COVID-19: Fertility & Pregnancy FAQ

At Fertifa, we understand the importance of transparent and impartial advice throughout the fertility journey. Undergoing assisted fertility treatment can be incredibly stressful and the situation in the UK with COVID-19 may exacerbate this further.

The HFEA, the fertility industry’s regulator, acknowledges this, and has written an open letter to all patients which can be found here: https://bit.ly/2yeZ7OQ

The physical and mental wellbeing of your employees and our patients is our top priority. While we may not have all the answers in this ever-evolving environment, we are able to draw on decades of experience and literature to try to answer any questions you, or your employees, may have.

Get in touch with us at info@fertifa.com if you have any other concerns, questions or want further information. We’ve outlined some of the most common questions we’ve received below, answered by our Medical Director, Dr. Gedis Grudzinskas.

What are the latest guidelines in the UK when it comes to undergoing Fertility Treatment?

The British Fertility Society (BFS) released guidance earlier this month stating that all fertility centres across the UK should begin to wind down, with treatment to cease as soon as practically possible. The HFEA has echoed this, meaning that patients who have yet to start a cycle will most likely have spoken to their clinics already to postpone.  

The aims of suspending treatment are twofold. Firstly, to be in line with the reason many businesses have stopped trading, is to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Secondly, reduce the number of pregnancies, thereby decreasing the burden on the stretched NHS.

At this stage, there is little evidence to suggest that COVID-19 poses any greater risk to fertility patients or those currently pregnant.

No new treatment cycles will begin, including the thawing of gametes, embryo transfers, egg collections or freeze-all, for the foreseeable future until further guidance is released from either the BFS or the Association of Reproductive Clinical Scientists (ARCS).

For those that are currently in the middle of a fertility cycle, your fertility clinic will have already been in touch to discuss next steps. It is recommended that this continues as normal, but that you take the government and NHS advice and precautions around minimising your risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

I have frozen embryos at my fertility clinic – If the country is in lockdown, how can I be assured that they will remain viable during this time?

If you have any form of frozen gametes stored with a fertility centre, you can be assured that there will be various systems in place to ensure they remain secure/viable during this time. 

All fertility centres are regulated by the HFEA and will have the appropriate security systems and technology in place (including monitors, alarms and back-up generators) to ensure that cryostorage continues reliably throughout this time.

While we have been advised by the government to restrict our movements across the country, a skeleton rota of lab staff will continue to work during this time. Checks will be made on your stored gametes and embryos to ensure and they will remain viable until you are ready to undergo your frozen embryo transfer.

What should I do if I’ve had to postpone by cycle? I’m worried my success rates will decrease as my AMH level is already quite low.

The fertility journey for every individual is unique and it’s difficult  to predict success rates for a single patient at any given point in time. The quality of a woman’s ovarian reserve does diminish, typically slowly, over time, but it varies significantly from patient to patient.

The other challenge is that we don’t know the next steps will be in UK – the government’s latest update on 23 March 2020 requesting all non-essential shops to close and for the public to stay at home unless necessary. We hope that fertility clinics will be allowed to resume treatment cycles  in the next three to six months.

We empathise with patients who have had to postpone their cycle and suggest that they contact us. We can support through education, counselling and fertility coaching during this stressful time.

Are pregnant women more at risk of catching COVID-19?

Social isolation is recommended to decrease exposure and risk – even more so, given that  pregnant women are more prone to infection. We know that due to the changes of pregnancy—decreased lung capacity and changes in the immune system—pregnant women are potentially at increased risk of severe disease if they acquire COVID-19.

We recommend that patients should call 111 if they have a persistent cough, slight fever or are generally feeling unwell.

Can COVID-19 affect the birth of the baby?

Prolonged high fever in the first trimester can increase the chance of certain complications. However, there are no studies at present in relation to the specific impact of COVID-19 on either pregnancy complications or birth defects. 

Can COVID-19 be transmitted via breastfeeding from the mother to the baby?

Direct guidance from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website states that:

“Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. However, much is unknown about COVID-19. Whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers.  A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is a symptomatic should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast.  

If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.”

How can Fertifa support me during this time?

We pride ourselves on the quality of service that we provide our patients – which includes the level of expertise of our nurse practitioners and doctors as well as the technology and services that we offer.

For those that are currently waiting to start of their next cycle, we recommend getting in touch and booking appointments with some of our holistic services – including fertility coaching, nutrition and acupuncture. We want to help our patients manage stress the best we can during this trying time.

For those who are thinking about starting treatment, we can offer various tools to kick-start your journey. We offer a free 15-minute consultation with one of our fertility experts over the phone, and also offer in-depth online consultations with our doctors.

Our patients get access to Hormone and AMH home testing kits, reducing the need to come into a clinic for diagnostic testing. We’ve also partnered with ExSeed to offer sperm testing kits from the comfort of a patient’s home. All results can be discussed with us over the phone or through our platform, if preferred.

Above all else, we are available through the Fertifa Platform to answer any questions our patients may have about their fertility journey. 

In the mean-time, we recommend looking through the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for the most up-to-date guidance on COVID-19 – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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