IVF and Fertility Treatments During Coronavirus Pandemic
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has approved a FAQ’s document that was written by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Reproductive Health and Wellness Center wants all of our patients to have as many resources as possible available during this pandemic.
On March 17, 2020, ASRM released recommendation guidelines to fertility clinics nationwide for how fertility doctors and their treatments should proceed with the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines, in short, recommended to finish any fertility treatments in progress and to delay starting any new treatments. We are keenly aware that this is frustrating for people who have been trying to grow their families and leaves so many questions; therefore, we wanted to share this communication with current and future patients.
Frequently Asked Questions on ASRM COVID-19 Guidelines
Will postponing my fertility care affect my ability to get pregnant?
It is extremely difficult to consider postponing your fertility treatment. Most people have gone through tremendous loss and grief by the time they get to the place where they are doing an IVF cycle. In addition, navigating the cost and insurance coverage aspects is daunting. Now that you are at this point in your family building, you are dealt a huge unknown with the COVID-19 pandemic, and how you should proceed, or start, this medical treatment. It should be somewhat helpful to hear that there is no evidence that delaying treatment for a month or two will ultimately affect your ability to have a child, even if you have concerns about advanced age and/or diminished ovarian reserve (low egg supply). The Recommendations will be continuously reviewed and updated, as we know that many people do have concerns about waiting longer than two months. Right now, the Recommendations are through March 30, 2020 and will be reviewed and updated thereafter.
I hear that elective medical procedures in my geographic area are supposed to stop; are IVF and other fertility treatments considered “elective”?
No one providing your care believes that any fertility treatment is elective. Infertility is a disease, and treatment of infertility is medically necessary. There is a distinction between a treatment that cannot be postponed even for a few days (such as surgery for a ruptured appendix), and treatment that is time sensitive and extremely important (such as IVF) but not a medical emergency. Unfortunately, there is not a universal definition and we have seen many misleading terms used, even by state public health agencies.
We know that other important non-emergency treatments are also being postponed during this pandemic. Fertility treatment is not being singled out. Orthopedic surgery, eye surgery, kidney stone procedures, dental procedures, and many other treatments are also being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Can my clinic prevent me from getting infected by screening patients and staff?
As anyone who has been through fertility treatment or has prepared to begin fertility treatment knows, multiple clinic visits and procedures are required. Unfortunately, even if a clinic tries to screen patients and staff to lower the risk of Coronavirus exposure in the fertility clinic, there is no way to guarantee prevention of exposure. COVID-19 is now spreading through communities and is not limited to those who have traveled to certain countries. People who have the Coronavirus are contagious days before they develop any symptoms. The virus can be in the air that they breathe out and the air you breathe in. This risk is reduced by wearing masks and by increasing physical distance between people. However, even these precautions aren’t foolproof and do not guarantee your safety. We wish we could screen in a way that would make your treatment safe, but we honestly cannot.
Is there a risk that my cycle could be cancelled if I proceed with treatment now?
Some states and local governments are implementing mandatory “shelter in place” requirements, and it is likely that more restrictions are to come. A clinic that begins a treatment cycle could be forced to cancel it by their city or state regulations. Furthermore, healthcare workers who are exposed to the Coronavirus may not be able to come to work. It is possible that even if you begin to invest time and money into fertility treatment now, it could be cancelled due to governmental restrictions or lack of available staff.
Are my frozen embryos, eggs, or sperm safe?
Yes. There is no immediate threat to the safety of cryopreserved eggs, sperm or embryos. Clinics have policies and procedures to maintain the liquid nitrogen tanks containing frozen embryos, eggs, and sperm. Please ask your doctor if you have any questions about the systems in place at your provider’s clinic.
Should I take steps to avoid pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are NOT saying that women should not get pregnant during this pandemic. We also are not saying that there is no risk. The risks of acquiring the Coronavirus in the first trimester are not known and will not be known for some time. We do know that severe illness can lead to pregnancy complications. If you are already pregnant, it is important to take all precautions possible to reduce your risk of exposure to the Coronavirus by following CDC current recommendations, such as handwashing with soap, not touching your face, and practicing social (physical) distancing.
What can I do now?
If your practice offers a telehealth option, consider scheduling a consultation and begin to prepare for your treatment cycle. Seek insurance authorization for your treatment if possible. If you prepare now, you’ll be ready to begin treatment as soon as it is safe to do so.
Local Orange County Fertility Support
Free Fertility Virtual Consultations
Reproductive Health and Wellness Center is committed to staying open during these difficult times. We are following ASRM guidelines by offering telehealth or video conferencing consultations free to all southern California residents with extended evening and weekend hours. We understand that you may have unique questions that only a fertility specialist can help you with. Book a free fertility consultation online by clicking here.
Fertility Virtual Counseling
Our partners at Fertility Counseling Center are offering virtual therapy sessions for those who need counseling and support. For more information visit www.fertilitycounselingcenter.com.
Eating healthy is one of the more important things you can do to aide your fertility. Our in-house registered dietician and nutritionist, April Murray, is offering free 30 minute virtual nutrition assessments. For more information call (714) 646-6641.
We are here for you and in this together. This post will be continuously updated with more FAQ’s and revisions to responses if new information becomes available.