The pandemic, its repercussions, signs, symptoms, treatments, possible ways to avoid, in short everything about Covid-19, still seems to be under unclear water. Though the experts are trying to deal with the notorious virus in the best possible way, there are still quite a few unturned stones. It looks like, lives were running smoothly and suddenly the “Pandora’s Box” was opened and the little demon started playing havoc in our lives.
Covid-19 has not just affected the people who are living, but also is giving a hard time to the new lives that are yet to be born. Yes, I am talking about the couples planning to conceive and build a family. Just as the pandemic hit, the working of every sector changed. Things shifted from real to the virtual world, and literally the entire world was shut down for a few days and in some parts for a few months as well. And not to forget the on and off lockdown doesn’t seem to have ended yet.
In 2020, when a complete lockdown was announced in several c countries, along with several other things, one sector that was severely affected was the IVF treatment centers. Just imagine, while the couples were happily planning to conceive and start a new life with a new member, instructions were issued to pause all IVF treatments. Because the doctors and experts were not sure if getting pregnant amidst the pandemic is a safe idea or not.
Several questions pooped up. Will the pandemic affect the baby in the womb? Will the baby born during the pandemic have any kind of disabilities? What happens if the mother gets infected during the IVF treatment or the pregnancy period? And unfortunately, the experts did not have the answers to most of these questions.
In wake of the current situation, the American Society for Reproductive Medicines issued orders to stop the IVF treatments for indefinite time. This order disturbed the plans of millions of couples who were planning to have a baby through fertility treatments. They had to postpone their appointments and it was a huge loss and grief for the couples for whom it could be the last chance to conceive a baby.
Pandemic and Its Effects On IVF Treatments
An IVF cycle begins with blood, semen and genetic testing; ultrasound and several expensive and very specific drugs that stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Next comes a procedure to collect these eggs, which are fertilized with sperm from a partner or donor and grown in labs for a few days. The viability of these embryos is often tested before the final step – implanting viable embryos in the uterus and waiting for them to develop.
The whole process takes two to three months. Preliminary data from the CDC indicates that approximately 330,000 cycles of assisted reproductive technology were completed in the United States in 2019. At that rate, a one to three month break in 2020 could mean 100,000 or more cycles were interrupted or canceled in the first few months of the pandemic alone.
In a survey compiled later in 2020, 85% of respondents whose cycles were canceled found the experience “moderate to extremely upsetting,” with almost a quarter of the rating equivalent to losing a child. IVF is already a complicated, emotionally challenging and expensive treatment and it made it even more so with the advent of COVID-19, a microcosm of modern fertility struggles. Even once clinics began to reopen, infertility in the COVID era presented a new set of painful challenges.
Huge Loss And Grief For Patients As Well And Doctors
When the American Society for Reproductive Medicines issued the guidelines, it said they intended not only to tackle the unknown impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy and fertility, but to encourage social distancing and reduce demand on the health care system. The guidelines include a few exceptions, such as for people with cancer who want to freeze eggs or sperm before starting chemotherapy and women who had already started treatment when the recommendations were announced, but these failed. apply to relatively few patients.
Millions of couples were disappointed and some of them shared their grief explaining the impact of the decision on their lives. One among them was Zook, a 43 year old woman who was trying to conceive a baby through IVF treatment. She said, “I have never felt this old in my life. At 43, I’m really falling off the fertility cliff and it’s like, my God, that could really be the end.”
She said she was frustrated that despite widespread mandatory shutdowns across the country due to COVID-19, “you can still get Starbucks and McDonald’s because it’s considered essential,” but fertility treatments, which she considers essential, are prohibited.
Zook’s fertility specialist Dr Beverly Reed said that when she first saw the recommendations, “I was shocked and said, okay, well, those are the guidelines. I just have to follow them … My patients were sad. I was sad. “
But in responding to patient requests, she began to question the validity of the issued guidelines. Talking about the questions put up by her patients, Reed said, “One of my patients ‘questions was,’ Does coronavirus cause birth defects? Is this the reason why they tell us that we cannot receive treatment? And I said, we don’t know for sure at this point, but the first data we have doesn’t seem to show an increased risk of childbirth. defaults. The next question was, ‘Are all American women being told not to get pregnant now?’ I said, ‘Well, no.’ And that’s when they said, ‘Why are you telling me I can’t get pregnant now? And I said, ‘You know what? That’s a very good question.”
Dr Reed started circulating a petition protesting against the guidelines to pause all fertility treatments during the pandemic. According to the dr, the the guidelines unfairly discriminate against fertile women, especially same-sex couples and single women, who have fewer options to become pregnant alone. She also believes they hurt women who are at risk of not having a biological child. And while the risks of COVID-19 are still being investigated, Reed believes patients should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to continue treatment.
“I have patients who are willing to take this risk, who say, yes I understand that it can be dangerous, but I agree because I always want to try to raise my family. And if I can’t do it now, I may never be able to do it.” Reed said.
But Dr David Adamson, former president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said so little was known about how the new coronavirus and how it might affect unborn babies that patients couldn’t make an informed decision on continued IVF treatment. “My personal assessment is that I think they made the right decision,” he said. Adamson, a clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, noted that stopping treatment reduces the current burden on the healthcare system by encouraging patients to stay home and helping to conserve medical resources.
“But make no mistake: there are certainly women and men who suffer from not being able to do IVF. But we have to look at the greater good of society, and there are still too many unanswered questions to say it’s okay to move on now and go forward with the IVF treatment during the pandemic,” he added.
Health experts, IVF experts, and couples planning to conceive a baby through IVF treatment, everyone is still very unsure, how to handle this situation and whether or not it will be a good idea to continue IVF treatments until the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is resolved. At the end of the day, there is a timer in regards to fertility needs and any interruptions in the process are significant, no matter for how long or for how short.