The ones planning for a baby have a new concern that is looming at large. Both men and women need to be extra cautious about the coronavirus as it seems to pose a hindrance to the reproductive health. According to research, there is a higher risk of pregnancy and childbirth disorders in the cases where the mother has contracted Covid-19. Men have noted reduction in the sperm count and impairment of sperm, for three to four months, post recovery from Covid-19. However, in case the virus damages the germline sperm cells (the cells which are responsible for creating new sperm), that can have lasting effect on male fertility and even lead to birth defects in the baby.
According toDr. Souren Bhattacharjee, Consultant and Centre head, Kolkata Birla Fertility and IVF Centre, Kolkata, “There is evidence that suggests that coronavirus has notable impact on male and female fertility. Men showing the symptom of high fever lasting for more than three days, have faced fertility problems. In cases of moderate to severe Covid-19 infections, there are threats of decrease in sperm count, testicular inflammation, sperm duct inflammation, and testicular pain. Covid-19 can infect multiple organs of the body through two proteins-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors and transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2). These proteins act as bridge between the organ and virus. The testesproduce both these proteins, making them susceptible to virus contraction and cell damage. In case, the virus is able to interact with blood-testis barrier, the fertility is reduced. Any infection, especially the one involving high fever has the potential to affect ovulation in women.There are chances that women who have just recovered from Covid-19 have noted that there are changes in their hormone levels or menstruation cycle.The hormone level returns to normal almost within 4-5 weeks after recovery. Fortunately, most people of reproductive age are protected against severe cases of Covid-19 and almost 1% of them suffer from severe fertility complications. If you have recovered completely, you can surely go ahead with family planning. There are several associated elements with Covid-19 which might trigger the fertility problems. The stress and anxiety due to working from home, together with constant fear of the pandemic might negatively impact the reproductive health of individuals.
He further added on Covid-19 complications on pregnant women and added, “Contracting Covid-19 during pregnancy increases the risks of maternal mortality, preeclampsia (high blood pressure and damage to organs like liver and kidneys), preterm birth (delivery of babies before 37 weeks), and still birth. There have been cases of new-borns with foetal distress or requiring assistance under intensive care unit, after maternal Covid-19 in third trimester. These complications were noteworthy during the infection by Delta variant of coronavirus. Since almost all the symptoms of the new Omicron variant are the same as its forerunner, pregnant women or couples willing to plan a child need to be aware of these. There are chances that the new-born may weigh less than 2.5kgs or in extreme cases, may die before birth. Pregnant women above 35 years with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure,are at a higher risk of developing complications after Covid-19 infection.The growing embryos have the risk of contracting the Covid-19 infection through vertical transmission (from infected mother directly to the foetus) or horizontal transmission (during artificial fertilisation process like IVF. The cells of embryos contain receptors for coronavirus increasing the chances of them getting affected. In case a woman tests positive for Covid-19 during IVF treatment, the process should be halted until complete recovery. Since there is a chance that the virus can be transmitted from mother to the embryo, we suggest patients to delay the treatment for two months approximately.”
Covid-19 recovered patients, planning for a baby must seek assistance and counselling from fertility experts. Couples need constant counselling sessions ensuring their fitness and good health. In any case, vaccination is extremely important and should not be compromised under any circumstance. Covid-19 vaccines are absolutely safe and do not affect fertility in men or women.
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