“COVID-19 and Fertility Treatments” | updated November 29, 2020 myMindBodyBaby
Practicing Social Isolation
Our community has been on edge since March 2020 with the ever-changing news on COVID-19 and fertility treatments. When I first wrote this article I was socially isolated with my family at our cottage north of the GTA in Ontario, Canada. I am now updating this at the end of November 2020 with the most recent news on the pandemic, fertility treatment, and what it means to those TTC. This is a scary time for everyone. My husband has been on a strict work-from-home protocol since March, I went through the last part of my pregnancy amidst the pandemic and then delivered under pandemic protocols in the hospital. Like you, we are doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our family healthy. Michelle, our resident nutritionist, who wrote up the section on how to boost your immunity through nutrition, has been similarly sequestered at her home with her almost one and two year old.
Searching for Answers
Everyone wants more answers – and nobody has enough, although we have come a long way since March. Researchers, healthcare professionals, community leaders, government officials – everyone is looking for the best recommendations, the safest guidance, and the answers we all need to stop the spread and reduce the burden to healthcare systems around the world.
COVID-19 and Fertility Treatments
This is a particularly scary and uncertain time for those going through or preparing for fertility treatment. You’ve messaged us in our private Facebook group, you’ve responded to our inquiries on Instagram and you’ve messaged us privately.
Compiling Guidance from the Experts
Every day new information emerges (we have updated this article already a few times) and we have compiled what is known to date to help guide you through this time. We are looking to fertility experts and other healthcare providers to continue to share data and recommendations as they become available.
Your Questions on COVID-19 and Fertility Treatments
The main questions you have on COVID-19 and Fertility Treatments are:
- Should I delay an upcoming fertility treatment?
- What happens if I am in the middle of a treatment cycle?
- What extra precautions can I take to support my health and fertility during this pandemic?
- Does COVID-19 impact fertility?
Let’s take a look at each one separately.
#1 Should I delay an upcoming fertility treatment?
Contact Your Clinic
Some clinics are postponing all upcoming treatments, and so some of you may have no choice in the matter. Other clinics are advising that you do not need to cancel your appointments unless you are showing the symptoms of COVID-19. If you have not yet received guidance from your fertility clinic and you are planning on an upcoming treatment cycle contact your clinic as soon as possible to understand their stance on the matter. You can also check your clinic’s website – some, like the Fertility Centers of Illinois, have created information pages to help guide their patients.
If your treatment cycle has been postponed you could consider using the extra time to prepare. Check out our article on how you can use this time to optimize your fertility as you wait for your treatment to resume. We also have a free Fertility Fundamentals to make sure you’re doing all that you can to support your fertility so that when your treatment is rescheduled you’ll be as ready as you can be.
If you’d like a complete guided support program specific to your upcoming cycle check out the options we have here. They come complete with a full meal plan, Nutritional Diary, complete day-by-day workout schedule with full-length exercise videos + mental well-being support to guide you through your cycle.
You’ve Waited So Long As It Is
We know that you have waited so long to have the baby you are dreaming of. You’ve tackled so many barriers and obstacles up to this point. And now you are faced with a pandemic. To think that you have to delay growing your family, even more, must feel devasting. You have invested so much so far – emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially – and you want to give yourself the best chance of success. If you are faced with the decision to delay or proceed weigh the pros and cons carefully.
Talk to Your Healthcare Team
Talk to your healthcare team to discuss what they believe is the best approach for you. If you do proceed with your IUI or IVF or medicated cycle ensure you take extra precautions during the two-week wait and if and when you find out you are pregnant. According to the CDC to protect yourself at any time:
- Limit close contact with others (keep 6 feet distance)
- Work from home, stay home from school (if it’s not already canceled), and avoid large gatherings
- Continue practicing everyday prevention measures: frequent handwashing with soap for 20 seconds, avoid sharing food and drinks, clean common surfaces regularly, etc.
See the section below on boosting your immunity through nutrition.
#2 What happens if I am in the middle of a treatment cycle?
Right now the ASRM is recommending IVF patients that have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, those that have tested positive themselves or those that are showing the symptoms of COVID-19, “consider freezing all oocytes or embryos and avoid an embryo transfer until they are disease-free”.
IUI & Medicated Cycles
If you are in the midst of an IUI cycle your clinic will probably allow you to proceed. They will likely recommend the same guidance as above – take extra precautions to avoid the virus during the period of time between the IUI and your pregnancy test.
Surrogacy and Gestational Carriers
The ASRM has stated the following in terms of surrogacy:
“ASRM and SART remain concerned that travel restrictions due to the virus may cause intended parents who are using a gestational carrier not to be able to join their newborn in a timely manner. Consequently, we strongly encourage all intended parents and the legal professionals, organizations, and programs that facilitate these arrangements to promptly take the necessary steps to identify families that may be so affected and develop contingencies in the event that these babies need to be cared for following their birth.”
#3 What extra precautions can I take to support my health and fertility during this pandemic?
In addition to the preventative measures we outlined above from the CDC, Michelle offers the following suggestions to boost your immunity.
While many of us may be feeling nervous about the quick spread of COVID-19, there are a few basic actions you can take starting today to support your immune system. Here are some of my top nutritionist-approved suggestions.
Research clearly points to sleep (or lack of it) as helping or hindering your immune system. When you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines – some of these help support sleep. Certain types of these proteins need to be increased when your immune system is compromised. If you are not sleeping then the production of these immune-supporting cytokines will be down.
Since many of us will be under more stress during this time – from delayed fertility treatments, a general fear of COVID-19, to isolation (and many more factors), it is important to ensure you are getting as much sleep as possible. For adults, this is approximately 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
2 Junk Food Nation
In times of stress (and in this case more isolation and possible boredom) splurging on treats and junk foods is one way people cope. And while I can completely understand this, and have been guilty of it myself at times in the past, now is not the time to go sugar crazy.
“…there is enough quality, direct human evidence to conclude that many of the dietary choices in today’s modern society appear to have harmful impacts on our immune system and likely on the immune system of our offspring…”
Instead, consider choosing just certain days where you can splurge a bit vs. having junk on the daily. Also, perhaps you can find an online recipe to make a healthier version of your favourite junk food. Instead of 1 whole bag of microwave popcorn, opt to pop your own in coconut oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper. Ditch the sugar-filled milk chocolate and choose dark chocolate that is 70% or higher. Not only will you get the calming factor from the magnesium, but it will help prevent cravings for more.
3 Immune-supporting foods
What we DO eat is equally important to what we avoid. Now is the time to really focus on those foods that can help give your system a boost.
At home here I have a few key items in my immune-arsenal:
- Ginger and Garlic: These potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich spices have been used for thousands of years to help support the immune system. How to consume: add both garlic and ginger when making bone broth, consume ginger tea, cook with garlic, and add to homemade salad dressing.
- Elderberry: Shown to be particularly effective in fighting upper respiratory infections. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that those taking elderberry had a resolve in symptoms 4 days earlier than those taking the placebo.
- Bone broth: I make a batch of this every month anyway, but I’ve made sure my freezer is full so I can make nutritious soups (this is one of our favourites) and stews for myself and my family. While this health recommendation is purely antidotal, bone broth at the very least provides a wonderful way to help increase vegetable (especially the brassica family) and water consumption.
- Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and kombucha are examples of foods that have been left to ferment and as a result are high in good gut-supporting bacteria. Why should you care? Friendly bacteria are thought to have a direct and positive impact on our immune system as much of our immune system lives in the gut. The thought here is – the healthier the gut, the stronger the immune.
- Vitamin D: Yes, you can get this from sunshine and diet – but are you getting enough? Due to climate, sunscreen, and long working days, many of us don’t get enough. In addition, we need to be able to absorb dietary vitamin D. If you have a compromised digestive system, then again you may be vitamin D deficient.
“Considering the influence of vitamin D on the immune system, it is suggested that vitamin D can be used in the treatment of immune-mediated diseases.”
Many businesses like coffee shops (see Starbucks), spas, and gyms are either closed or have changed protocols during this time. We know that meeting with friends, practicing self-care through massage or acupuncture, and maintaining your exercise regime are all methods of managing stress due to infertility. Instead, try some of these options to avoid germs during this period of uncertainty:
- Phone or video call with friends and family
- Ask your partner or spouse for a massage
- Explore at-home workouts (we have some great free options – check this Lower Body Workout or Heart Pumping Workout video option)
#4 Does COVID-19 Impact Fertility?
As the virus is still relatively new there have not been any long-term studies on the impact of COVID-19 on fertility. Viruses similar to COVID-19, like SARS and MERS, do not show an impact on fertility. Early studies are now looking at the impact on male fertility, but results show there could be a negative effect. If you and your partner are planning to try to conceive on your own or have a fertility treatment booked ensuring you are following the best safety practices is recommended.
Our thoughts are with you during this unprecedented time. As we learn new information, we will ensure we share it with you. To make sure you don’t miss out on any new articles you can sign up for alerts below.