Coronavirus: The latest advice on fertility treatment from ASRM and HFEA

The world seems like a frightening place right now, with everything from travel and food shopping to visiting relatives in total disarray due to the escalating coronavirus pandemic

But if you’re also going through or about to embark on fertility treatment, then you’re probably understandably concerned about the social distancing advice to avoid unnecessary contact, when you are due many clinic visits in the near future.

What’s the advice in the UK?

If you’re in the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA, is responsible for overseeing your care and the care your clinic provides. They’re currently closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and its impact on fertility services.

As it stands, on 18th March 2020, the HFEA has issued the following advice, based on updated guidelines set out by the British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists:

“As coronavirus spreads [we assume that] clinics will stop fertility treatments over the coming weeks. This may be for several reasons: redeployment of staff, reduced anaesthetist cover, or staff being unable to work due to self-isolation or illness.”

Their guidance also “carries a call to cease treatments to minimise the spread of the virus and reduce the impact on the NHS due to the common complications of IVF such as OHSS”.

The HFEA intends to contact all clinics offering fertility services to “seek assurances that they intend to follow this guidance and to remind the Person Responsible of their duty to provide a safe environment for patients, gametes and embryos”.

Their guidance “calls on clinics in both the private sector and the NHS to consider their wider responsibility in any decision making, including the need to promote social distancing and the potential effects of their work on local NHS services which are likely to be stretched to an unprecedented extent”.

“Where clinics remain open either to continue treatment, or to provide a skeleton service, they must work within safe limits, including safe staffing numbers, and ensure stored gametes and embryos are not put at risk.”

“If treatment services are disrupted, clinics should put measures in place to keep patients informed of any changes and the reason for these, as well as have adequate cover to support patents who have concerns or require support.”

This announcement, whilst devastating for many, allows individual clinics to decide how to prioritise and organise their clinic’s services whilst at the same time still “adhering to their clinical, ethical, regulatory and social duties”.

The HFEA has already stated (on 17th March) that it cannot give medical advice or guidance to individual patients, they can only advise clinics of their professional duties when considering the best course of action for patients and their care.

What does the ASRM say?

If you’re in America, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), has published similar guidelines. As of 17th March 2020, the ASRM has recommended that American fertility clinics suspend any new fertility treatment cycles.

For those who have already started treatment, ASRM state that fertility clinics can “continue to care for patients in treatment cycles or those who require urgent ovarian stimulation or freezing”.

They’ve also said that doctors should “strongly consider cancelling embryo transfers, urge doctors to suspend all elective procedures and minimise in-person interactions and rely on tele-health services instead”.

They say they recognised “patient’s time sensitive aspirations to achieve pregnancy” and would be revisiting guidelines with the aim of resuming normal patients care as soon as possible.

As ever, here at IVF babble, we’ll keep you fully updated with progress and any new announcements, and send you all so much love and light. Stay safe.

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