Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Women’s Health Care: A Message for Patients
Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Experts are learning more every day about the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is following the situation closely. This page will be updated as ACOG learns more about how the spread of COVID-19 affects health care for women. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you can find more information at Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients.
Please note that while this is a page for patients, this page is not meant to give specific medical advice and is for informational reference only. Medical advice should be provided by your doctor or other health care professional.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new illness that affects the lungs and breathing. It is caused by a new coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, cough, and trouble breathing. It also may cause stomach problems, such as nausea and diarrhea, and a loss of your sense of smell or taste. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after you are exposed to the virus.
What does COVID-19 mean for routine health care visits to my gynecologist?
While the virus spreads, your gynecologist or other health care professional may change your regular checkup. If you don’t have any urgent concerns, your checkup may be delayed until there is a lower risk of being exposed to the virus. Or you may be able to talk with your gynecologist over the phone or on a video call. This is called telemedicine or telehealth. Any health care visit changes will depend on many factors, including:
your health (are you having urgent symptoms?)
how much the virus is spreading in your community
your access to the internet and a computer or a phone
your health care team’s resources
When should I still see my gynecologist in person?
You may need to be seen in person if you have an urgent concern about your health or safety. Here are a few examples of urgent issues that may need in-person care right away:
a fever or vaginal infection that is unrelated to COVID-19
symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, including pain in the pelvis, abdomen, or lower back
problems with recovery after a recent surgery or other procedure
severe vaginal bleeding
This is not a complete list. Call your gynecologist or other health care professional if you have any symptoms that bother you. Call 911 or go to the hospital if you are having an emergency.
Do I need an in-person visit to get birth control?
You may be able to get birth control without having an office visit. You do not need a physical exam or testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to get a birth control prescription. But if you want an intrauterine device (IUD), a birth control implant, or sterilization, you will need an office visit. Your gynecologist may suggest birth control pills, a vaginal ring, or another user-controlled method until an office visit can be scheduled. Talk with your gynecologist or other health care professional about these options.
Does abortion require an in-person visit?
If you are in your first trimester, you may be able to have a medication abortion. This involves taking two pills, either at home or at an office visit. It is safe to take the pills at home, but you still may need an office visit to pick up the pills. This is because of how the pills are regulated (you can’t get them in a pharmacy). You also may need an office visit if you need or prefer an abortion procedure, rather than a medication abortion. (See Induced Abortion to learn more.) Access to abortion may depend on state and local laws. But abortion is essential health care that should not be delayed because of COVID-19.
a birth control prescription, including emergency contraception
help with menopause symptoms
mental health care
help with abuse at home (called intimate partner violence or domestic violence)
to discuss your options if you find out or think you are pregnant
a routine check-in after a surgery or other procedure
Access to these services with telemedicine may depend on
what your state and local laws allow
whether your health care team is set up for telemedicine
whether you have access to the internet and a computer or phone
How does telemedicine work?
If you have access to the internet and a computer or phone, your gynecologist or other health care professional may ask you to have a virtual health care visit. They will talk with you about how this works. They may ask you to download a video calling app or use one that you already have, such as FaceTime or Skype. If you need help, they can teach you how to download and use the app. Or they may just use a phone call. You also may be asked to do a few things at home, before or after the visit. They may ask you to send them a photo, such as a picture of a wound that is healing after surgery. Or they may ask you to take your temperature or blood pressure at home. They would tell you how to do this and how to get the tools you need to do it. Your health care team should give you directions for anything they ask you to do. If you need more help, be sure to let them know. And no matter how your visit is done, your health care team should keep what you share with them private.
What visits may need to be postponed?
While COVID-19 is spreading, your regular checkup may be postponed (see above). Some routine screenings also may be postponed. For example, if you are due for routine mammography but do not have a high risk of breast cancer, your screening may be rescheduled. Screenings and checkups should continue when there is a lower risk of exposure to the virus. Some infertility treatments also may be delayed. Talk with your gynecologist or other health care professional about this possibility.
What surgeries may need to be postponed?
While COVID-19 is spreading, some surgeries may be postponed to free up health care resources and to protect you from the disease. This may happen if you live in an area where many people have COVID-19, and if you would not be harmed by the delay. Talk with your gynecologist or other health care professional if you have a surgery scheduled.
What should I expect if I have an office visit scheduled?
If you have a visit scheduled, your gynecologist’s office may call you ahead of time. They may tell you about telemedicine. If you are going to the office, they will ask if you have symptoms of COVID-19. You also can call them before your visits if you do not hear from them.
Can I bring my partner or children with me to an office visit?
Call ahead before bringing anyone with you, including your children. Your health care team may have changed their policies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
What if I have COVID-19 and need to see my gynecologist?
If you have COVID-19 or think you may have it, you should call your gynecologist or other health care professional before your visit. You may need to reschedule your visit to avoid spreading the virus. If you have an urgent issue for your gynecologist (see above), they may be able to schedule you for the last appointment of the day or see you in an area that is separated from other patients. They also should tell you about any policies that may have changed, such as whether you can bring your children with you. When you go to your appointment, wear a mask if possible.
Eating healthy meals (see Healthy Eating).
Exercising regularly (see Staying Active, though be mindful to stay at home or away from other people while exercising).
Getting plenty of sleep.
Avoiding alcohol and drugs (see Alcohol and Women).
How can I manage stress, anxiety, and depression?
Some women may be feeling fear, uncertainty, stress, or anxiety because of COVID-19. Reaching out to friends and family during this time may help. Phone calls, texts, and online chats are safe ways to stay connected. There also are treatment and support resources you can access over the phone or online. Talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional about how to get help if you’re having symptoms like these:
Feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, or helpless
Having fear or worry, which may cause a fast heartbeat
Feeling that life is not worth living
Having repeated, scary, and unwanted thoughts that are hard to get rid of
If you are in crisis or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, call 911 right away. See the Resources section for other support options, including helplines you can text or call. Physical activity also may help your mental health. And it may be useful to focus on your breathing each day, especially if you are feeling anxious. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat three times.
I am being abused at home. How can I get help?
Times of crisis can be very hard for people in abusive relationships. Abuse at home is known as intimate partner violence or domestic violence. If you need help, you can call your gynecologist, other health care professional, or the 24-hour, toll-free National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233) and 800-787-3224 (TTY). Or you can text LOVEIS to 22522 or use the live chat option at www.thehotline.org.
I want to get pregnant. Should I wait because of COVID-19?
This is a personal choice. You can make the decision based on your health, the potential risks of COVID-19, and other factors. Researchers are still learning how COVID-19 affects pregnant women. Current reports show that pregnant women do not have more severe symptoms than the general public. But people with some health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, lung disease, or heart disease, have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on current research, it is not likely that COVID-19 passes to a fetus during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. But more research is needed on this. After birth, a newborn can get the virus if they are exposed to it. Talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional about how your pregnancy care and childbirth may be affected while COVID-19 is spreading.
What if I have other questions about pregnancy or breastfeeding?
See Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Coronavirus (COVID-19): A hub for the latest information on what everyone needs to know about the coronavirus and COVID-19.
How to Prepare: Learn how the virus spreads, how to protect yourself and your family, and how to manage anxiety and stress.
If You Are Sick: Guidance on what to do if you have COVID-19 or think you may have it.
Travel: Frequently asked questions for travelers and travel notices for each country.
National Association of County and City Health Officials
A tool to help you search for health departments in your area. Your local health department can advise on COVID-19 testing, travel, and other local matters.
National Abortion Federation Hotline
Free hotline for information on abortion care and funding support.
Find abortion care: 877-257-0012
Funding support and other resources: 800-772-9100
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline
1-800-985-5990 (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
Text TalkWithUs to 66746
Offers crisis counseling for people in emotional distress and referrals to local crisis call centers for follow-up care and support.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (7233) (TTY 800-787-3224)
Text LOVEIS to 22522
Live chat and more information: www.thehotline.org
Birth Control Implant: A small, single rod that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm. The implant releases a hormone to prevent pregnancy.
Diabetes Mellitus: A condition in which the levels of sugar in the blood are too high.
Emergency Contraception (EC): Methods that are used to prevent pregnancy after a woman has had sex without birth control, after the method has failed, or after a rape.
Gynecologist: A doctor with special training and education in women’s health.
Infertility: The inability to get pregnant after 1 year of having regular sexual intercourse without the use of birth control.
Intrauterine Device (IUD): A small device that is inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
Menopause: The time when a woman’s menstrual periods stop permanently. Menopause is confirmed after 1 year of no periods.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Infections that are spread by sexual contact. Infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, syphilis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]).
Sterilization: A permanent method of birth control.
Trimester: A 3-month time in pregnancy. It can be first, second, or third.
If you have further questions, contact your obstetrician–gynecologist.
Copyright April 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current
information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a
substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.