When it was announced that fertility clinics would close on 15 April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people due to start or in the process of fertility treatment were left stranded. It was clear to see why such strict regulations had been introduced across all areas of society; it was the most prudent approach in order to best protect the public and the health services. But that didn't make it any easier to deal with if you were personally effected in this way.
To be told that your fertility treatment was a non-essential procedure would have been unbelievably painful to hear for so many. Infertility is not a choice and to be made to feel that your treatments aren't important can feel like further punishment. Uncertainty is an overarching feeling that accompanies infertility and to then add this temporary suspension of services with no end date would have caused anger and anxiety. Time is a massive factor for anyone undergoing fertility treatments. When you are aware that your chances of conception, either naturally or through IVF, decrease with age, every day feels like a painful passing of time.
There have been many people fighting for fertility clients affected by these changes and a lot of pressure has been put on the government to reconsider this suspension of services, but for weeks the uncertainty remained. Therefore the news last week that that fertility clinics should be allowed to re-open from 11 May 2020 would have come as a huge relief for many people. It is not just that fact that your treatments can recommence, but also the validation that your situation has been understood and respected. It is right that this is one of the services that should be allowed to resume earliest.
The HFEA (Human Fertility & Embryology Authority) have stated that before a clinic can resume treatment, they must demonstrate that they can provide a safe service for patients, their gametes and embryos and a safe working environment for clinic staff that complies with recommendations from professional guidance. Clinics will need to outline their strategy and how they will comply with social distancing.
Clinics must have a COVID-19 treatment commencement strategy in place before they can restart treatment and not all clinics will be able to resume treatment at the same time. If you have specific questions regarding your medical treatment or the reopening of your chosen fertility clinic, you will need to speak to your clinic directly.
It is up to individual clinics to decide which treatments are to resume and when. Clinics will be holding waiting lists of patients whose cycles had to be cancelled or who could not start planned treatment during the closure. The HFEA understands that unless there are exceptional circumstances, most clinics will be carrying on where they left off in terms of who they will offer treatment to and will be in touch to let those people know what to expect.
After careful consideration it has been considered that NHS clinics are also able to open without having a negative impact on other NHS services. It is likely that NHS clinics may take slightly longer to get their strategy and procedures in place due to extra pressures and planning, but again this will vary by clinic.
If you were in the process of having preliminary investigations or procedures through the NHS this may be delayed due to a backlog of appointments, but again it is best to contact your clinic or service provider directly for more details. If you are receiving NHS funding for treatments, we hope that this will be unaffected, though trusts in England are still to confirm (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already confirmed this is the case).
During the suspension of treatments, the government confirmed that they would be extending the 10 year storage limit for embryos and gametes by a further two years to ensure that no one was penalised by this limit during the pandemic.
We understand that many people may still feel nervous about entering clinics or hospitals at the moment for tests or treatments, and even about the prospect of being pregnant or giving birth whilst COVID-19 is still circulating within the population. However, the reason for this temporary suspension was primarily to ensure the safety of patients and staff, and any disruption or changes to your level of treatment will be in order to follow strict guidelines in maintaining the highest level of safety.
The RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) are regularly assessing the situation for pregnant women, and this advice will be considered before offering any treatment. Patients would need to actively consent to having treatment whilst there is a risk that they could contract COVID-19 either during the treatment or if successful, during pregnancy. Ultimately this decision must lie with the individual client.
These last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for the whole population, but if you've also been affected by suspension of your fertility treatments, its impossible to put into words the level of disappointment, grief and frustration you have been feeling. And although the recommencement of treatment is positive news, it no doubt brings a new wave of emotions.
At Muma Nurture we are offering support online throughout the current crisis and are here if you need support with any of these issues. Please contact us to find out how we can help. New clients are still being taken on using zoom, and for more information regarding this you can Whatsapp Muma Nurture on: 07460775495, or email: email@example.com