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Frequently asked questions for patients on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated 13 January 2022

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The British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists has said that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. This includes whether you are trying on your own or having fertility treatment.

The NHS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended in pregnancy and is the safest and most effective way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from coronavirus infection.

We have produced these questions and answers to help to explain how clinics are resuming fertility treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you have specific questions regarding your medical treatment you will need to speak to your clinic directly.

We will update these FAQs as needed and we will keep you informed via our website, Twitter and Facebook.

What is the current situation?

Fertility clinics can continue to offer treatment across the UK, but we know that treatment at some clinics may continue to be affected by the ongoing pandemic. Due to staff shortages or self-isolation, some may have to reduce the numbers of patients they can treat or stop treatments temporarily.

We will continue to monitor national and devolved government advice as well as that of the professional bodies and will react in an appropriate manner, should the situation change at any time.

Please read the Coronavirus guidance for patients for our most recent updates.

How are clinics keeping patients safe?

Our priority and that of the clinics is the safety of patients, their eggs, sperm and embryos and of clinic staff.

Centres may implement their own policies and different decisions may be made at a clinic level based on local circumstances about any safety measures they have in place, for example on social distancing.

Is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine if I am currently or planning to have fertility treatment, or I am already pregnant?

 

The British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists has said that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. This includes whether you are trying on your own or having fertility treatment.

The NHS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said vaccination against COVID-19 is strongly recommended in pregnancy and is the safest and most effective way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from coronavirus infection.

Is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine if I am currently, or planning to donate my eggs or sperm?

Yes, it is safe. Guidance from the Joint UK Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services Professional Advisory Committee (JPAC) states that you must allow at least seven days from your most recent vaccination prior to donating eggs or sperm. If you feel unwell after the vaccination, you must not donate for seven days after your symptoms have improved.

Can my clinic stop me having treatment if I haven’t had a vaccine?

We strongly recommend that anyone having treatment has a vaccination because of the increased risks to mother and baby of Covid 19 in pregnancy.

The British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists has said that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. This includes whether you are trying on your own or having fertility treatment. The NHS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended in pregnancy and is the safest and most effective way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from coronavirus infection.

We have advised clinics to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk that fertility treatment might create an additional burden on the NHS during the pandemic. Clinics may make local decisions on how best to do this based on whether they can offer safe staffing and the pressures on the wider local health system.

For patients at NHS clinics in Scotland only

The Scottish government has decided that all fertility treatment for COVID-19 unvaccinated women should be deferred where the treatment could result in a pregnancy, with immediate effect (or from whenever is practical). This decision will be reviewed during February 2022 or earlier if appropriate. This includes all fertility treatment except urgent fertility preservation. All patients having treatment deferred will have the deferral time added back on to their treatment journey to ensure that no patient loses out on treatment due to their age. More information can be found here or via your NHS clinic in Scotland.

Do I need to be tested for COVID-19 prior to treatment?

Some clinics may choose to include testing for COVID-19 for all patients having treatment including patients who are asymptomatic. The current guidance (as of 4 August 2021) from The Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) and the British Fertility Society (BFS) is that before starting treatment, consideration should be given to antigen testing (or an equivalent test if available, validated and approved). We have not stated clinics must test all patients as it is not a current recommendation made by Government. If you’d like more information on COVID-19 testing, please refer to the Government guidance which states that anyone with symptoms can get a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID19 test, whatever their age. Those with no symptoms can order free rapid lateral flow home test kits online or collect them from many chemists.

Can my partner attend fertility appointments?

Centres may implement their own policies and different decisions may be made at a clinic level based on local circumstances about any measures they have in place, for example, when allowing partners to attend appointments.

The current guidance (as of 4 August 2021) from BFS/ARCS says that centres should minimise the number of accompanying persons, and should carry out risk assessments to ensure the attendance of a partner at appointments is safe.

NHS guidance says that further to a risk assessment, women should have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages of her maternity journey and that all trusts should facilitate this as quickly as possible.

What are the risks of COVID-19 and pregnancy?

Patients may be anxious about coronavirus infection and its potential effects on pregnancy.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have provided guidance (as of December 2021) on the risk of impacts of COVID-19 on pregnancy. The guidance says that pregnant women appear no more or less likely to contract COVID-19 than the general population. It also says that there is growing evidence that pregnant women may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester, though the overall risk of death remains very low.

There is no evidence of increased likelihood of congenital anomalies due to COVID-19 infection. However, COVID-19 in pregnancy is associated with an approximately doubled risk of stillbirth and may be associated with an increased likelihood of having a small-for-gestational-age baby.

Clinics should counsel patients on the potential risks, taking into account the patient’s individual clinical situation and risk profile, as well as the likely persistence of the virus in the local community in the medium term. Patients need to actively consent to having treatment while there is a risk of contracting COVID-19 either during treatment or, if successful, during pregnancy.

Can my clinic charge for a COVID-19 test and/or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Some clinics may choose to include testing for COVID-19 as part of their treatment strategy for all patients having treatment, including those who are asymptomatic. Our regulatory remit does not include the ability to stop clinics charging for these tests or PPE, but we expect patients to be treated fairly and safely at all times.

The Government guidance states that anyone with symptoms can get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID19 test, whatever their age. Those with no symptoms can order rapid lateral flow home test kits online.

Some clinics may also require patients to use PPE. We know that clinics have to cover their costs which is acceptable, but we expect clinics to charge patients a fair price for any PPE they are required to use.

Can clinics continue to offer immunosuppressive treatments?

Immunosuppressive treatments are not recommended because they are of unproven benefit and carry risks (some of which are serious). They are marked as ‘red’ on our traffic light system. There remains an additional risk in using such treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. These treatments make patients more susceptible to the virus and put them at high risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19.

The professional advice from the British Fertility Society, the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is that the use of empirical treatments of uncertain efficacy and safety, including immunosuppressive treatments, should be avoided. There is insufficient evidence of benefit from these treatments, and they may increase the risk of severe infection.

People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase the risk of infection are considered clinically extremely vulnerable according to the most recent UK government guidance.

Our advice remains that immunosuppressive treatments should not be offered as there is no evidence that these are effective. For more information please see our add-ons page here.

My clinic is not responding to me. What can I do?

Many clinics were operating with reduced staffing levels (where employees may be self-isolating or unwell). Some clinics may be operating on a reduced service and therefore may take longer to reply than usual.

We are unable to answer medical questions or questions related to your specific treatment. If your question is related to either of these, you will need to wait for a response from your clinic.

Will I be refunded if my treatment is cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for example if patients or staff need to self-isolate?

Before you begin treatment, consumer protection law states that clinics should explain in writing the circumstances in which treatment may be cancelled or postponed, and explain your rights and obligations should treatment be cancelled or postponed e.g. whether you are entitled to a refund of any prepayments.

The CMA has published guidance which sets out its views in relation to cancellations and refunds within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This explains the circumstances in which the CMA would expect a consumer to be offered a full refund where no services are provided as a result of COVID-19. This guidance also explains that in circumstances where a patient has already received some services they have paid for in advance, that they would be entitled to a refund of the services not already provided.

COVID has meant I cannot travel abroad for treatment. Where can I find information about importing my gametes or embryos from abroad?

General information about importing or exporting gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos can be found on our website here.

We’re nearing the 10-year storage limit for our eggs/sperm/embryos. Will we still be able to use them if we don’t have treatment before our storage expires?

On 1 July 2020, the Government changed the law to extend the current 10-year storage limit for eggs, sperm and embryos by 2 years so that those undergoing fertility treatment during the coronavirus outbreak have more time to continue treatment.

If you have any questions related to your frozen eggs, sperm or embryos we recommend you contact your clinic.

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Review date: 13 January 2024