Are immunosuppressive treatments safe as part of IVF during Covid-19?

As you can likely imagine, this is an increasingly common question as the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to carry on for the foreseeable future

In terms of IVF, what are immunosuppressive treatments, and should you consider using them during the pandemic?

So what exactly are immunosuppressive treatments?

Immunosuppressive treatments are used in a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune illnesses in which the body’s own immune system attacks and harms itself. In most cases, immunosuppressive treatments can occasionally have damaging effects on fertility, pregnancy outcomes, and the unborn child.

However, in rare cases, a woman’s body attacks the embryo and prevents it from implanting, or causes a miscarriage early in the pregnancy. For these reasons, some IVF protocols involve a carefully monitored course of immunosuppressive drugs (anti-TNF-alpha and mTOR-inhibitors). Your clinic might offer these treatments as an add-on, and it sometimes goes by the name of reproductive immunology.

Should you take immunosuppressive treatments as part of IVF during Covid-19?

The HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) has issued strict guidance against the use of empirical immunosuppressive treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is clearly laid out in their Covid-19 Treatment Commencement Self-Assessment Questionnaire, that all clinics were required to complete before they could reopen and resume treatments in May.

In addition to its increased risk during the pandemic, many experts question the use of immunosuppressants in the first place

According to Dr Sarah Robertson, Professor and Director of the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide, “Demand by people with fertility problems for corticosteroids, and other immune suppressants sometimes offered at IVF clinics, is driven in large part by medical and consumer misunderstanding of how the immune response works.”

If your clinic offers these controversial treatments at this time, this is a sign that you should look for a different clinic. You might also consider reporting the doctor and clinic to the HFEA, as they should investigate this breach of ethics.

If you do use immunosuppressive drugs, you must be extremely careful

In the rare case that you and your medical team decide that you do need to use immunosuppressive treatments as a part of your IVF protocol, you must be extremely careful.

Not only are you more susceptible to the common cold, bacterial infections, and other illnesses, you’re at an elevated risk of contracting Covid-19. Not only is this dangerous for you (and your embryo, if successful), but you could then pass the illness on to other vulnerable people.

You and your partner should strictly quarantine for at least 14 days after your treatments have commenced

Have a friend drop supplies and groceries off at your door, and stay in your home and garden. Not only will you be keeping yourself safe, you will also be protecting your community.

Are you undergoing IVF during the pandemic? Have you thought about using immunosuppressive treatments, and has your mind be changed by the HFEA warning? Let us know your thoughts at mystory@ivfbabble.com or on social media @ivfbabble

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