Fertility treatments are stressful, and in vitro fertilization (or IVF) during COVID-19 has increased stress levels even further for many women and couples. Should you continue treatment or put it on pause? What will happen if you get COVID-19 while pregnant? What are clinics doing differently during the pandemic? Read on for some insight into some of these pressing questions.
How are fertility clinics dealing with COVID-19?
Many offices have safety requirements for patients and providers that align with the CDC, such as wearing an approved face covering. IVF offices may also require a health screening to protect you and other clients. You may also be asked to delay your treatment if you have come in close contact recently with someone who has COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to a high-risk area.
Often, patients must come alone and be unaccompanied to appointments. This limits the number of people in an office to allow for more social distancing. However, you may have been planning to go to your appointment with your partner for much-needed support. While it’s difficult to not have them there in person, you may be able to bring them along virtually. Set up your phone so they can see you and hear everything the health care professionals have to share with you. Your partner may also drive you to your appointment and wait in the car while you go in. They will be able to provide support for you before and after your appointment.
How does COVID-19 affect pregnancy and female fertility?
It’s hard to know how COVID-19 affects pregnancy and fertility since it is such a new virus. So far, the initial data is fairly positive. While pregnant women may have a higher rate of hospitalization after being infected with COVID-19, morbidity and mortality rates remain the same as non-pregnant individuals who have been infected. Some other preliminary research indicated healthy babies who were not affected by their mother’s COVID-19, or also had the infection but recovered smoothly and quickly.
Early research from China also reported that women with COVID-19 delivered healthy babies who were not infected. Additionally, these reports did not find the virus in breast milk. Negatively, a COVID-19 infection can increase body temperature through a fever, which can lead to a lower number of eggs retrieved during IVF or freezing cycle, a longer cycle, or a higher level of medication required. Again, this research is preliminary and more data is needed.
Does COVID-19 affect male fertility?
A small research study found COVID-19 in semen samples, which suggests the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted sexually. Ask your IVF clinic for the latest information on this if you are using a sperm donor.
Should I continue trying to conceive?
The CDC and other health authorities have not proclaimed it unsafe to become pregnant during the pandemic. Attempting to become pregnant has not been discouraged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath) you should avoid attempting pregnancy at that time.
Fertility treatment is challenging, even without a global pandemic in the mix. However, it is often a time-sensitive disease, and delaying treatment may affect the efficacy of treatment. We do not know when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available, and how effective it will be when it arrives. A woman’s eggs will age while she is waiting for a vaccine. Shady Grove Fertility advises most of their patients to move forward with fertility treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic because of this reason.
What if I’m pregnant and I get COVID-19?
Current research does not indicate that pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill. It also does not indicate that pregnant women have a larger chance of getting sick from COVID-19. Additionally, there is no evidence of fetal damage from the COVID-19 virus. Wear a mask and practice social distancing while in public to lower your risk of getting the COVID-19 virus. Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water and avoid people who are sick.
How can I cope with trying to conceive and stress related to COVID-19?
When dealing with stress related to IVF during COVID-19, remember to take time for self-care. This can include exercising, eating well, spending time in nature, and being creative (art or music-making). Try out deep-breathing and mindfulness techniques when you are needing some immediate relaxation. Maintaining social connections like friends and family is essential—set up virtual dates, write letters, and try out a socially distanced walk in the park. Social support bolsters your mental health during times of added stress.
Looking for more support during this stressful time? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you!
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.