A majority of couples, who want to conceive through lab procedure (In Vitro Fertilization), are more worried about time running out of their hands than the effect of coronavirus on their babies.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process in which an egg from a woman’s ovary is fertilised with a sperm in a laboratory, and the fertilised egg is then placed in the woman’s womb for growth. Infertile couples often opt for this process.
As the country went through a three-month strict lockdown from the end of March till June, IVF clinics had to shut down and all assisted reproductive process was postponed. Many patients, who were undergoing treatment, had to cancel their plans midway.
Experts say that when couples plan IVF, they are concerned about the time frame and want the process to finish as soon as possible. So, any delay in it is a frustrating experience for them.
“The biggest apprehension of couples is not the effect of the virus on their bodies or on their babies, but how delays in the treatment could affect their chances of having a baby,” Dr Firuza Parikh, Director, Dept. of Assisted Reproduction & Genetics at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, said.
She added, “I would like to allay this worry of theirs, as there is strong evidence that a delay of up to 6 months in starting IVF treatment would not cause an unfavourable outcome.”
Other doctors also feel that there is no harm in waiting till the coronavirus curve flattens as it is still very early to definitely and accurately predict the trajectory and spread of the virus due to lack of research and data availability.
Dr (col.) Pankaj Talwar, Head, Medical Sevices-IVF and Fertility, CK Birla Hospital, said, “IVF is a cold procedure which implies that it can be delayed, and it is not life-threatening. But it can have emotional and psychological implications which, unfortunately, few people understand and give enough importance to.”
He added, “Educated couples showed more restraint and that reflected in the number of couples coming forward for IVF which were very less in bigger cities. Bigger cities are still reeling under COVID effect as compared to small-towns which are showing signs of recovery.”
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However, with the unlocking process, IVF clinics are allowed to operate now and some of them are back into business.
“Life is slowly inching back to normalcy. There is definitely some apprehensions, especially when patients think of pregnancy, but precautions coupled with counselling give them the desired proof points to proceed,” Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO, Indra IVF Hospitals, said.
He added, “As the government has allowed IVF clinics to operate, all we can do is to take special precautions and follow all norms.”
Dr Parikh, however, says that there are several researchers working on whether the virus can reach the male and female reproductive systems.
“There is some evidence of its presence in semen. The embryo has the machinery to allow viral entry into its cells and recent literature has also shown the presence of the virus in the human placenta. Also, vertical transmission to the fetus has been demonstrated. Hence, it is important to make couples aware of this,” she said.