The fertility in both men and women is impacted by external forces like nutrition, exposure to organic pollutants, stress or mobile radiation. And with these lifestyle factors, COVID-19 has added more stress to our lifestyle. In cases of infertility, couples have taken the IVF route to get pregnant and have a baby.  In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of assisted reproductive technology which involves retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm, outside the womb. This fertilized egg is known as an embryo. The embryo can then be frozen for storage or transferred to a woman’s uterus. But is it safe to consider IVF during the pandemic? What are the risk factors?

To learn more TC46 connected with Dr Apurva Satish Amarnath, Consultant – Reproductive Medicine, Nova IVF Fertility, Kammanahalli. Here she explains 8 vital facts about IVF treatment to keep in mind when considering the treatment during COVID 19.

1. IVF treatment during COVID 19 should be planned with the respective doctor

With the ongoing pandemic, there is no such recommendation from the doctors where they state that IVF should be kept at bay. It is safe to go ahead with the IVF treatment. As the virus is present in the semen, Covid negative status is confirmed before the start of treatment.

However, with the second wave at its peak, couples are understandably wary of starting treatment. It should be noted that a fertility workup is warranted and couples who do not have a time-sensitive problem concerning fertility, can complete their vaccination status or wait for the pandemic to end before starting treatment. Others should plan the timeline of treatment with their respective doctors. 

2. Time sensitivity for IVF depends on multiple factors related to the patient

Time sensitivity for IVF is dependent on multiple factors – such as advanced age, low ovarian reserve, conditions like endometriosis, a cancer diagnosis. All these conditions worsen with time thereby requiring IVF to be done sooner rather than later, to optimize the chances of success. In the midst of a pandemic, if you are unsure of getting pregnant, there is an option of doing the IVF and freezing the embryos first and then transferring them back to the uterus when things are better. 

3. Avoid stressful situations & join an IVF group 

IVF can be an emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting experience. Women have stated that undergoing IVF may be one of the most stressful things one might have had to do in their lifetime.

To cope with the stress, one can speak to their friends/family or a colleague who has gone through the procedure successfully. One of the best tips to deal with anxiety is- gathering information; it helps you in better decision making. Consider joining an online IVF support group where you may be able to share your feelings and experiences with others undergoing the same thing. Avoid any other high-stress situations. One can even opt for yoga and meditation to calm their nerves.

4. Doctor’s appointments & advice should be followed and completed, religiously

One should always keep up with their doctor’s appointment as there might be some new information that has come to light that might be important for your procedure. Follow and complete all the medication provided and prescribed by your doctor as skipping medication might become a hindrance.

During these COVID times, one must always follow safety protocols. Follow social distancing measures. Use disinfectants at regular intervals. One can take video consultation instead of physically going to the clinic. When you finally do visit the clinic for any important or urgent procedure wear a mask and minimize exposure to the virus.  

5. COVID vaccines do not hinder the process with fertility, IVF medications and injections

The COVID vaccine does not cause issues with fertility treatment, pregnancy, or having a baby. It is safe and effective to take the COVID vaccine if you are a patient taking fertility treatment. You can take the vaccine in any kind of fertility treatment, whether it be ovulation induction, IUI, IVF. No research says that after getting the COVID vaccine you must refrain from getting fertility treatments for the following few months. If you have gotten a schedule for your vaccination and are presently undergoing or thinking of undergoing fertility treatment, do not avoid the vaccine, as it protects you.

6. Opt for medical appointments & consultations can be done online

With the ongoing pandemic, it is safer for the patients to take consultations online. As India has way too many covid patients and it is not safe for anyone. The situation is getting worse by the day with new fungal and bacterial diseases related to covid. Hence, the first option is a video consultation. Personal visits are required for USG that needs to be done and for procedures. Ensure that you choose a clinic that follows all covid norms.

7. IVF treatment post-vaccination is considered a safer option

Although the pandemic is very new, studies suggest that it is safe to get pregnant during this pandemic. There is no change in the risk of infection in pregnant women, though they can have higher severity. A study states that there are no changes in the percentage of miscarriages in the first trimester, which means that there is almost no effect on the baby. The chances of vertical transfer of the virus from the mother to the baby are unknown, but doctors suggest that it does not transfer. There are no changes in the birth rate or the average weight of the baby during this pandemic. So ideally, treatment following complete vaccination should be done. 

8. Delaying the IVF treatment depends on the patient’s condition and factors of infertility

Delaying the IVF treatment by 6 -12 months, post the age of 30, would be dependent on the cause of infertility. If there are time-specific constraints to the condition, a delay is not advised. But otherwise, there can be a waiting period. This needs to be a decision taken in conjunction with the fertility physician.