Why do we need this research?
The coronavirus pandemic that emerged in December 2019 has had a huge impact on the antenatal care provided to pregnant women in the UK. While a lot of research is being carried out to understand the effects of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, it is also important to understand how the pandemic has influenced women’s decisions about when to try and conceive.
What happened in this project?
Tommy’s recently launched an online ‘Planning for Pregnancy’ tool to give women information about how to have a healthy pregnancy. Women are asked to give information about their current health. This information includes things like their age, weight and height, whether they drink alcohol or use drugs, and if they had any complications in a previous pregnancy.
To find out more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women’s decisions about when to try and conceive, our researchers asked women who had used the online tool to fill in a questionnaire to assess their pregnancy planning behaviours. They received responses from just over 500 women and found that while 9 out of 10 of them were still planning a pregnancy, around half of them said that the pandemic had affected their plans. Of these, 7 out of 10 had decided to delay trying for a baby. The main reasons for this were concerns about the changes made to antenatal care because of the pandemic and worries about the effects of the virus on both mother and baby. Some women also had problems getting contraceptive devices removed during the pandemic or were unable to access fertility treatment services.
Interestingly, nearly 3 in 10 of the women whose plans had altered had actually decided to try for a baby earlier than originally intended. This was primarily because of a change in priorities during the pandemic or the cancellation of other plans.
What difference will this project make?
We now know that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many women to change their plans around when to try for a baby. This includes women both delaying and bringing forward their plans to conceive. For women to receive the best support possible during this time, it will be important to ensure that there is continued provision of family planning and fertility services throughout the pandemic.