By Dr. Aimee Seungdamrong.
Where things stand with COVID-19 and fertility care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of rapid information, change and adjustment for women and couples undergoing treatment for infertility, as well as those actively looking forward to completing fertility preservation procedures. For a time, many fertility clinics halted treatments as we monitored the risk and ongoing developments. The pullback from active treatment was anxiety provoking and difficult. As we are now hopefully past the peak of the crisis, many fertility clinics – including Kindbody – are reopening in the safest and most effective manner.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has been reviewing the outbreak and issuing recommendations to help guide our practices which have been updated every two weeks. The latest advice issued states that fertility care is an essential health service. They recognize the need to minimize the spread of COVID-19, while simultaneously acknowledging the essential timeliness and importance of access to fertility treatment.
They also state that we must recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic will be an ongoing concern for the foreseeable future until we can develop an effective vaccine – and that it’s time to consider the safest and most effective way to resume time-sensitive fertility treatments in the face of COVID-19 . Much discussion has been conducted regarding these recommendations and updates and we have laid out a strategy to gradually and carefully offer care again.
What governors have said and what that means.
This brings us to the way forward. As the virus outbreak has been different in different regions of the United States, the option to move forward and the way to move forward has been different. Our Kindbody New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco teams have been actively reviewing our local recommendations and health resources (as well as spending time learning how to “Zoom” together!).
In New York, Governor Cuomo has deemed fertility services, including infertility treatment and procedures, as essential services. However, the ultimate decision on when such services must occur is between a patient and clinical provider.
In consideration of resuming services, we have been reviewing and discussing the best practices for protecting our patients and staff. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends that all New Yorkers wear a face covering when outside of their home to help stop the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The current guidance is “All New Yorkers should wear a face covering when they need to be outside their home and may be closer than 6 feet from others”. As we consider how to resume services, we have been reviewing the CDC guidelines as well as our state, local and internal policies and procedures. Important points include personal protective equipment, maintaining distancing between patient visits, and strict cleaning procedures.
Why it’s important that we adapt to this “new normal” and the “silver lining”.
Our virtual appointments and Telehealth technology took a bit of time to get used to (apologies to my patients who sat through my first few telehealth consults – I have learned how to share my screen now!). However, we have all really enjoyed meeting our patients’ partners as well as other family members who have been able to join our visits. We are looking forward to keeping the telehealth option going in the future. We’ve realized that it can really help with ease of scheduling, reducing the time to travel to the office, and can also help to loop in partners, even if they are in another country!
One upside of this time for us has been a great deal of team building for Kindbody among and within our different locations. We have had the opportunity to share ideas among our departments which has generated wonderful ideas, educational initiatives, and infrastructure that we are excited to build on.
On a personal note, I have finally realized how much food a teenager consumes during the day as well as spent quality time with our dog – she has truly never been happier.
At this juncture between the shock and sadness of this COVID-19 outbreak and the hope of a new beginning, we look forward to helping our patients find new joy through building their families and their futures. Things will never be the same, but we can chart a different course towards our goals.
COVID-19 and pregnant women.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) states that researchers are still learning how COVID-19 affects pregnant women. Thankfully, current evidence does not show that pregnant women are at increased risk of infection. Also based on current evidence, it is not likely that COVID-19 is passed to a fetus during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. However, a newborn can get the virus if they are exposed to it. We are watching the situation closely but at this time, women interested in family building are not being advised to postpone or avoid pregnancy.