COVID-19, assisted reproductive technology, and elective care: Your questions answered

The pandemic has left us all with a lot of questions. Here, the Ovia Health clinical team answers your questions ART and elective care during COVID-19.

Why is my fertility clinic delaying/cancelling treatments if I don’t have COVID-19? How much longer will things be delayed?

To slow the spread of COVID-19 and reserve the medical system’s limited resources for the most critical situations, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommended in March 2020 that all fertility treatments that weren’t “essential” be postponed. Since then, most services have resumed in most locations. You may be asked to go to your appointments alone, in addition to wearing a mask and reporting symptoms or temperature before your visit.

Every month ASRM provides new guidance to fertility clinics to help them decide whether they are ready to resume some or all fertility treatments, based on their local situation and resources.  Updates are posted for the public here when they become available. Stay in touch with your clinic for the latest information.

Is there any medical reason why I’m not getting my treatments right now? Is it risky to get pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic?

There is currently no clinical evidence to suggest that people should avoid becoming pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you do become pregnant, the availability of prenatal care will look a bit different. You can read more about this here.

In addition, you should know that pregnant people are at increased risk of severe disease if they become infected with COVID-19. So if you are TTC, it’s a very good idea to proactively protect yourself and your future baby by getting vaccinated now.

Facing infertility and fertility treatments was hard enough. Having treatments delayed or cancelled is stretching my emotions to the limit. Where can I turn for specialized support with this?

The National Infertility Association (RESOLVE) is an excellent starting point for finding support and guidance during this challenging time. In addition to their free HelpLine, they offer a  COVID-19 Resource Center with information and webinars that may speak to what you’re going through, from “How to cope with the news that your cycle was postponed” to virtual support groups that are continuing to meet while social distancing.

I need time-sensitive sexual or reproductive health care (e.g., birth control, STD testing, abortion services). What should I do?

IIf you don’t have a primary care provider or OB/GYN (or if you have one but don’t currently wish to use them), Planned Parenthood is a great option. Planned Parenthood is using telemedicine like phone and video appointments to expand access to these sorts of services during COVID-19. In most places, urgent procedures and visits are still taking place with the appropriate precautions in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Appointments can be scheduled by phone or on their website. You can also take Plan-C by reaching out to a healthcare provider and having it delivered straight to your home.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

All people who are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time should be able to get it, if they wish to. Multiple, well-respected clinical organizations including the CDC, ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), and The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommend the vaccine to people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and TTC [2]. If you do decide to get the vaccine, you should know it is free to everyone in the U.S. regardless of insurance status.

The first clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson did not include participants who were known to be pregnant or breastfeeding. This is typical for pharmaceutical research. Recent studies, however, have included those who are pregnant and breastfeeding and show that there is no increased risk for this group and that vaccines do not negatively impact pregnancy outcomes.

Additionally, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain “live” virus. This means you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines. In general, vaccines that do not contain “live” viruses are safe during pregnancy and do not have increased risks for infertility, miscarriage, fetal anomalies, or stillbirth. Side effects for the COVID-19 vaccines include pain at the site of injection, fever, fatigue, and chills. These typically go away after a couple of days. These side effects are normal and expected. They are indicators of your immune system doing its job to learn to protect you from the virus. That being said, there have been reports of very rare, unexpected, adverse reactions to ] the vaccines. A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can happen in very rare cases and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been linked with rare cases of dangerous blood clots [3]. The incidences of these adverse events is very low. Getting vaccinated remains safer than potentially getting infected with COVID-19.

Finally, for women whose bodies and cycles are easily affected by stress, it could be difficult to conceive right now. There are some reports of people having temporary changes to their periods (heavier, starting a few days later than expected) after getting a COVID vaccine, though more research is needed to see if there is a link. Even without further research, these changes are expected to be temporary and are not at all expected to impact fertility.

Your midwife, doctor, or other healthcare professional is a great resource for more information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Ultimately, you are the one who knows what is best for your body and your family.

Should I get the COVID-19 booster shot?

The CDC recommends the booster shot for everyone over age 12.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team Updated March 8, 2022

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