By Dr Pallavi Prasad
The way the world functions has completely changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Words like quarantine, lockdown, social distancing, etc, which one had not even heard of before, have become part of our daily conversations. These are definitely stressful times to live in.
India has now undergone four phases of lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus. This disrupted the lives of many citizens, as the entire nation came to a standstill. People seeking healthcare facilities were impacted heavily as hospitals had to grapple with this unprecedented situation, where they had to attend to patients but also ensure complete safety and social distancing norms. One of the elective procedures’ groups whose plans were brought to a halt were couples seeking to begin the journey of parenthood through IVF (in vitro fertilisation).
People seeking to conceive through IVF already undergo a lot of stress. The process is all about waiting and it can be an emotional roller-coaster for many individuals. Add a pandemic to it, and an already complex process becomes even more overwhelming. The lockdown forced many such couples to postpone their plans as most fertility clinics were closed due to government norms and the future looked uncertain.
But with the country slowly opening up and lockdown restrictions being eased, many fertility clinics are resuming their operations in regions permitted by local authorities. So, if you are looking to seek assisted reproductive treatment and fulfill your dream of parenthood, you can do so.
It is very natural to feel anxious about this though. After all, the threat of contracting the virus is still present. Many couples will certainly have doubts about how safe the process will be now. Will visits to the hospitals and clinics be advisable in the current scenario? If you do visit a hospital/clinic, how can you be sure that social distancing is maintained? Will it be better if you just postpone this for now?
However, while taking the decision, it should be always kept in mind that IVF is an extremely time sensitive process and hence, postponing it only because of the fear of COVID can have severe outcomes with decreased success rates and increased criticality. There is no wrong time for having a baby, and people who have planned to have a baby through assisted reproduction can surely opt for IVF, even during this pandemic. As per recent trend reports, there is no evidence for miscarriage, preterm births or baby born with congenital defects if going ahead with IVF procedures during this time.
However, before visiting an IVF clinic, patients should always be cautious about the safety measures taken at the IVF centre and how stringently they are adhering to the government directives as the whole process from consultation to embryo transfer happens at the clinic. With recent relaxations and ease of lockdown, IVF centres have initiated operations and are following stringent protocols to ensure strict implementation of all COVID safety guidelines. It is mandatory to use masks and gloves at all times, there are temperature checks at all entry points, use of sanitizers and frequent hand washing before and after procedures, maintaining social distancing throughout the clinics, frequent sanitization of all surfaces especially beds are being done.
You can yourself follow certain steps to ensure your safety. Whenever you visit the clinic make sure to maintain at least one-metre distance from other people. This of course will be difficult to do with the hospital staff, as they are the ones assisting you, but you need not worry about them, because like I said before, they are following all the safety protocols. Just make sure you avoid unnecessary contact with other people over there. Utilise hand sanitizers that are kept in the clinics and make sure to wash your hands when you come back home.
IVF involves a lot of doctor consultations, but it is not necessary that you have to visit them physically all the time. Many clinics are providing the facility of telemedicine. For routine check-ups and consultation, you can always consult your doctor virtually. That way there will not be any break in your treatments and you ensure that you stay safe and avoid unnecessary interactions with others.
IVF treatment takes time, proper communication and consultations, lots of phone calls even before it begins. It starts only after the initial fertility testing is completed. The doctors also must ensure that the mother is healthy before conceiving, so it undoubtedly would involve many medical screenings and evaluations. IVF treatments include preconception health regiments and fertility testing. The entire process could take up to two to three months.
Then there is also the post conception period to think about. In case your IVF treatment is successful, and you are able to conceive, going through a pregnancy during these times is challenging but definitely doable.
The most important thing before going ahead with IVF is to be prepared. Talk with your doctors and schedule your initial consultation, appoint a nutritionist, meet with a fertility counsellor who can prepare you for the road ahead, especially in the current scenario, read up about the process on various support blogs you can find. All these steps will help you deal with the overall anxiety you may face during this time. Gather all the information and then make an informed decision and whatever you decide, make sure your health, both physical and mental takes priority.
(The writer is Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility Bangalore)
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