Dr. Richlin was invited onto the program to give his expert advice on the current virus climate and its implications on fertility. Below is summarization of his interview.
Should women be thinking about delaying pregnancy?
There's no obvious evidence that you can't or should not become pregnant during this time. Current research, though limited, shows that fetuses are unaffected if the mother becomes infected with COVID-19. So, considering the mother and partner are healthy and after informed consent and a discussion with their doctor, people are still trying to become pregnant. We are constantly monitoring this conversation for any changes or new information.
Are there new guidelines for women undergoing IVF treatment?
There are new guidelines suggested by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, but they are not a set mandate. What most reproductive centers are doing is stepping up the safety precautions for the patient (minimizing as many risks in offices as possible) and making individualized treatment decisions depending on the patient, patient desires, and patient health. The doctor, fertility team, and patient will come up with a unique plan that's right for their circumstance.
How are you minimizing risk for the patient?
We're continuing our excellent cleaning protocols and doctors and staff are keeping safe distances from one another. Additionally, all RMA of CT clinical employees are keeping to one office, as opposed to our normal office rotation schedule.
As for our patient safety requests, we schedule only one patient at a time to minimize any exposure, all patients are screened before entering, and all patients are required to be alone.
When it comes to technology, telemedicine has been incredibly helpful. Our doctors, nutritionists, social workers, genetic counselors, and more are meeting with existing patients over video or phone, removing the risk of exposure altogether while progressing patient treatment. We don't want our patients to feel alone, so we can continue their treatment while staying safe.
When assessing a patient to decide if they are ready or not for treatment, what do you take into consideration?
The most important thing is we want to make sure they're not sick. They don't have a fever, mild symptoms, flu, cough, or shortness of breath. If a couple is healthy, eating right, exercising, and feeling good, that's a couple that could potentially move forward with treatment, pending a conversation with their doctor. Obviously, if there's an illness, we would not want to attempt pregnancy at this point.
What advice would you offer to a patient who has age-factor infertility that is not wanting to put off family building during this time?
This is a very common concern that I hear. We would need to look at a patient's history, like the patient's ovarian reserve. Often, these patients would opt to continue with treatment immediately, so after much counseling and patient monitoring, we can move forward. We value a patient's autonomy and personal desires, so if they don't want to wait, we support and counsel them about that.
We don't know the time frame of this pandemic. If they are a good candidate for treatment, have discussed this with their doctor, and been properly counseled, we don't want them to give up that opportunity to build their dream family.
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