Nearly 60 per cent of fertility patients have revealed in a survey that they experienced delays in accessing treatment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
The study, produced by the leading fertility charity, Fertility Network UK, explored the devastating impact of coronavirus on those awaiting fertility treatment.
A quarter of survey respondents said they had not been able to access any emotional support or counselling during this time.
Patients reported widespread delays in diagnostic testing, including blood tests and semen analysis and a range of surgical procedures from laparoscopy to surgical sperm retrieval. The time of the delays ranged from months to more than two years.
Many patients had to repeat tests that were out of date by the time they were able to access treatment and reported appointments being repeatedly cancelled.
One respondent said: “I was only allowed to appointments on my own. When I was given bad news, this was incredibly difficult and still impacts me now.”
Male partners were often unable to attend fertility appointments, which meant patients reported having to go through miscarriages and receive bad news by themselves. Fertility appointments were often carried out over the phone, which some found challenging given the sensitive nature of the issue.
Respondents described the impact of COVID as ‘heartbreaking and devastating’ and the survey highlighted the way mental health and wellbeing was affected. Patients reported increased levels of anxiety, depression, stress and frustration, and many were concerned that the delays had impacted their chances of ever having a family.
Many people who responded to the survey said counselling was never mentioned, despite this being a requirement for licensed fertility clinics, while others faced long waiting lists to see counsellors.
Fertility Network UK chief executive, Gwenda Burns, said: “Our survey shows the devastating reality of delays of tests and treatment for fertility patients. It is clear the delays are ongoing and that many are concerned about how this will impact their chances of having a family. We are particularly concerned for those who haven’t been able to access counselling and would remind anyone affected by this that we are at hand to offer support.”
Just some of the other responses included: “It is hard to describe how gut-wrenching painful the last 18 months have been.
“One of the most stressful times in my life. I felt like my world had crashed around me.
“It felt like precious time was being wasted and each month that went by I was getting older.”
Have you been adversely affected by delays to fertility treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you feel you might have missed your opportunity to have a baby? We’d love to hear your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.