IVF during COVID-19: CHR’s Always-up-to-date Guide
[This article deals with a continuously evolving situation, and is updated frequently to reflect new developments. It was last reviewed and updated on November 13, 2020. For further updates and links to other COVID-related articles, please scroll down to the bottom.]
Fertility Treatment at CHR during COVID-19, at a Glance
- CHR is fully open. All patients can begin workup and treatments immediately.
- Travel for fertility treatments to New York City, within the US and internationally, is possible. Our experienced team will help facilitate the logistics.
- Patients can get a head start with remote phone/video consultations and online second opinion program.
CHR is open for fertility treatments for all
At CHR, our outlook has always been to empower our patients to make their own decisions about their fertility treatment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re continuing this approach. We are open for all patients to start fertility treatments immediately.
At this time, CHR is operating on a modified schedule with limited staffing. Please call us at 212-994-4400 to verify the hours.
Monday to Friday
Monitoring: 9 am to 11 am
Consultations: 11 am to 3 pm
Front desk hours: 9 am to 5 pm
Monitoring: 9 am to 11 am
Consultations: 11 am to noon
Front desk hours: 9 am to noon
Though many fertility centers in New York City and elsewhere chose to temporarily close, we did not feel that denying treatment was the right thing to do in CHR’s case. A huge percentage of our patients are “urgent” cases who cannot delay treatment for even a few months without significantly reducing the likelihood of a successful outcome. We remained open for our patients throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.
At the same time, we felt that operating as normal was not the right thing to do either, as having a full office would increase the likelihood of our patients and staff being exposed to the virus, as well as making it difficult to practice social distancing.
Therefore, we've aimed for a middle ground based on treatment urgency: Even during the peak of the pandemic in New York City, CHR kept welcoming new patients who are considered urgent cases. For these urgent cases, we started evaluation and treatment immediately. This included women who:
- Are over age 40
- Have such low ovarian reserve that treatment cannot be delayed by 3-4 months
- Are about to undergo cancer treatment and are seeking fertility preservation
Over 6 months later, CHR continues to offer remote consultations, in-person fertility workups and a full range of fertility treatments to all patients who need them.
Telemedicine at CHR & Medical Travel to New York City
For all patients - not just those requiring urgent treatment - our physicians are available through remote consultations via phone or video. Even if you cannot or don’t want to start treatment right away, consulting with a CHR physician now to begin the initial consultation and testing phase can help accelerate the treatment process once the pandemic dissipates. Furthermore, consultation and fertility workup now can help you decide with confidence whether to start treatment right away or stay put for a few months.
Online Second Opinion Program
CHR also offers an Online Second Opinion Program available to all patients, which allows a CHR physician to review your medical and treatment history and provide their thoughts on whether the correct diagnosis has been reached, as well as whether your physician’s suggested course of treatment is the best option for you. You’ll receive your second opinion via our secure portal, with no need to visit our office in person. Again, getting the second opinion now will put you in a good position to restart your fertility journey once things return to normal again.
Fertility Patients Can Visit CHR despite New York State's Quarantine Requirements
New York state requires visitors from states where COVID-19 caseload is increasing to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the state. However, patients who come to New York to receive medical treatments can still visit healthcare facilities, including CHR.
In addition, starting on November 4, 2020, out-of-state visitors to New York state can "test out" of the quarantine requirement by 1) obtaining a COVID-19 test 3 days before coming to New York, 2) quarantining for 3 days upon arrival and 3) receiving a negative test result on the 4th day. (Details here.) Visitors who follow all the 3 steps and whose 2 test results are both negative can go out of quarantine early, as soon as they have the second negative result.
- Even if you don't "test out," out-of-state patients who are required by the New York State to quarantine for 14 days can still visit CHR for appointments and procedures like egg retrieval and embryo transfer, even during the 14-day quarantine period. They are required to remain quarantined and avoid all public places except for medical appointments, but there is no need for CHR’s patients in the current COVID-19 hotspot states to panic that they won’t be able to receive treatment at CHR because of the quarantine requirements.
- The New York State includes patients’ companions to this exception to quarantine requirements, but please be aware that CHR is currently open to patients only. Everyone who is accompanying a patient must wait outside of CHR to so we can maintain proper distancing in our facility.
- COVID-19 testing is required for out-of-state patients who come to the New York State for medical procedures. This test should be done within 5 days of the scheduled procedures (usually egg retrieval), and CHR staff can perform the test.
International Travel is Possible for Fertility Treatments
Commercial flights are limited and many countries have quarantine requirements, but international travel to New York City for medical needs is still possible. The United States issues emergency medical visas to patients who need to travel to the U.S. for medical treatments, and this includes IVF and fertility treatments. Our experienced team can support you in this process.
CHR’s precautions to protect our patients and staff from COVID-19
In formulating a maximally protective policy for patients as well as staff, CHR is following policies formulated by the CDC, state and city governments, and hospitals. These policies include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), limiting who can visit the center, rotating staff members to reduce exposure, and implementing other risk-mitigation procedures. Some of these policies, in place since mid-March at CHR, exceed the steps for IVF center reopening as recommended by ASRM and SART in late April. We have been constantly updating our procedures as new evidence or guidelines become available. Learn more about CHR’s current safety precautions here.
Fertility treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
Whether you’ve recently started fertility treatment or were just about to start, your mind is likely in one place during the COVID-19 crisis: how does the coronavirus impact pregnancy and infertility treatment?
Little is known as of yet about COVID-19’s potential impacts on pregnancy or fertility, but preliminary data suggests that COVID-19 does not significantly and adversely impact pregnancy. Evidence is mixed on the virus’ transmission to the fetus, with some (somewhat questionable) data coming out of China pointing to that potential. Though we strongly recommend that our patients make every effort to avoid exposure to the virus, best current evidence thus far suggests that conceiving spontaneously or through fertility treatments is likely safe.
Of note, some fertility centers are pushing patients to freeze all their embryos (or even eggs), rather than have fresh transfers, with COVID-19 outbreak being the rationale. We do not consider this universal recommendation of egg or embryo freezing justifiable, especially for patients with few embryos, because of the inevitable loss of pregnancy chances from freezing and thawing.
The ASRM guidelines on fertility treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
The recent statement by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) providing guidelines for fertility centers during the COVID-19 epidemic has been a source of controversy, and in our opinion, has been somewhat misinterpreted. Learn more about our take on the ASRM statement here.
Though the ASRM recommended the suspension of new treatment cycles, their recommendations also included “[continuation of] care for patients who are currently ‘in-cycle,’ or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation.” This is a reasonable stance. CHR has also opted to continue to offer care for patients who are mid-cycle, as well as to begin new cycles for patients who require treatment urgently (i.e. in cases where delaying treatment would severely reduce the likelihood of success).
Advanced female age makes treatment less elective and more urgent. As over half of CHR’s patient population is over age 42, it’s imperative that we keep our center open and make consultations, workup and treatment available for our patients. Similar considerations apply to patients who've put their treatment plans on hold. Here is our guide on determining when to restart your fertility treatment process.
For a summary of the guidelines CHR has put into effect for offering patient treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see the bottom of this post.
Don’t lose hope!
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely disruptive to our patients’ lives and treatment programs, we’re confident in our ability to continue providing fertility treatment safely and effectively during this time. Furthermore, there are things you can do while you shelter in place in order to prepare your body for your treatment once normalcy starts returning. Watch Dr. Gleicher explain how patients can keep moving forward with their fertility journey in this post, and read about what fertility patients should consider when making the decision to (re)start their fertility treatments after some of the COVID-19 lockdown measures are eased.
Click here to read more articles from CHR about COVID-19, or use the links below. Stay healthy!
CHR's COVID-19 Bulletins
Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned specialist in reproductive endocrinology, Dr. Gleicher has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and lectured globally while keeping an active clinical career focused on ovarian aging, immunological issues and other difficult cases of infertility.
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