Coronavirus and your fertility journey
18th March 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the world in recent weeks, with the UK the latest country to feel its effects. Many women and couples are concerned about the link between coronavirus and trying to conceive. You may also be worried about the impact it may have on your plans to start a family. The sheer bulk of information around fertility and coronavirus is overwhelming. So, we’ve summarised key pieces of advice given to those thinking about trying for a baby during these uncertain times.
As this situation is developing, the advice from the government and health professionals is constantly evolving. We will update this blog post daily w1ith any extra information that is released.
If you are already pregnant and concerned about the impact the novel coronavirus could have on you and your baby, please read our blog on Coronavirus and Pregnancy.
Would coronavirus harm my baby if I got pregnant?
There is currently no solid evidence to imply that Covid-19 has any negative effects on pregnancies. There are some reported cases of women who are infected delivering healthy babies who did not have the virus. However, there are also a couple of cases where a baby has tested positive shortly after birth. As this is such a new virus, healthcare professionals are still working to understand its effects on babies and children. Whilst we are gathering increasing evidence about the impact of the virus on pregnancies in the last trimester, it will be a few months before we know the effects of coronavirus on early-stage pregnancy. For this reason, healthcare bodies, including the ESHRE, recommends a cautionary approach to conception at this time.
Should I continue with my fertility journey despite the coronavirus outbreak?
The ESHRE is advising all fertility patients considering or planning treatment to avoid becoming pregnant at this time. If you’re already going through treatment, they suggest you consider freezing embryos for a later transfer. Whilst many UK clinics are still open, there are clinics in Belfast and America that have decided to close or pause treatments – so it isn’t unreasonable to think the UK will follow suit in the future. As we face uncertain times, it’s impossible to guarantee that fertility clinic staff will not be forced to self-isolate which could disrupt your treatment. Postponing the process will allow you to take control of the situation as much as possible and give you the opportunity to focus on your own health.
Could the coronavirus pandemic impact my fertility treatment?
It’s important to remember that as the pandemic spreads, government precautions may impact our everyday lives. The situation is changing day by day, but the general advice is to avoid contact with people wherever necessary. Whilst many clinics will try to continue offering their services as much as possible, there may come a point where they are unable to. The doctors and nurses working in fertility clinics could be reassigned to work on urgent care cases, to help alleviate the pressure on the NHS. For these reasons, the advice is to postpone fertility treatment where possible. A fertility journey is already a stressful thing to go through. Starting something that you may have to postpone midway could be difficult to deal with. If your treatment continues, there may be potential changes to treatment to reduce risk of conditions such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which could take resources away from A&E. Your fertility clinic will be able to advise you of any changes to your treatment plan.
Update: UK Clinics will be stopping all new fertility treatment incl. IVF, embryo transfer, IUI, ovulation induction. However, where resources allow, it might be possible to continue some treatment – if you are feeling well and not showing any symptoms of the virus.
I want to get pregnant next year. Should I think about freezing my eggs?
There is currently no evidence that indicates the virus impact the quality of women’s eggs. If you are in no rush to get pregnant there is no reason to freeze your eggs as a precautionary measure. However, if you are already going through fertility treatment or are concerned that you may have difficulty getting pregnant naturally in 6 months time (if you have a very low egg reserve, for example) then you may want to look into egg freezing if that is a viable option for you. If you are a cancer patient, the current plan is to continue non-elective fertility preservation, such as egg freezing provided you are not-infected. This will be balanced by your cancer MDT alongside the risk of you being immunocompromised & having to attend a clinic.
I am trying to conceive naturally – should we stop and start using contraception again?
Postponing a pregnancy is a very personal decision. This is something you and your partner will need to discuss. There are a few things we would recommend you take into consideration. On the one hand, it is likely that pregnant women will only suffer mild symptoms. So far, evidence implies you should be able to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, even if you contract coronavirus. However, pregnancy can be stressful and draining – both emotionally and financially. With all the uncertainty going on at the moment, this could have an impact on your emotional health. The NHS is also under strain, with many doctors surgeries only offering medical care for extreme cases. Therefore, it may be harder than usual to get the initial antenatal appointments you need.
If coronavirus impacts my fertility journey, what can I do in the meantime?
There lots of things you can do to help your chances of conception, even if you have decided to delay the process. Whether you’re hoping to get pregnant naturally or with the help of fertility treatment, now is a great time to kick off your preconception plan.
You could spend this time researching fertility options available to you. If in doubt, you can set up an online chat with our team of women’s health doctors, free of charge. If you want to keep an eye on your hormone health, you can take fertility blood tests at home without needing to go to a clinic.
This is also a good time to invest in your health and fitness. Not only will it help make your immune system more robust, but it can help boost your fertility too.
Self care is also welcome addition to our routines right now. Keep yourself stress-free with our new meditation podcast: Keeping a Calm Mind through the COVID-19 Crisis.