COVID-19 Update: For patients in cycle or those considering Fertility Treatment

As the news about novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to develop, we acknowledge the seriousness of the Covid-19 crisis and the implications for health services in the coming weeks. It is very reasonable to consider whether this is the right time to be embarking on fertility treatment.

Following updated advice from our Medical Directors and the revised position outlined today by The Fertility Society of Australia the following outlines how The Fertility Centre is responding: 

  • We will continue to care for fertility patients currently undergoing treatment ie those who are in treatment cycle
  • In the interest of public health safety, we encourage those of our patients who were planning to commence a treatment, to consider postponing fertility treatment and staying at home.  Each patient should, however, discuss their own situation with their fertility specialist;
  • There may be patients who, because of their particular medical circumstances, may request to continue treatment at this point.  For example fertility preservation patients, who urgently need to freeze eggs and sperm before cancer treatment, their fast-tracked care will understandably continue

The Fertility Centre's approach aligns with the Government’s announcement on 25 March that all elective surgery is to be suspended other than category 1 and urgent category 2 cases. For clarity, IVF cycles in stimulation (including patients about to be triggered) are included in category 1.  Any patients who do not come within category 1 should seek the advice of their specialist as to whether they can commence treatment.  

The Fertility Society of Australia updated advice 25 March 2020 appreciates the needs of individuals seeking assistance to conceive or preserve their fertility but also acknowledges that the overarching responsibility currently is to all patients as part of the Australian and New Zealand healthcare system. 

The Fertility Society of Australia therefore recommends that, in the interest of public safety, patients who are planning to start fertility treatment consult with their treating specialist and discuss the appropriateness of postponing their treatment.

The Fertility Society of Australia recognises that there may be medical circumstances where delaying treatment may not be advisable and treating specialists should advise their patients if there are medical grounds to commence treatment now. 

Many of the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not clear. The number of pregnant women who have contracted COVID-19 and have subsequently delivered is small. The results are reassuring, including no evidence of mother-to-baby transmission during pregnancy. Currently available evidence does not suggest serious consequences for young children or women in pregnancy. However, as the situation is still emerging, these results require cautious optimism.

Our advice is that unaffected and low risk patients going through assisted reproduction (such as IVF) will not be at any higher risk of complications than anyone else in the population.  

The current recommendations from The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists are reassuring and state: 

“At this time, pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop COVID-19 infection than the general population. It is expected that the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms. 

In line with current recommendations if a woman who is trying to conceive or in early pregnancy develops an infection COVID-19 or otherwise, they are advised to take Panadol to minimise their fever and seek advice from their doctor.

If you have to withdraw from fertility treatment because of an actual or suspected COVID-19 exposure before the egg collection, NO out of pocket costs will be charged by The Fertility Centre (for Medicare eligible patients only).

What are we doing to protect your safety when you visit The Fertility Centre?

We are asking anyone who falls into the following categories, not to come into the clinic and seek further medical advice.  If in doubt, please talk to our staff. We are here to help.

  • Active flu like symptoms
  • Recent direct contact with proven COVID-19 case
  • Recent return from overseas travel in the past 14 days
  • Any patient who has returned from overseas travel at any time after 15 March must self-isolate for 14 days

We’re ensuring our teams maintain high hygiene standards, following all infection control protocols including: hand sanitisation before and after contact with our patients; following cough etiquette by maintaining the 1.5 metre rule of distance, except when carrying out an essential medical procedure (such as taking blood); and washing down all surfaces between patients with disinfectants.

Our staff will be avoiding direct physical contact with patients such as handshakes.  We do appreciate how hard this is, not to be able to have the warmth of physical support when you are going through the emotional journey of IVF but it is important for your safety.

For safety reasons, we have closed our breakfast bar and withdrawn the magazines from our waiting rooms. If any patient or visitor presents as unwell, with fever, or with flu-like symptoms, they will be provided with a face mask, hand sanitiser and moved away from other patients.

We are here to support you during your fertility care. Please continue to visit our website for the most up to date advice before you attend the clinic.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms range from a mild cough to pneumonia. Some people recover easily, others may get very sick very quickly. There is evidence that it spreads from person to person. Good hygiene can prevent infection.

Symptoms of coronavirus

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear.

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a fever (temperature above normal); cough; shortness of breath; breathing difficulties.
  • If you have these symptoms; or have travelled overseas in the last 2 weeks and/or been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 2 weeks or is suspected of having COVID -19 you may be at risk.

Here are some steps to protect yourself from COVID-19

Clean your hands regularly

  • after coughing or sneezing
  • after toilet use
  • before eating
  • before and after preparing food
  • if you are in contact with a sick person, especially those with respiratory symptoms
  • if your hands are dirty

Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and dispose of the tissue appropriately and wash your hands.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Importantly – stay at home if you’re feeling unwell and call the clinic.

Avoid

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing upon greeting colleagues, friends or family.

Anyone who knows they have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and has symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever) should:

  • isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room, with a phone,
  • call their GP, or emergency department.

Close contact is defined as requiring:

  • greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed case in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case, or
  • sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours) in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case.

Read a step-by-step guide on cough etiquette and how to properly wash your hands and avoid infection.

When you may need to be tested for coronavirus

If your doctor thinks that you need a test for coronavirus, they will tell you where the test will be done. They will also tell you when to expect your results.

How coronavirus is spread?

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing;
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on;
  • emerging evidence of faecal-oral transmission of the virus suggests everyone should close toilet seats before flushing.