “bug” is not balanced by good guys. This article is about ways to maintain that delicate harmony.

Fertility and the Concern with Coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses identified in the 1960s that include the common cold, pneumonia, MERS, and SARS. 

Because coronavirus is a new pathogen that emerged from China in December 2019, we know little of it and what to expect.  It’s this uncertainty and how contagious it is that has created such panic.

As a new virus, no one has prior immunity which in theory means that the entire human population is potentially susceptible to infection.  Currently, there is no vaccine for the disease caused by the coronavirus called COVID-19.

Although there is no specific treatment, because symptomatically it’s so similar to the cold or flu, it’s likely that the same measures used to prevent and treat those known illnesses may also apply to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  The most common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches.

So what can you do?  The best offense is a good defense, which is taking care of your immune system–especially when you’re in your 40s trying to conceive.

Potentially harmful microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, parasite, fungi, etc. have existed since before humans roamed the earth.  They far outnumber us. Their biggest advantage is not their sheer number but rather their ability to adapt and change quickly to the environment due to their short life cycles.  In the case of the coronavirus, it has the additional threat of being able to spread from animals to humans.

Despite their many advantages, we have continued to thrive.  That’s because traditional medicines such as Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic, and indigenous herbal medicines all over the world to name just a few have survived thousands of years because they focus on well-being.  Without modern technology such as microscopes to identify microbes, they had to develop ways to keep a person healthy regardless of the cause.

This is how we know that natural therapies can help in any circumstance, even if we know very little about the actual pathogen, in this case the coronavirus.

How to Boost Your Immune System While TTC

What do you do when you get sick with the cold or flu to speed up recovery?  You drink lots of fluids, eat nourishing foods like soups and stews, and get plenty of rest.

Why not do the same things as a preventive measure to bolster your immune system so it can better fight off any virus that’s a threat?  

  • Drink lots of water and herbal teas to detoxify your body.
  • Eat nutrient dense foods including vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins to provide the building blocks for a strong immune system (and baby, of course!)
  • Get eight to nine hours of sleep to give your body the time it needs to heal and repair itself so that every part is functioning at its optimum.
  • Eliminate sugar from processed foods and reduce sugars found naturally in foods.  Sugar suppresses the immune system.

In addition, preventive supplements are an excellent addition to your daily routine to strengthen your immune system.  

  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin D 
  • Zinc
  • Selenium 
  • Vitamin E 

Interestingly, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E are important for fertility as well.

Ways to Prevent COVID-19 Infection to Increase Fertility

In addition to these proactive measures, certain lifestyle changes will reduce your exposure to any harmful pathogen, including the coronavirus.

  • Wash hands with soap more often and for 15-20 seconds.  Hand sanitizer can be used when hand washing is not available but is NOT as effective so don’t rely on it.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Avoid handshakes.
  • Self-quarantine if you are sick or suspect you may have come into contact with an infected person.  
  • Minimize close contact with others.
  • Reduce stress.  

Stress Management for Fertility Success

The stress associated with uncertain times can compound the existing anxieties you feel on your fertility journey, increasing your susceptibility to infection.

Here are a few things you can do to manage your worries:

  • Limit your exposure to the news and social media regarding the coronavirus outbreak.  Stay informed on the important developments but don’t get caught up in the play-by-play drama of the news cycle.

    Get your scientific information from proven reliable sources like the CDC and WHO who are dealing with this on a mass scale and therefore have a broader perspective.

    Avoid those who are capitalizing on this situation to get their 10 seconds of fame, even if the information sounds compelling.  Although they may be trying to be helpful, too much information on one end of the spectrum without being balanced with a positive, reassuring message only serves to inflame fear.

  • An effective stress reliever is to meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes.  It will anchor you so you can gain peace during challenging times. Meditation is as simple as focusing on your breath so that your thoughts can clear.
  • Understand the numbers and put them into perspective for reassurance.Hopefully, the current mortality rate of 3.4% will decrease as more people are tested.  Currently, due to the scarcity of tests in the U.S., people with mild symptoms are less likely to be tested and so are not accounted for.

    A study of more than 72,000 COVID-19 patients in China shows a total mortality rate of 2.3% with 0.2% for ages 30-39 and 0.4% for ages 40-49. Mild cases were found in 81%.  (source)(source)

    Some countries like South Korea show an even lower fatality rate of less than 1%, possibly due to their extensive testing. (source)

As self-quarantines and social distancing become the norm for the immediate future, take this time to practice self-care .  With or without the coronavirus, self-care is essential, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant.  

As the word states, self-care starts at the source…you.  It is about taking care of yourself so that you feel replenished, healthy, and vital, especially in a time of uncertainty.  When you align with who you are meant to be, you attract more of that same vibration into your experience.  You can give unconditionally without the need for something in return. You can be intimate with your partner for the connection, rather than from the need to create a baby. 

A baby is the purest expression of unconditional love.  Be in love with yourself first so that you can create the manifestation of that love. 

The key is to maintain your health with the above preventive measures and be prepared with the suggested remedies below if you do get sick, with the cold, flu, or coronavirus.  

Focus on staying healthy rather than looking for illness in every dark corner. 

Don’t give in to your fears.  That includes resisting the urge to hoard food and supplies.  Get what you need to make you feel comfortable but be reassured that we have plenty to go around.  We live in a community. Be kind and considerate. You are putting others, including your friends and family, in danger when you prevent others from getting what they need.

Remember…be the lighthouse.

Have the courage to focus on abundance where there’s plenty for everyone. 

As a vital woman in her 30s and 40s (the prime of your life), you are healthy and very likely able to fight the virus effectively.  

Practicing self-care ensures that you are at your best physically, emotionally, and spiritually so you’re better able to stay healthy under ANY situation.

Potential Remedies After COVID-19 Infection

Because the coronavirus causes a respiratory disease , know your warning signals at the early subtle stages of a respiratory infection.  If you can catch it within the first 12 hours, that’s your best window of opportunity to ward it off.  It might start with a scratchy throat, feeling more tired without a reason, sneezing, coughing, or congestion.  Start the natural remedies immediately and take them consistently until your symptoms subside. 

Some remedies that I have found clinically effective and worth trying are:

  • Boiron Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic over-the-counter supplement used to relieve fatigue, headache, body aches, chills & fever
  • Elderberry extract (study)
  • Essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree, and thyme have been used for centuries due to their antiviral properties.  (study)  They can be applied as a rub or inhaled with steaming or vaporizer.
  • Saunas are an excellent way to sweat out external pathogens in the early stages when they are still superficial and haven’t penetrated deeper into the lungs.

These are all safe recommendations during the pre-conception, pregnancy, and postpartum stages.

Ask your natural health care provider (e.g. acupuncturist, chiropractor, naturopath, herbalist) for tips on their favorite remedies to boost the immune system. 

Even though the coronavirus is very new and not much is known about it, many natural remedies with anti-viral properties may be effective against the coronavirus.  For most people with COVID-19, the symptoms are mild. It’s likely that the same remedies to treat other viruses like the cold or flu will also have similar effects on the coronavirus although there have not been enough time for studies to substantiate this assumption.  In fact, China has had success with chinese herbal formulas in COVID-19 recovery. (source)

If you experience more severe symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent lethargy or a fever that won’t break, call a doctor.  Both the coronavirus and influenza can cause a bacterial co/secondary infection such as pneumonia, an infection of the lungs that can be life-threatening in infants, children, and people over 65.

Travel During IVF or Pregnancy Not Advised

If you're worried about traveling, don't do it.  The stress of it isn't worth it.  I don’t recommend traveling during your two week wait after an IVF transfer or during your first trimester anyway, regardless of any outbreaks.  This is especially true now.  

If you must get on a plane, take your preventive supplements starting a few days before your flight to boost your immune system.  Continue them while you’re traveling since the very act of travel is stressful and can lower the immune system. 

If you're worried about catching it from someone, avoid being in the presence of others.  Wear a mask when going outside. 

If you do get sick, focus on getting better and not on what can go wrong.  Implement my suggestions above.

Social Distancing While TTC & Pregnancy Tips

While limiting your personal contact with others is recommended at this time to contain the virus and slow its spread, do not isolate yourself.  As social creatures, we are hard-wired to be with others.

Isolation can lead to and worsen existing depression and disengagement. These conditions can take a long time to recover from, affecting your fertility for months or years.  

Women must have a close-knit community of friends and family to thrive, especially during a time when traditionally we have received a lot of support such as pre-conception and pregnancy.

Video call often to connect with others.  Don’t rely on text messages or social media platforms which are typically more superficial.   Share funny memes to decrease anxiety. Go out into nature for a hike with your loved one to recharge.  Inject some fun into your routine wherever you can to smooth this all out.

When the physical distance limitations are lifted, get together in person with others as soon as possible to reaffirm your relationships.  

At the end of the day, focus on what you can control.  Your body is beautiful and designed to thrive.  Do not affirm illness, only well-being and healing.  Said another way, focus on health and wellness, not disease and death.

If you found this article helpful, please share with others so we can spread more calm.