If you are considering IVF, you have no doubt heard that new fertility treatment has been put on hold as the Covid-19 situation continues to evolve in Australia. Grace Private gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr Tina Fleming, breaks down the news and what it means for those who are planning to embark on, or have already started, their IVF journey.

Grace Private Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Tina FlemingGrace Private Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Tina Fleming

How does the postponement of fertility and IVF treatments affect you?

In the current climate, the blanket rule is that anyone who has stimulated a cycle for their fertility treatment has already started, and can continue; while those who haven’t begun the process will be put on hold. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rules, like in the case of someone who is planning to store eggs or sperm before beginning cancer treatment.

Procedures such as intrauterine insemination and frozen embryo transfers are able to proceed at this stage in Queensland.

Treatments are ‘postponed’, not cancelled

It is important to understand this is a measure that has been taken for the health and safety of patients and staff, as Australia gains a better understanding of how Covid-19 will unfold in this country.

We understand this is causing a lot of distress for many of patients and I really want to emphasise the fact it is a postponement of fertility services, rather than a cancellation.

Clearly, this news is having a huge impact as the decision to go down the path of fertility services is already a process that can take quite some time, so the concept of having to delay that further is really challenging.

The suspension is based on expert advice

The decision to postpone treatments was a consensus between the Fertility Society of Australia and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and was in-line with the Australian Government’s suspension of elective surgery, along with lessons learned in other parts of the world.

The Covid-19 situation is really unprecedented in the modern era, so we are doing our best to utilise the information available to us through China, Europe and the United States to be able to see what the future looks like for us.

The European Reproductive Society and the American Reproductive Society ceased their reproductive treatment several weeks ago and we are wanting to get in now, rather than wait until we are in a situation where it could compromise our patients’ care or the care of our staff.

Those who have commenced a cycle, can continue

Any patient who began their treatment prior to the decision, which was made on 25 March 2020, has been able to continue their cycle.

Your care providers will honour your treatment cycle and that care will be continued, including egg pick-ups and embryo transfers within the context of that cycle.

Fertility treatment is a really big deal and we understand this is people’s lives.

How long is the suspension of IVF treatments likely to be in place?

Unfortunately that is a hard question to answer, although at this stage it is likely to be four to eight weeks.

We recognise that the uncertainty of the duration is one of the hardest things for people to deal with.

This uncertainty also applies to the lock down and when we are going to be able to start elective services again, as well as when we are going to be able to re-start fertility services.

If we could say with confidence ‘it is okay – it is going to be four weeks, or six weeks, or eight weeks’ it is much easier to get your head around.  We do recognise the uncertainty of time does increase the anxiety for many people.

I do want to reiterate it is not a cancellation, it is a postponement, and we will reassess on a case-by-case basis as the trajectory of the Covid-19 situation becomes more clear in Australia.

For more information on the postponement of fertility and IVF treatments, you can read this article by IVF Australia https://www.ivf.com.au/resources/news/covid-19-update-for-patients-in-cycle-or-those-considering-fertility-treatment

To discus your individual situation, you can contact Dr Fleming at Grace Private on 07 5594 7632.