21 December 2020
The current pandemic should not be a deterrent in making couples seeking parenthood opt for IVF treatment. In times when almost 1 in every 6 couples in-country is looking for an infertility solution, corona spread comes as a testing time. Fertility problems and IVF are already stressful. Now, throw a pandemic like COVID-19 in this scenario, and the mind may go into an all-out tailspin.
Dr. Pooja Mehta, Senior Consultant, Gynaecologist & IVF Specialist at Fortis Bloom IVF Centre, Fortis Hospital, Mohali Chandigarh said that couples now need not curtail their happiness out of scare of Covid infection.
She explained it is understandable for couples to wonder if this is the best time for embryo retrieval or transfer. She advised against delaying the IVF treatment as the majority of patients of reproductive age are generally not in the high-risk group (vis-à-vis high-risk groups of Covid). So, it is not necessary to delay the treatment cycle or IVF consultation at this time.
Explaining the impact of Corona on fertility she said that currently, there was limited evidence regarding the association between fertility and coronavirus. But, we do know that infections may cause high fever, which could affect fertility treatment, she added.
A study has suggested that high fever during the IVF cycle or egg freezing may require a higher need for medications, a lower number of retrieved eggs, and a longer cycle. However, there’s no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 fever has an impact on fertility.
Similarly, she dispelled the fears that Covid may hamper pregnancy. She explained it was seen that the risk of COVID infection in the pregnant female is the same as compared to a non-pregnant female. Besides, there is no sufficient evidence that suggests that pregnant women can pass COVID infection to their babies. Also, coronavirus is not present in breast milk or amniotic fluid. Looking at these facts, it is highly unlikely that COVID-19 can affect pregnancy.
To mitigate the spread of the virus at Fortis IVF Bloom Center complete care is being taken to lessen the number of the physical visit of patients to the hospital. Hospital offers telemedicine appointments for the initial or follow-up consultations to curate a treatment plan for you. Further, to avoid transmission risk, it follows all guidelines suggested by the authorities.
Dr. Pooja explained that the central laboratory also has a HEPA filtration system, a positive pressure air handling system, and maintains quality assurance and rigorous cleaning at all times. This lowers the risk of COVID transmission to embryos, eggs, or sperm.
Changes have been made at Fortis IVF centers in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai (Girgaum & Bandra), Navi Mumbai, South Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad & Mohali for patient safety. Video Consultation in form of digital consultation and counseling has been introduced to minimize patients’ visits and clinic footfall.
To reduce exposure, the center provides home blood collection. In males with suspected semen problems, semen collection can also be done at home & then transported to the laboratory for analysis. For repeated ultrasounds, we have started referring patients to their nearby ultrasonologist rather than calling them to the IVF clinic. Options for home delivery of medications along with a prescription are also available.
Also, the centers’ staff is on the daily triage questionnaire for COVID-19, which are questions that determine infection risk. They are also tested with an RT PCR test if they are suspected of COVID infection. At centers, the staff greets with hands folded and no handshakes. Visitors are requested to sanitize their hands and temperature is checked.
Face masks and PPE are worn during the procedures as per guidelines along with mandatory for patients to adorn masks all the time. Ultraviolet lights (which are used during non-working hours) have been installed and sterilization to sanitize the surfaces and air is done regularly.
Most importantly, COVID Screening of all couples is done using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) before starting the treatment and repeat them before all treatment stages, such as embryo transfer or ovum pick up. If either spouse is detected positive for Covid, the cycle is canceled. In those patients wherein a cycle is canceled, discounts are given in the next IVF attempt, to compensate for the financial loss of cycle cancellation.
Take these precautions while undergoing IVF to stay steer clear of coronavirus
ü Wear a mask all the time when in public.
ü Frequently wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20/30 seconds.
ü If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
ü Disinfect and clean frequently touched surfaces using cleaning wipes or sprays.
ü Cover your nose and hands with elbow or tissue and not your hands