While guidance will continue to evolve, UC Health is here to help put your mind at ease by answering the most commonly asked questions among patients experiencing infertility.
“We, the fertility doctors and our team, want to help you achieve your goals,” shares Julie M. Sroga-Rios, MD, UC Health reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “When that time comes, we will do everything to keep you safe and healthy while you undergo fertility treatments. We know infertility is not elective, and we see you, we are here for you and we cannot wait to start helping you achieve your goals as safely and as soon as possible.
How does social distancing and the growing concern of COVID-19 impact those in the midst of fertility treatments?
Starting on March 17, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) made recommendations to pause fertility treatments and testing in order to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.* Most patients that were in a fertility treatment cycle were able to complete that cycle, however, patients planning to start were delayed.
*The recommendations are updated every two weeks and currently run through April 27 when another update will be released.
What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for those trying to conceive? Is there any evidence that COVID-19 has a negative impact on one’s fertility or reproductive health?
Delaying fertility treatments two to three months will likely not affect pregnancy rates for most patients. However, couples struggling with infertility have increased stress about trying to conceive and planning for their future families. Therefore, the delay in starting infertility treatments is likely adding stress to our patients as well as the stress of the unknown surrounding COVID-19. Patients with infertility have increased rates of depression and anxiety, so this is definitely a concern for this patient population.
Limited data exists as to the impact of COVID-19 on early pregnancy. So far, most information has demonstrated that COVID-19 in late pregnancy has not increased maternal, fetal, or neonatal complications, however, it is just too early to make any long term conclusions about the impact of this virus on pregnancy and fertility.
How does COVID-19 impact people who are on a limited fertility timeline due to age?
In late reproductive-aged women and women with diminished ovarian reserve, the time delay is more of a concern. Delays in treatments for one to two months can happen in this population even without the COVID-19 pandemic. However, delaying longer than two to three months is definitely a concern in this population. The ASRM recommendations do recognize this concern, and so each physician/clinic will have to assess with the patient the optimal timing to start cycles. Many of these patients will be the first to start cycles when the shelter in place orders are less restrictive.
What are the long term effects of COVID-19 and family planning?
The long term effects of COVID-19 on family planning are unknown. The economic impact of shelter in place orders affect so many Americans that the financial impact of fertility treatments or a newborn can also affect many couples’ decisions to proceed with trying to conceive. The unknown impact of COVID-19 throughout pregnancy is also a concern for many patients and couples, so some patients are opting to delay treatments until more is known.
What advice do you have for those trying to conceive during this pandemic?
You are not alone. One in eight women/couples suffer from infertility. Talk with your doctor (understand the risks and the unknowns), talk with your partner (make a decision that is right for you) and take care of your physical and mental health during this time. So much is out of our control right now, so it is also important to focus on what you can control—healthy diet, exercise, stress management, bonding with your partner—so that when you can start your treatment cycles you are physically and mentally ready.