What about Infertility in a Covid-19 World?
Infertility is, by a its very nature, a process of starting and waiting, and hoping and grieving. It is a state of constant wonder and worry. The reality is that even when a couple is managing infertility, the world doesn't stop. Stress about transfers and testing is often compounded with daily worries about work, family, money, or anything else life throws at us. Today, the world is facing another threat (maybe you've heard of it...): Covid-19. As the rates of infected continue to rise and more and more people find themselves locking down or "social distancing" what happens to those couples and individuals who already feel isolated or who were already monitoring every symptom or body change?
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has recently released guidelines for fertility treatments during the Covid-19 Pandemic (https://www.asrm.org/news-and-publications/patient-management-and-clinical-recommendations-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic/). Basically recommendations are as follows as of March 17, 2020:
-Suspend initiation of new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF) including retrievals and frozen embryo transfers, as well as non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
-Strongly consider cancellation of all embryo transfers whether fresh or frozen.
-Continue to care for patients who are currently “in-cycle” or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation.
-Suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures.
-Minimize in-person interactions and increase utilization of telehealth.
Understandably, these guidelines can be frustrating for those who find their procedures, stalled or postponed, and may increase fear in those who have recently begun treatment. Please understand that the medical community and ASRM specifically, will update the public as more information becomes available.
But what do we do in the mean time? With nation-wide recommendations to isolate and maintain distance between people, it is very important to manage and avoid emotional isolation. Now is the time to communicate with people online and by phone. Reach out to other members of the infertility community and connect. Talk about the stress you're feeling but also focus on the positives when you can. Keep in mind that there is a lot of false information floating around, so don't feed into this. Don't pass on information without reliable sources.
If you are homebound and going a little stir-crazy, focus on self-care. Take this time to relax (as much as possible), meditate, exercise, and try out hobbies. Find some new TV shows to binge (but get up and move between episodes), read new books (check out the Libby App for access to your local library's online database), and get some fresh air. Get outside when you can, feel the sun!
Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings in this process. Feelings of fear, worry, sadness, and loneliness are natural right now; we're in uncharted territory. Remember to take precautions (wash your hands, avoid crowded places, stay home if you can), but try not to obsess. Remember that many therapists are offering Telehealth services and many insurance carriers are not providing coverage. Reach out, connect, and don't feel alone.