With COVID-19 (coronavirus) wrecking havoc with our daily life – closing businesses and schools, canceling vacation plans, and postponing celebrations…one thing that it has also greatly affected is fertility treatments.
COVID-19 and fertility treatments have been severely impacted in one way or another. With stay at home orders and only essential services operating, a lot of people wanting to conceive through assisted reproductive technology were at a standstill.
For those undergoing fertility treatments, timing is everything. You get a specific schedule on when you’re supposed to take each of your medications, inject your shots, take a blood test, and go in for your ultrasound scans. You take a trigger shot at precisely the right time or else procedures get canceled.
No one thought we would be in the midst of a pandemic in 2020 that would shut down many people’s journey to conceive through artificial reproductive techniques. Even more frustrating for those using a donor or surrogate or even adoption.
I know when I was undergoing fertility treatments, I did my very best to not catch a cold or stay away from others who were feeling sick. If I was even feeling slightly under the weather, I would stay home. And I made sure my husband did the same. We wanted to be in our most optimal health with strong immune systems going into our fertility treatments.
How this pandemic affected people undergoing fertility treatments resulted in clinic closures, delayed or postponement of procedures, and ultimately a longer wait to conceive.
As always, seek the advice of your fertility specialist on what is the safest next step forward for your fertility journey.
On March 17, 2020, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) published a guidance document on fertility care during the COVID-19 pandemic calling for suspension of new treatment cycles, cancellation of all embryo transfers, and suspension of elective surgeries. These were the key recommendations –
1. Suspend initiation of new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF) including retrievals and frozen embryo transfers, as well as non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
2. Strongly consider cancellation of all embryo transfers whether fresh or frozen.
3. Continue to care for patients who are currently “in-cycle” or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation.
4. Suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures.
5. Minimize in-person interactions and increase utilization of telehealth.
The reasoning behind this was the safety of patients and medical providers as well as to not inundate hospitals (since they were dealing with an influx of COVID-19 patients). Many hospitals were overwhelmed; many were to full capacity and in desperate need of necessary personal protective equipments (PPEs).
On April 9th, ASRM and SART (Society for Reproductive Technology) released a very helpful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) announcement. Click the link below to get a better understanding and may help give you some needed answers if you’re thinking of fertility treatments at this time.
Opening with Safety in Mind
On June 8th, ASRM published Update #6 providing additional clarification and information regarding third-party reproduction, fertility services for health care workers, having partners present when providing care, travel restrictions, and resumption of reproductive surgery.
It was important to reopen fertility clinics with safety in mind. Therefore, masks were mandated to be worn inside clinics, both by patients and service providers, temperature checks, and pre assessment questionnaires to determine possible symptoms were done to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Also, husbands or partners could not accompany women to receive their treatments. This was difficult for many women – the emotional toll of undergoing fertility treatments and to have to go to appointments alone can be even more stressful. You want to feel supported and share ultrasound scans or fertility news firsthand.
But thanks to technology, many husbands or partners joined in via Facetime or videoconferencing to hear long awaited results.
Two Week Wait
For those who have undergone fertility treatments, they are familiar with the two week wait which can seem like forever.
Two weeks is the wait time period to determine if the transfer was successful by doing a blood test to check levels. Waiting to receive news if you’re pregnant or not is very stressful no matter what. To combine that with all the fear and anxiety brought upon with the COVID-19 pandemic – all that can greatly affect your mental health.
It is important to take care of your mental health especially at this time. To have to wait even longer to build your family can be a setback to your plans, but have faith that your safety and health is your clinic’s priority right now. Click below to find tips on how to improve your mental health if you’re undergoing IVF treatment.
Effect of COVID-19
With lots of time and money invested in fertility treatments, people want to be in their most optimal health when undergoing fertility treatments. A lot of people were frustrated due to the delays in their treatments.
Most fertility clinics are opting to test patients for COVID-19 before proceeding with fertility treatments. If a person has a positive test result, treatments cannot begin or are postponed.
Not much research has been done yet to determine the effects of COVID-19 on fertility treatments, pregnancy, and the unborn child. What doctors do know is that full term newborns delivered from mothers with active COVID-19 infections have done well overall. However, severe illness, including COVID-19, may lead to premature labor and birth.
More data will be known in the coming months as more fertility clinics reopen, treatments proceed, and babies are born.
Updated guidelines for patient management and clinic recommendations during this pandemic are set to be released on August 10, 2020.
Be Kind and Be Safe
Everyone’s life changed, whether you were impacted directly or indirectly, due to COVID-19.
Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, practice good hygiene and maintain social distancing. We’re all living in such unprecedented times. We can get through this together.
We may be practicing social distancing, but let’s not be socially isolated. Check on your loved ones. Seek support – you are not alone in your fertility journey.
So let’s be kind to each other and be safe. As my mom, always said “your health is your wealth.” We can all help stop the spread of coronavirus.
If you or a loved one was affected by COVID-19 and had your fertility treatments postponed or canceled, I would love to hear from you. What helped you get through such trying times? If you need a listening ear to vent or just some positive support, I am here for you.