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Sex and the Coronavirus: Reader Questions, Answered

  • April 10, 2020

Just as not all antibiotics work for all bacteria, not all antiviral medications work for all viruses.

The confusion is understandable considering that two other medications used for H.I.V. — lopinavir and ritonavir, which act on the enzyme proteasehave been investigated as treatment for Covid-19. The first publication did not show benefit, but other research in continuing.

In the meantime, I would assume nothing but distance and hand-washing can protect us against Covid-19, while masks may help us protect others.

What are your thoughts on trying to get pregnant now? — Doug, 33, Somerville, Mass.

Based on limited data, pregnant people don’t seem to be at increased risk for serious illness from coronavirus. However, pregnancy increases the risk of serious outcomes for other respiratory viruses, like influenza, so pregnant people are currently considered an at-risk population for Covid-19. The risk of a preterm birth may also increase if you get sick with Covid-19.

With so many unknowns about what to expect when you are expecting during a pandemic, here are some considerations:

  • Pregnancy increases interactions with the health care system — blood tests, ultrasounds, blood pressure checks — and interactions with the health care system increase your risk of exposure to coronavirus.

    Many medical centers are trying to limit routine in-person visits for the safety of their patients and workers, and are instead conducting some appointments virtually; many are also asking that partners not accompany women to these appointments.

  • If you have an underlying medical condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure, or had a complication, such as preterm delivery, in a prior pregnancy, then you are at higher risk for complications in your next pregnancy and will probably need more access to the heath care system.

  • If you have an unforeseen pregnancy complication, you may need an emergency department. In addition to potentially increasing your risk of exposure, if the hospital is at capacity with coronavirus patients or has no supply of personal protective equipment, there may be an impact on your care.

While most people have uncomplicated pregnancies, I would consider those factors. Many of us have taken for granted the ability to get the medical care we need in a true emergency. We can’t do that anymore.

I’ve seen a lot of articles on sex and the coronavirus, and yet none include guidelines for those of us who are extremely high-risk for complications because of pre-existing conditions. Is sex OK for these groups? Is it better to avoid altogether? I have very severe asthma, some autoimmune issues and a recent history of recurrent, severe pneumonia. What should someone like me know about intimacy during corona times? — Phoebe, 26, Berkeley, Calif.

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