The current situation regarding fertility care.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been largely local and dedicated by governors and other local officials.
In New York, Governor Cuomo has deemed fertility services, including infertility treatment and procedures, as essential services. In California, Governor Newsom has not specifically commented on fertility care. He recently extended the stay at home order in the state of California until May 15th. Under his executive order, health care is considered part of the critical infrastructure that is allowed to remain open, but elective procedures must be rescheduled. Fertility care is not elective by any means, but doesn’t fit into the category of care that can save a life or an organ.
To make things more confusing, IVF and fertility preservation procedures often take place in surgery centers that are regulated by other agencies such as CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services). CMS continues to recommend that only high acuity treatment that would result in patient harm if not performed be allowed at this time. This is where we have to begin to individualize treatment plans for patients.
How we move forward.
Fertility care is not elective. It is always essential, but it is not always urgent in a medical sense. Although, having we do recognize that emotionally it feels very urgent regardless of your age or ovarian reserve. Delaying fertility care for one month in the setting of a health crisis is unlikely to decrease any individual chance of success with treatment, but for certain patients waiting several months can start to decrease their likelihood of success. If waiting to resume treatments decreases the chance for a pregnancy, that is causing harm to a patient. We have thus decided to move forward with treatment cycles that are medically necessary based on each individual personal history. The decision to move forward with treatment can be made between the patient and the medical provider. We are hoping to extend this to all patients as soon as possible.
What we are doing at Kindbody.
At Kindbody we are reaching out to patients to let them know we are back in the clinics to provide in person care. All of our clinics are open for diagnostic testing, including ultrasounds and bloodwork. We are carefully expanding our definition of urgent cases and will be starting new fertility treatments on a case by case basis. We are continuing to do everything possible to assure the safety of our patients, staff and communities. We initiated extra safety precautions in our clinics very early on that we will continue to use indefinitely, likely until a vaccine for the Coronavirus is available. We will continue to offer consultations and follow up visits virtually, allowing patients to come to the office only when necessary.
Why it’s important that fertility care is deemed essential.
Fertility care is essential. Every individual has the right to create a family. Infertility is a disease. Nobody chooses to have this disease. Governor Cuomo’s announcement helped to validate this belief. Patients struggling with fertility or making the decision to preserve fertility already feel isolated and marginalized. They often feel misunderstood or dismissed.
Defining fertility care as an essential medical service helps to dispel these notions. Governor Cuomo’s announcement also allowed fertility providers to engage in a discussion about resuming fertility care.
Although not all fertility care is urgent, it is all essential.