As an infertility patient, you are probably used to dealing with uncertainty. When you’re trying to conceive it can feel like you’re on a month-to-month roller coaster wondering if this will be the month or the cycle that results in pregnancy. However, no one could’ve anticipated that a global pandemic might disrupt or change the course of your fertility treatments. If you’re trying to conceive and utilizing Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF), first—take a deep breath and know you’re not alone. Second—read our guide below on how to handle the new normal for fertility treatments in a COVID-19 world.
The Use of Telehealth
Because the fertility process often includes day-to-day changes in protocol, patients are used to communicating with their reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and nurses via phone, text message, and email. So, what’s the difference now? Expect to use these mediums a lot more. Fertility clinics are limiting face-to-face interaction as much as possible for everyone’s safety. Action items like patient regroups, consent signing, and financial consults may be done over a video platform like Zoom. You should still expect to have strong communication channels with your clinic and should advocate if you’re not receiving the same level of care. Here are some things you can do to prepare for your virtual appointment:
- Write down all of your questions and concerns in advance
- Consider having a support person with you if there are going to be some challenging conversations
- Keep a paper and pen handy in case you need to jot down notes
- If you haven’t used your clinic’s telehealth platform of choice before, download all necessary software in advance and consider doing a test run. Clinics may have staff available to help walk you through the process if you continue to have difficulty
The New Waiting Room
Since the pandemic is ever evolving, the new waiting room practice may change over time. For now, however, in-person appointments are still happening for anything that can’t be done using telehealth, which means the waiting room experience may be a bit different. Here is what you can expect:
- An adjusted space to accommodate smaller groups of people who can be spaced out for social distancing
- Masks required to be worn at all times (make sure you come prepared)
- Required screenings and temperature checks for all patients
- The removal of shared accommodations like coffee machines or water coolers—so be sure to bring your own beverage
- Halting drop-in hours to control the flow of people coming and going (call your clinic to see if they adhere to strict appointment times)
- Limiting partners and guests for certain appointments and procedures
- Extra time and care being taken to disinfect all areas of the clinic and supply patients with hand sanitizer
Be Prepared for Another Potential Lockdown
It’s important to be prepared for another potential shutdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. If there is another strict lockdown, that may be a possibility for your clinic, depending on where it’s located. If this happens, some clinics might finish care for outpatients who are in time-sensitive cycles, but possibly cancel treatment for anyone who hasn’t started yet or is in the very beginning of a cycle. As a patient, you have a right to be aware of this going into a new cycle, so make sure you get clear communication on what may happen at your clinic if there’s another strict lockdown.
Health and Safety Are Paramount
Even in these circumstances, fertility clinics are still administering excellent care to their patients. REs and fertility nurses worked long hours before the pandemic, but now they’ve lengthened their workday even more to space out appointments and procedures. You should feel safe coming in, because the right precautions are in place for both staff and patients.