April 24, 2020 11:00:05 am
By Kshitiz Murdia
Fertility treatments and IVF are complicated enough, but when you throw a pandemic into the mix, it becomes a full-blown brain-scrambling, emotionally-draining and rage-inducing situation.
That’s the truth for hundreds and thousands of women who were waiting for an oocyte retrieval or embryo transplant during this period. For many, especially, those standing at the cusp of menopause, this could be their last shot at fulfilling their dream of becoming a mother.
A little delay, but a long wait
A majority of the couples planning to undergo IVF treatment have postponed their appointments. Others are delaying the date of embryo transfer till the fear of the pandemic dilutes down.
The novel coronavirus related delay in fertility treatment is mostly about waiting and delay. And that’s precisely the problem for most women who are seeking IVF in India. They have already waited too long to gain access to artificial methods of pregnancy, and right now, COVID-19 is putting their dreams back on ice.
What’s the risk of pregnancy in the times of COVID-19?
According to doctors, pregnancy is comparable to any other immune-compromised state and the risk of infection is much higher for pregnant women. Although they might be following social distancing protocols, they will need to visit the hospitals now and then for USG, health check-ups and/or C-sections.
These situations expose them to potential risks of COVID-19 infection. According to researchers, the novel coronavirus is a new virus and its effects on the health of a developing foetus or a pregnant woman has not yet been fully documented. Till date, there is no data on whether COVID-19 can cause miscarriages or congenital defects of the foetus.
Data from multiple districts of China show that novel coronavirus infected women did not pass the infection onto their foetuses, but most of them had preterm births, which may have been due to the COVID-19 infection, although no corroborative data is currently available.
Why is the small delay necessary for you?
While it might be difficult for someone waiting for their n-th round of fertility treatment or IVF, the delay can work in the favour of you and millions of others in two main ways –
– You will not have to go in for frequent clinic visits. That will enable you to maintain the norms of social distancing, which is the primary way of stopping the spread of the infection.
– If you are going to a hospital or research facility for your IVF treatments, you may be diverting medical professionals from more urgent cases that need their attention.
Is delaying fertility treatment compulsory in India?
Delaying fertility treatment in India is currently a voluntary choice. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has not released any guidelines or restrictions regarding the ongoing fertility treatments in the urban, quasi-urban or rural regions of the country.
However, at the same time, ante-natal and post-natal cares have been classified as essential services. Therefore, obstetricians and gynecologists’ can continue to see their patients unless one of them qualify for the criteria of self-isolation or quarantine. Telemedicine and telehealth are doing a marvellous task of filling the gap of personal visits with doctors and specialists.
Nonetheless, IVF requires special care and multiple visits to the clinic, which might expose the mother and the foetus to higher risks of COVID-19 infection. Therefore, medical professionals across the country are urging couples to rethink their pregnancy plans and reschedule their IVF treatment appointments until the imminent threat is over.
(The writer is the Medical Director of Indira IVF)
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