This week we saw the HFEA announce that fertility clinics in the UK can apply to reopen on 11th May! This is reassuring news and comes after the importance of fertility treatments was recognised by Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the UK) in a recent daily briefing. So what’s happening across the pond in America? New ASRM (Association of Reproductive Medicine) guidelines have been shared and things are looking up. Some states in the USA are beginning to relax lockdown restrictions. But how is this happening and how will this affect treatments in this Covid Era?
Read here stories of others affected by cancelled treatments due to Covid-19.
Here is a summary of the latest update by the Covid-19 ‘Task Force’ of the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) 24th April – 11th May 2020. With this, we’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Dr Samantha Pfiefer, Associate Professor of Clinical Reproductive Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Weill Cornell and a long-standing board member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), who shares a summary in person of the Covid-19 ASRM update.
ASRM Covid-19 Task Force Update
There are cautious grounds for optimism as many localities are recognising infertility care as an essential service and fertility clinics are being encouraged to draw up strategies and best practices for carefully considered and gradual resumption of time-sensitive and possibly other fertility treatments.
The New Covid-19 Era
There are big regional differences – state to state and locality to locality – in terms of flattening the transmission curve of Covid-19, approaching or passing the peak and saving the impact on the local healthcare system.
Data suggest that, until such a time as effective treatment for Covid-19 or a vaccine is available, the virus is going to be an ongoing factor in our lives, which will have to be managed as optimally as possible by effective testing and contact tracing, together with quarantine and social distancing strategies.
For fertility clinics to resume treatments, it will be important to weigh the prevention of possible virus transmission to patients, physicians and all staff (together with the utilization of critically needed healthcare resources) against the time-sensitive nature of infertility and the potential damage to mental health of patients and/or their access to care.
So, analysis of disease transmission and hospital capacity (as well as need for resources) at a local level will inform guidance on when clinics can resume operations, with each clinic also determining its own capacity to meet stringent demands on resources, staff training and risk assessments.
The clinic may then, at a gradual and careful pace, select the tests and or treatments it can safely resume, continuing to monitor, reassess and modify clinic operations as conditions change according to increase in knowledge of the disease or in treatment/vaccination.
It will be important for clinics to provide information to patients about potential risks of pursuing care during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a starting point weighing with the patient the issue of risk versus benefit.
Daily screening of patients and staff, physical distancing, sanitizing surfaces, frequent hand washing, wearing of face masks will all be integral to treatment, together with a testing strategy for staff and patients as soon as rapid testing is widely available.
So, whilst we don’t yet have a definitive date to share, resumption of fertility services in the USA is going to be very much dictated by region, but clinics are doing everything they can to ready themselves with the correct procedures to be able to get back to helping you move on with your fertility treatment, as soon as is ever possible.
Don’t Give In to Feelings of Hopelessness – Things will Improve
Read an article here on how to have a positive mental attitude during lockdown and creative things to do from home.
Remember also that clinics are stepping up ‘telehealth’ and ‘telemedicine’, so stay in touch with your fertility clinic and keep yourself informed as to where they are in the process of resuming treatment.