Your fertility treatment and COVID-19, including vaccination advice

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.

Should I have the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m undergoing fertility treatment or IVF?

Yes. Based on advice from the Australian & New Zealand Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, we support the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccination during fertility treatment. There is no evidence that the vaccine will affect your overall fertility or current treatment, nor the pregnancy that follows. This is true for both men and women.

If I am currently awaiting the results of a pregnancy test after a recent embryo transfer or other fertility treatment, and I discover I am pregnant, should I go ahead and have the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Maybe. The vaccine has been inadvertently given to many pregnant women around the world with no increase in the rate of pregnancy complications or foetal abnormalities. Having said that, it has not been specifically tested on large numbers of pregnant women, nor are there any long-term studies looking at the developmental outcomes of children born to mothers who have been vaccinated.

Our gut feeling is that the vaccination is safe during pregnancy, but we cannot be 100% certain. As a result, vaccination during pregnancy is not recommended unless special circumstances exist. Special circumstances may be that your job entails a high risk of exposure (e.g. frontline workers, hospital emergency department staff, etc.) or because the consequences for you personally being infected with COVID-19 are higher due to medical conditions in you or your family.

Being vaccinated in pregnancy requires balancing the potential risks with the undoubtable benefits. We recommend discussing these issues with your fertility specialist or obstetrician.

What should I do if I am already pregnant following recent fertility treatment?

If you have a recent positive pregnancy result it is best to speak with your fertility specialist or obstetrician. They will review your risk factors and make a decision based on what is best for your stage of pregnancy, exposure risk and medical history.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause miscarriage?

No. There is no evidence of an increased risk of miscarriage or abnormalities in the physical development of your baby.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The vaccine protects you from COVID-19 by fooling your immune system into making an immune response to small proteins that are associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus causing the disease COVID-19). Your body will then have pre-built immunity should you ever be exposed to the real virus and you will be protected. For an adequate response, it is recommended that you receive the vaccine twice, several weeks apart.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Side effects from the vaccine are uncommon and appear to be mild and short-lasting. These include a sore injection site, headache, fatigue, temperature rise and muscle weakness. These symptoms are not from you having ‘mild COVID-19’; they are a result of the immune response that your body mounts in response to the vaccine.

What effect does the COVID-19 pandemic have on my fertility treatment?

We are currently offering all of our usual fertility treatments. Newlife IVF remains open, and our fertility specialists, nurses and counsellors are all available, with most consults now taking place virtually (via telehealth or videoconferencing). Patients are still able to attend appointments with their fertility specialist when an examination is required. During IVF cycles, patients are able to attend for pathology and ultrasound tracking in person, as well as undergo their fertility procedures in our partner day surgery, Epworth Eastern Ekera.

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, all patients undergo exposure risk screening prior to attending our facilities, and in some circumstances, a COVID-19 swab is required.

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.

As we all know, government and Department of Health advice can change at short notice. However, we are not expecting the pandemic to cause any forced interruptions to IVF or fertility treatment.

If I am having difficulty conceiving, is it still safe to seek help?

It is safe to undergo fertility assessment and treatment due to the numerous precautions we’re taking during the process. 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. Our clinic is taking a number of steps to ensure safety, such as maintaining social distancing by staggering patient appointments and temperature checks. Please ensure good hand hygiene and frequent hand washing or using hand sanitiser if attending in person.

We recommend patients remain proactive about their fertility assessment and treatment throughout this period due to the natural decline in fertility with age.

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

We are encouraging our patients to do all the recommended actions to reduce their risk of being exposed to COVID-19 including social distancing and hand hygiene, and we are strongly supporting vaccination against COVID-19 before and during fertility treatment. It’s even more important than usual to keep healthy by eating well and exercising to benefit your physical and mental health – see our blog for useful tips.

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

During your period of quarantine, we will be following advice from the Department of Health and Human Services, who may advise that you are 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
  • Severe disease might increase the chance of an earlier delivery, but it must be noted that this is usually because delivery of the baby is undertaken to simplify the management of an unwell mother
  • There is no definite evidence of an increased risk to the pregnancy, such as miscarriage, foetal 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 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.

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 Chris and the rest of the Newlife IVF team.

#inthistogether

Disclaimer: all information in this post is correct as of 26 February 2021 and will be regularly updated as new information and advice from health authorities comes to hand.

Disclaimer

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your healthcare professional for medical advice specific to you.