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Covid-19 and In Vitro Fertilization


Covid-19 represents a new global reality that has changed the daily routines of medical professionals, disrupting established medical practices. In these challenging times, the decisions made by the Assisted Reproduction Committee are always guided by the health and safety of both the couples and the children to be born. Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Vangelis Papanikolaou, provides an interview for health4U.gr, offering his expertise on the virus and in vitro fertilization.

Covid-19 and In Vitro Fertilization

In our In Vitro Fertilization Units, we are already strictly implementing safety protocols. Due to the pandemic, additional procedures have been added to these protocols, which have been immediately incorporated into the daily routine of the Units, with the aim of protecting both patients and staff.

  • Weekly testing for Covid-19 for medical, obstetric, and administrative personnel.
  • Molecular PCR Covid testing for couples at different stages of treatment and discontinuation of treatment in case of a positive result.
  • Thorough cleaning and disinfection of spaces and surfaces using specialized disinfectant cleaners.
  • Temperature measurement of all visitors, patients, and our collaborators upon their entry into the Unit.
  • Limiting the number of those entering the Unit, with a prohibition on the arrival of more than one escort, as deemed necessary.
  • Reducing the length of stay for couples in the Unit to the minimum possible.
  • Systematic briefing of patients on personal protective measures.

As you can understand, we strictly follow the protocols of EODY and take all the special precautionary measures to ensure the uninterrupted treatment of couples.

Covid-19 and Complications
How safe is in vitro fertilization amidst a pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic, there were no data available regarding the potential risks related to in vitro fertilization treatments and pregnancy. This was the reason why the international scientific community initially decided to suspend these treatments. Today, scientific data indicate that there is no significant risk to either the embryo (only two embryos worldwide were infected through vertical transmission – in utero) or the mother (there was no observed increase in perinatal mortality). In light of this information, in vitro fertilization treatments continue as usual, provided that all necessary measures are taken to prevent the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Covid-19 and Psychology

Do you believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has been an obstacle in a woman’s decision to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF)?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a new reality for all of us over the past year, including both doctors and patients. Couples have been burdened with additional anxiety, uncertainty about what would follow, and fear about whether they can safely proceed with assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF during a pandemic. During the early stages of the pandemic, a significant number of couples were forced to interrupt their treatment, as advised by the European and American Society of Reproductive Medicine, which recommended suspending all new IVF cycles and embryo transfers.

As time has passed and with the decision to reopen assisted reproduction units, most couples have chosen to continue their treatment. The fear of contracting the coronavirus during pregnancy and its impact on the fetus has been largely mitigated by research that has shown that the fetus is not significantly affected by COVID-19. Today, all fertility treatments are proceeding as normal, with assisted reproduction units strictly adhering to all safety measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, any woman wishing to conceive can safely initiate her treatment.

Medical-technological advancements and in vitro fertilization Modern advancements in in vitro fertilization, both on a clinical and laboratory level, have played a crucial role in increasing success rates and improving the overall approach to infertility.

On a clinical level, new patient-friendly protocols offer personalized therapeutic approaches, resulting in improved pregnancy rates and significantly reduced risk of complications (e.g., ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome).

At the embryological level, new techniques in pre-implantation diagnosis, such as Next Generation Sequencing, allow us to diagnose a vast number of genetic diseases simultaneously, detect chromosomal and monogenic disorders, and choose only healthy embryos for embryo transfer. This maximizes the chances of a successful pregnancy. Additionally, time-lapse incubators have introduced an innovative system in embryo culture. Through the use of this technology, we achieve continuous monitoring of embryos, more accurate identification of embryos with good morphology and proper developmental pace, and exclude low-quality and slow-developing embryos from embryo transfer. This, in turn, increases the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Consult your doctor!

Treatments for assisted reproduction have a profound impact on women’s lives, affecting them personally, within their families, socially, and professionally. The everyday life, which is inherently stressful, becomes even more complex with the commitment to fertility treatments. What often helps many of our patients is to take the process one step at a time, climbing the ladder with restrained optimism, and taking care of both their physical and mental well-being”, states Dr. Papanikolaou in an interview with health4U.gr.

“Before starting fertility treatment, it’s important to check the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) to understand one’s reproductive age. Maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in mild exercise, and finding time for rest during the day can help women manage the stages of treatment more easily. What also helps is not hesitating to seek clarification on anything they don’t understand or anything related to the treatment that concerns them. The specialized staff in our units is always there to answer any questions and address concerns”, advises women undergoing assisted reproduction, according to Dr. Papanikolaou’s guidance.

And in conclusion,” Dr. Papanikolaou adds, “Specifically, during the ongoing pandemic, it is important for them to observe all personal protective measures and social distancing to avoid the possibility of infection with the coronavirus and further postponement of their treatment.”

Source: www.health4u.gr