Most of you who were going through IVF or who were about to start fertility journeys before the coronavirus hit, have been given the tragic news by your clinic, that your treatment is to be put on hold until the world gets a grip on the pandemic
Others were left waiting to hear.
But, on March 31, the news in the US was officially confirmed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
In their latest report, ASRM have sadly had to announce:
All new treatment cycles should be suspended, including intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization (IVF) (including retrievals and frozen embryo transfers) and non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
Patients and medical professionals should strongly consider cancelling all fresh and frozen embryo transfers.
Patients who are “in-cycle” or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation should still continue to receive care.
All elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures should be suspended.
Telehealth technologies should be used in order to minimise in-person interactions whenever possible.
Since they initially issued the ‘ASRM Patient Management and Clinical Recommendations during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic,’ the United States has tragically become the country with the highest number of active COVID-19 cases, and is widely considered the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
As of April 2, 37 states have enacted “shelter-in-place” orders, and hospitals and healthcare workers are complaining about a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hospital beds, respiratory ventilators, and other resources. Some experts are also voicing concern that testing is not available, making the problem worse and concealing the scope of the outbreak.
In ASRM’s latest press release, they want to add the following information and recommendations to their March 17, 2020 missive.
The ASRM Task Force will continue to affirm that infertility is a disease, and that infertility treatments should not be viewed as elective. Infertility treatments (along with cancer treatments and the treatments of other critical diseases) are being postponed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This does not minimise their importance.
The ASRM Task Force is fully committed to reinstating routine patient care as soon as is possible
At this point, that time period is unclear, and could last months or longer. The speed at which the disease spreads is dependent on following hygiene recommendations, social distancing practices, and shelter in place guidance.
The ASRM Task Force recommends that clinical practices engaged in urgent reproductive care should always follow the rules set forward by their local government, which will vary from city, state, and region.
The ASRM Task Force strongly recommends the use of telehealth technologies to consult and meet with patients, wherever and whenever possible. This includes checking in on patients’ mental health, and discussing continuing treatment plans.
The ASRM Task Force wants reproductive care professionals and patients alike to realise that what is considered urgent and non-urgent care may change as the pandemic continues.
The ASRM Task Force continues to emphasise that the safety of patients and staff must remain at the forefront of all treatment plans. Practitioners must enact appropriate safety measures that are in line with all CDC guidelines. These include, (but are not limited to) providing adequate minimal staffing, scheduling urgent in-clinic appointments at safe intervals throughout the day, allowing and equipping staff to work from home, and implementing mandatory health screenings for all patients before they enter the medical facility. All staff members must be provided with suitable PPE.
The ASRM Task Force continues to support the safe storage of gametes, embryos and other tissues over the course of the pandemic and beyond. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) has released expert guidance on this topic, and they plan to release more detailed operational recommendations in the coming days.
The ASRM Task Force continues to recommend that all reproductive medicine teams should be “prepared and proactive in providing emotional and psychological support to patients and staff.” The pandemic and infertility both cause anxiety, stress, panic, and depression, and the wellbeing of staff and patients alike should be prioritised.
The ASRM Task Force encourages all reproductive care professionals, clinics, and practices to contribute to the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. For some practices, this could include donating PPE, loaning ventilators, and volunteering to serve in hospitals and clinics where they are needed the most.
The ASRM Task Force recognises the “personal sacrifices and requesting sacrifices of a significant proportion of their patients, staff and colleagues. We must stand united in the principles of these recommendations, regardless of our own personal backgrounds and priorities, so that all ASRM members can get back to taking care of our patients as soon as possible.”
They have compiled these recommendations based on principles of public health, and want to assure the public that they are in line with those put forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
ASRM plan to review and update their policies on at least a fortnightly basis.
We will continue to report on the ASRM briefings along with ESHRE and HFEA.
The world has been sent into an absolute turmoil because of this awful virus and whether it’s patients, future patients, governing bodies such as ASRM, ESHRE, HFEA or clinic consultants, nurses, embryologists, counsellors . . . in fact, everyone involved in the miraculous process of IVF . . . we all remain completely devastated at the ‘pause’ button being pushed right now. We are all in this together, and can’t wait for this terrible pandemic to subside.
Our thoughts are with all those who are struggling with Covid-19 symptoms and our hearts go out to all those that have lost loved ones.
We want to send you all so much love and just to say we are here for you. Let us know how you are doing at this difficult time at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sharing on social @ivfbabble