Your fertility treatment and COVID-19

We understand that our patients may be feeling anxious and worried at this time – and confused about the implications of the coronavirus on their fertility treatment. Please read on to understand how Newlife IVF is managing your care during the pandemic period.

Will fertility treatment continue during this time?

In good news announced today, the Government has confirmed that IVF can restart, meaning that we can once again proceed with new egg collections and frozen embryo transfers, as well as intrauterine insemination. These procedures will resume after the Anzac Day weekend on Monday 27th April.

For those seeking to progress their treatment plans, be reassured that our fertility specialists, nurses and counsellors are all available during this time, with most consults now taking place virtually (via telehealth or videoconferencing) if procedures or physical examination are not required.

Please note: Newlife IVF must follow directives from the Department of Health, as well as the policies of Epworth Eastern Hospital, and these are subject to change. Currently, any patient who has had ‘close contact’ to a person known to have COVID-19 must self-quarantine for 14 days. This means that they can’t attend the clinic for any fertility treatment. The current definition of a close contact is:

  • Overseas travel from any country in the previous 14 days;
  • Spending more than 15 minutes face-to-face, in any setting, with a person who is a confirmed case, in the 24 hours before they showed symptoms or once they showed symptoms;
  • Sharing a closed space for more than 2 hours with a person who is a confirmed case, in the 24 hours before they showed symptoms or once they showed symptoms.

Further, any patient actually diagnosed with coronavirus will be managed by the Department of Health, and they will be unable to attend the clinic while infectious. Please refer to this self-assessment tool from the Department of Health to assess your risk (correct as of 16 March 2020).

What effect does coronavirus have on fertility treatment?

There is very little information about how COVID-19 infection could affect your fertility treatment.  However, it appears that young and healthy women who become infected with COVID-19 mostly experience mild cold and flu-like symptoms. Our experience with other viruses that exhibit similar symptoms in young women is that those viruses have very little, if any, impact on treatment outcomes.

Should I delay my fertility treatment until the coronavirus pandemic passes?

The vast majority of patients do not need to delay their treatment and should proceed with their treatment as planned.

If you have a chronic medical illness, you should discuss your particular situation with your fertility specialist. For some medical conditions, especially respiratory conditions, a COVID-19 infection can be more severe, and you might therefore consider deferring your treatment.

If I am having difficulty conceiving, should I delay seeking help until the coronavirus pandemic passes?

If you are having difficulty conceiving, we still advise you to seek help from one of our specialists in line with our usual recommendations:

* If you are under 35, we advise seeking help after 12 months of trying for a baby without success.
* If you are over 35, we recommend seeking help after just 6 months of trying.

We can arrange a virtual consult or see you in our rooms with suitable precautions in place.

If you are still unsure about reaching out at this time, join our weekly video chat series. Every Tuesday night at 6.30pm, our fertility specialists discuss a range of fertility topics via Zoom. For more information and to RSVP, go to our events page. Those who register and attend are eligible for a bulk-billed initial consultation.

What should I do during this period if I’m undergoing fertility treatment?

Keep healthy by eating well and exercising – see our blog for useful tips.  You can reduce your risk of exposure by following these steps (DHHS advice, correct as of 16 March 2020).

What happens if I am quarantined during or before my fertility treatment?

During your period of quarantine, you will be unable to attend Newlife IVF clinics for appointments, ultrasounds, blood tests or fertility procedures (such as embryo transfer). If you suspect you need to self-quarantine or have been told to undergo quarantine, please contact our nursing team as soon as practicable by calling (03) 8080 8933. While our first priority is to reduce the spread of coronavirus through our community, we will do what we can to facilitate your care and continue with your treatment, if it’s appropriate and safe to do so. For example, some appointments can be managed by teleconference, or home delivery of medications may be appropriate. Your fertility nurse will advise what is possible in your particular situation.

What effect does COVID-19 have on pregnant women?

It is difficult to be completely certain because COVID-19 is a new virus.  Our current observations are:

  • Pregnant women don’t seem more likely to get this infection
  • If a pregnant woman is infected, the symptoms seem to be no more severe than non-pregnant women
  • The vast majority of pregnant women are expected to experience only mild to moderate cold or flu like symptoms
  • There is no evidence of an increased risk to the pregnancy, such as miscarriage, prematurity, fetal abnormalities or any other complications.

Can I pass coronavirus on to my baby?

There is no evidence at present that coronavirus can cross the placenta and cause an infection during the pregnancy.

If I am diagnosed with coronavirus during my pregnancy, what effect will it have on my baby?

It appears that a maternal infection does not pose any additional risk to your baby.

What is Newlife IVF doing to reduce the impact of coronavirus on my treatment?

A good fertility clinic plans ahead and is prepared for almost all eventualities!  It is also adaptable, agile and flexible.  Before coronavirus was even heard of, Newlife IVF had already instituted strategies to protect patients, embryos, eggs, sperm and staff from potential risks.

Our stand-alone facility means we are not physically attached to any hospital.  We alone have exclusive use of the Epworth Eastern Ekera Day Surgery.  Our facility has no hospital patients, there are no general or other surgeries taking place, and there is no emergency department.  As a day surgery-only facility, no patient diagnosed with coronavirus would ever be admitted nor treated at Epworth Eastern Ekera Day Surgery.

As a result, we are extremely well placed to avoid an inadvertent outbreak that all other hospitals are prone to.

We have multiple service centre locations (Box Hill, East Melbourne and Clayton) across Melbourne, and our staff will be spread across these facilities to enforce social distancing and reduce the risk of staff exposures. By minimising the potential for exposure, we can maximise your access to treatment and your safety.

At Newlife IVF, we invested and planned ahead.  We ensured our computer systems, the programs that manage your care and our phone network were state-of-the-art and fully integrated.  Each of our service centres can function independently if required, and we therefore don’t expect there to be any disruption to the management of your treatment.

We have contingencies in place so most of our staff can work from home, ensuring our patients have access to ongoing care.  We doubt you will notice any difference at all to our staffing levels or attention to your treatment.

We will recommend that all patients who require nursing and counselling appointments have a video or teleconference appointment instead of attending in person. This is something we have always offered our rural and remote patients for convenience but can also now be extended to help protect you.

If you do need to attend any Newlife IVF facility, please call ahead.  Rest assured however, that we are screening all patients prior to attendance for the safety of our patients and staff.

These steps are all in addition to good old common sense.  All staff are following the “Ten ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus” guidance produced by the Victorian Government, and of course, will not attend a Newlife IVF facility if they have symptoms of coronavirus regardless of their exposure history.

Newlife IVF will continue to closely monitor the evidence surrounding coronavirus and fertility, and we will keep our patients abreast of any important updates.

I’m still worried – what can I do?

It is understandable to feel anxious at this time on top of the normal worries associated with fertility treatment and pregnancy.  Don’t feel like you have to cope alone. We are always here to help, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. Please do not hesitate to call (03) 8080 8933 to speak to one of our team members or email [email protected].  We will then direct you to our fertility specialists, nursing or counselling team, as appropriate, for support and information. This is certainly an extraordinary time but we will all get through it together. If you have any further questions, do get in touch!

Stay safe and take care, from Tiki and the rest of the Newlife IVF team.

#inthistogether

Disclaimer: all information in this post is correct as of 21 April 2020 and will be regularly updated as new information and advice from health authorities comes to hand.