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09th Jul 2020

IVF in the time of Covid-19: What will change and where do we go from here?

Trine Jensen-Burke

Covid-19 has ripped through every facet of society and every single one of us has been affected to varying levels.

It has caused delays and cancellations for everything from graduations and weddings to a myriad of medical procedures.

For couples seeing fertility treatments and IVF transfers, these being postponed when time is of the essence has had a devastating blow during an already stressful time – especially for patients in their late thirties and forties, or those struggling to conceive as a result of recurrent pregnancy or implantation failure.

We recently sat down with Aoife Corley, Midwife Manager at ReproMed, to chat about the challenges of delayed treatments, the ongoing requirements and processes involved, and how to deal with the uncertainty on a personal level.

“One in six women in Ireland will experience fertility issues at some stage in their life and 5-6,000 people undergo fertility treatment in Ireland each year,” Corley explains.

“The emotional, psychological and financial toll is enormous. Add Covid-19 into the mix and it makes for an extremely stressful time.”

Fertility clinics were forced to close for a number of weeks earlier this year. This created a backlog of appointments, but all involved are doing their very best to help couples achieve a successful pregnancy, and will continue to do everything they can to make sure it’s as safe a process for all.

But there are some things that will have to change:

  1. Initially, patients who had started their journey and who may have a lower fertility prognosis will be prioritised. Thankfully the backlogs are clearing and access to treatment is easier now than even 6 weeks ago.
  2. Strict social distancing practices will mean fewer people in a clinic at any one time. This means that some appointments will take place as telemedicine appointments, over the phone or video call.
  3. Appointment punctuality is important. Times are much stricter than previously.
  4. PPE equipment will be worn when with patients.
  5. Husbands and partners will be asked to wait outside in order to reduce numbers in the clinic. This means that the woman undergoing the treatment must attend alone, which could be difficult with the partner not there as a support.
  6. Online payments will be advised so people can spend less time physically in the clinic.

All in all, Aoife advises patients to stay positive and not to panic or lose hope.

“Now is the time to stay as motivated as possible, keep a positive mindset and be healthy until you get to the next stage, whether you are still waiting to get an appointment or have just started your clinical journey.”

Aoife’s advice right now for those undergoing IVF treatment:

  1. Continue taking your folic acid supplement
  2. Keep fit and active. Getting out and about in the fresh air is so important, get out as often as you can and make sure to fit exercise in around your schedule. Do what works for you.
  3. Try and eat well and maintain a healthy diet. Focus on three healthy meals a day and try to avoid over-snacking – stay away from the fridge and the cupboard as much as possible – do your best!
  4. Get a good night’s sleep. Keep your bedroom cool, avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible and turn off the phones and screens well before going to bed – good sleep hygiene is so important.
  5. Talk about it – Undergoing fertility treatment can feel very isolating so if you’re comfortable, chat to those you trust about how you are feeling.  Talking about what you are going through can make it seem so much less daunting.