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After lockdown: How to prepare for pregnancy

Fertility expert, Kate Davies looks at what you can do to prepare for pregnancy after lockdown.

As I write this, we have just completed a year the country entered its first COVID-19 lockdown. What a year it has been for us all. Although many of us were, and still are, affected by COVID-19, the impact on couples trying to conceive has been hard. Initially, all fertility treatments were cancelled with devastating effect, and women trying to conceive naturally were unsure whether they should continue.

Now, as we begin to see the light at the end of this very long tunnel, fertility treatments have resumed, and women and couples are back trying to conceive naturally. However, I am hearing a great deal of reticence about trying to conceive during our' new normal' and how this will look. In this article, I will be covering some of the common concerns raised by women and what you can do to prepare for pregnancy after lockdown.

Back to the office

Working from home has actually made it easier for many women when navigating fertility treatments and trying to conceive – an unexpected benefit of the pandemic! The lack of a lengthy daily commute has reduced stress levels and fatigue. Many of you have felt it easier to attend fertility appointments without having to take a day off sick or make up a plausible excuse for your absence.

Returning to the office will inevitably place these pressures firmly back into reality. However, in our 'new normal' it might be possible for you to negotiate flexible working with your employer. After all, if nothing else, the pandemic has shown employers that we can all work effectively from home. So don't be afraid to ask if you can work from home for part of the week and arrange your fertility appointments around this time, and at the same time enjoy less of a commute to keep those stress levels and tiredness in check.

Lockdown weight gain

Very few of us have come out of lockdown without the extra lockdown pounds. However, now is the time to do something about this and get 'pregnancy ready actively.' When trying to conceive, ideally, your body mass index should be in the normal range of 18-25, and research shows us that having a BMI over 30 can reduce fertility in both men and women.

The reopening of gyms and exercise classes will be a great incentive to help get you 'pregnancy ready'. The reopening of bars and restaurants will be a welcome opportunity to enjoy life again and stop feeling that life is on hold. However, be mindful that you should keep alcohol consumption to a minimum (or none at all) when trying to conceive.

In-person pregnancy announcements and baby showers

Pregnancy announcements and baby showers can be agony when you're struggling to conceive. During lockdown, pregnancy announcements and baby showers were limited to social media posts and Zoom videos. You had the option to switch off from social media and say no to Zoom baby showers if you felt like it. Now we're facing the reality of in-person announcements and baby showers again.

If this becomes too much, you can adopt your lockdown policy of saying no if this is what protects you. Dodging pregnancy announcements is more difficult as you never know when they're coming. It's important to know that it's possible to feel sad for your own situation while still being pleased for your friend or family member. Communicating this to the pregnancy announcer will help them understand why you're not jumping for joy or always able to talk excitedly about their latest news.

COVID-19 vaccine and fertility: Should you have it?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisations (JCVI) have stated there is no evidence to suggest that women trying to conceive should delay in having the vaccine. In part due to misinformation, vaccine hesitancy is very real in women of reproductive age. As we get closer to women in this age group being offered the vaccination, this will become more evident. A possible increase in the risk of blood clotting problems in people under 30 who have the Astra Zeneca vaccine has recently been identified, so pregnant women under the age of 30 will receive an alternative vaccine from the NHS.

A joint statement from the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians states that there is no plausible mechanism by which current vaccines could cause any impact on a women's fertility. There is no evidence to show that women who have received the vaccine have gone on to have fertility problems2. This is echoed by the British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists, which states, "there is no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men "3.

So, in short, yes, get vaccinated as soon as you receive your invite for your vaccine. Protect yourself, your family, and friends against COVID. And there is also absolutely no reason to delay trying to conceive.

Take the first stepin getting ready for pregnancy

For women planning a pregnancy, healthy levels of reproductive hormones and vitamin D are essential to ensure the best possible outcome.Our Pregnancy Progress Blood Testis the perfect starting point, it looks at biomarkers that might affect your chances of getting pregnant, like low vitamin D or a thyroid disorder. It also checks your female reproductive hormones are at levels that can support ovulation and pregnancy.

Already started your fertility journey but struggling to conceive? We offer a wide range of fertility tests that can support you on your fertility journey. From gaining insights into future fertility to investigating female and male fertility problems such as erectile dysfunction and PCOS, we have a test to help.

References

1. NHS (2020) Infertility https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/ last accessed 16/3/21

2. Royal College of Midwives (2021) Statement from the RCM and RCOG on COVID-19 vaccinations, fertility and pregnancyhttps://www.rcm.org.uk/media-releases/2021/january/statement-from-rcm-and-rcog-on-covid-19-vaccinations-fertility-and-pregnancy/ last accessed 17/3/21

3. British Fertility Society (2021) COVID-19 Vaccines and Fertility https://www.britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/2021/02/09/bfs-arcs-covid-19-vaccines-fertility/ last accessed 17/3/21