Covid 19 and fertility: what we know so far

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According to research and recommendations, now is not a good time to plan a pregnancy.

A lot of people across the world have referred to the coronavirus as an unknown and invisible enemy. This is what is making people extremely nervous. The research on what it is and how it affects people is still ongoing. 

This means that in essence, we are uncertain how long this war will take place. 

What we do know is that it is affecting a lot of aspects of the lives of humans beings. Fertility, for instance, is one such aspect. 

The South African Medical Council has advised medical practitioners to avoid conducting elective procedures like hip replacements, ligament repairs, and planned c-sections. This was the same recommendations given to medical practitioners globally. 

The business model of fertility clinics is based on elective surgeries. For instance,in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) are both elective procedures. These procedures cannot be conducted according to Dr. Antonio Rodrigues, Reproductive Medicine Specialist and Director of MedFem Fertility Clinic. 

Also read: What are your fertility options in SA?

At the moment, MedFem is only taking in emergency cases and is only treating women that are already pregnant. 

This means that they cannot intentionally impregnate anyone. According to Dr. Rodrigues, “pregnancy is a state of immune deficiency. This means that a woman’s immune system will be compromised, and this places them at risk of contracting the virus”. 

According to Dr. Rodrigues, research so far shows that the fetus is not at risk of contracting the virus.

A big challenge at the moment is also the fact that fertilization procedures require the man or woman to leave their homes. Dr. Rodrigues notes that this is a big challenge because we are on lockdown and are trying to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“We don’t know what the demands on the medical system are going to be,” Rodrigues said. So everyone needs to play their part to ensure that the spread of the virus is limited. 

For some couples, falling pregnant is a matter of urgency. Older women that have frozen their eggs have a time limit. The recommendation states that an elective procedure like that is non-essential and therefore cannot be conducted. 

Planned pregnancies are therefore on hold, and no one knows until when.

The only thing fertility clinics can do at the moment is to advise their clients accordingly and reassure them that things will go back to normal soon enough. 

Dr Antonio Rodrigues (MBBCh , FCOG, MBA) is a Reproductive Medicine Specialist  and Director of Medfem Fertility Clinic which has been in operation for 29 years and works closely with the Fertility Show Africa

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