As fertility clinics across the U.S. begin to reopen more of their services, people are preparing to start or continue their fertility journeys. But after months of waiting with clinics and the economy closed down, questions and concerns may begin to creep up. How will I afford treatments? How will the coronavirus affect my pregnancy? What is my clinic doing to keep me and my eggs safe?
With 4 million births taking place in the U.S. every year, and more than 74,000 of those babies born via assisted reproductive technology, you are not alone in these fears. As many fertility treatments resume, there are certain considerations you can review with your practitioners. Below we’ve outlined questions for those who are wondering how to move forward with their fertility treatments.
Having waited months for treatments to start again, it’s only natural to have questions about best practices for fertility treatments, especially during the pandemic. Before you visit the clinic or book an appointment, write down a list of questions to make sure you feel comfortable and informed during your treatments. Some questions you may want to ask include:
- What is your plan for resuming standard clinic operations? What is the timeline for reopening?
- What fertility treatments are available? Which ones are best to consider during the pandemic?
- Are there any conditions for starting treatment, such as non-refundable deposits required when scheduling an appointment?
- What happens if me or my partner become infected with COVID-19?
- How can I stay safe during my visits? How are you making sure that the treatments are safe?
- How can I prepare to ensure I have the best chance of getting pregnant?
If you’ve been unemployed during the pandemic, also consider asking about planning for and managing fertility treatment costs. Many clinics will have options for payment plans to help you afford your treatments, especially during this uncertain time.
As clinics begin reopening, it’s important for people to be proactive. Once you’ve learned about your clinic’s plan for resuming services, call them to determine your status and schedule the initial health screening, even if it’s via telehealth. Most clinics are prioritizing patients based on need, such as older women or women who have been trying for a long time. If you don’t fit these categories, be patient. Your time to resume treatment should come soon. Also, start planning out your treatments to ensure you have the necessary funds. By reaching out to the clinic proactively and being prepared, you’ll be able to start your treatments sooner.
Know your options
Different treatments may open up at different times, and some options may be better than others during the pandemic. For example, clinics are slower to bring back egg donors and surrogacy, as they involve a third party, which increases the healthcare risk. Women may want to consider frozen embryo transfers, which have equivalent outcomes to fresh transfers. If they are concerned about infection with the coronavirus, they can complete a cycle now, but freeze all of their embryos. This can allow them to wait a year or more until a vaccine is developed. For older women who may not be able to wait a year for treatments, it might make sense to do the transfer now. This is because a few months may not make much of a difference regarding our knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 because of the length of time it takes to perform good research on outcomes.
With the unknown risks regarding COVID-19 and pregnancy, women need to weigh the pros and cons carefully of starting treatments now. If they or their partner start presenting coronavirus symptoms, treatments will most likely be cancelled. And they likely won’t be reimbursed the costs of healthcare services if they have to stop mid-cycle. There have also been an increase in layoffs during the pandemic, which may leave people wondering how to pay for these fertility expenses. Check with your insurance provider to see if there are certain fertility treatments that are covered. If not, there are many other options available. To learn more about how to manage your healthcare costs, Dr. Adamson participated in a webinar on planning for fertility treatment costs, which you can watch here .
Fertility treatments during the best of times can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. During the pandemic, it makes sense that these feelings will be amplified. By having a plan in place, people can feel more secure and proactive about their next steps in undergoing fertility treatments. Use these questions and considerations to prepare and to take control of your fertility journey.