As the COVID-19 pandemic is stabilising, the return to normal daily life will also see the need to restart the provison of ART treatments. Infertility is a disease and once the risk of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 infection is decreasing, all ART treatments can be restarted for any clinical indication, in line with local regulations.
ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) and HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology have been introduced guidances on recommencing ART treatments. It’s important to follow these documents for every fertility treatment facility in order to avoid the risk of patients or donors contamination with covid-19 virus.
The content below has been taken from a report by the ESHRE website (source: https://www.eshre.eu/Home/COVID19WG) and HFEA website (source: https://www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/covid-19-and-fertility-treatment/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-professionals/ to ensure we are giving you the most accurate information available.
ESHRE Guidance on recommencing ART treatments. Abstracts
Procedure for patients
- All patients planning to start treatment should have a triage questionnaire (paper, email or phone) two weeks before commencing treatment.
- A preliminary triage of both partners should be performed two weeks before starting the ART treatment. c. A further triage of both partners should be performed during ovarian stimulation.
- Triage should be performed according to the same procedures used for staff members. Both partners should undergo triage. Patients, suspected of infection after triage should get regular SARS-CoV-2 IgM/IgG testing or equivalent tests. Additional testing can be considered in line with national recommendations and/or availability of tests.
- All patients with a previous confirmed COVID-19 infection should present medical evidence of clearance in order to be eligible for treatment. If patients have been on respiratory support during the COVID-19 infection episode, they should additionally provide evidence of assessment and a medical specialist report.
- Routine good laboratory practice should be followed and laboratory staff should wear masks and gloves. b. Staff should be organised in mini-teams.
- Extra care should be taken to reduce exposure to native follicular fluid and sperm by dilution and safe disposal of fluids in individual closed containers, as quickly as possible.
- Published guidelines and good laboratory practice principles should be followed at all times (www.eshre.eu/guidelines).
- Should a patient become suspect or positive for COVID-19 during embryo culture, a freeze-all policy should be adopted.
- High security straws and/or vapour phase storage tanks should be used for cryopreservation of samples from COVID-19 positive patients
HFEA Guidance on recommencing ART treatments. Abstracts
HFEA licensed clinics can apply to reopen from 11 May 2020.
General Direction GD0014 (version 2) requires that before resuming licensed treatment clinics must have a written COVID-19 Treatment Commencement Strategy. Clinics should keep their Treatment Commencement Strategy under regular review to ensure that it reflects the latest guidance.
Clinics are required to complete the HFEA COVID-19 Treatment Commencement self-assessment tool before commencing treatment. Clinics cannot resume treatment until they have received our approval. Any clinic that does so may face regulatory action. We aim to complete our approval process within five working days of receiving the completed clinic self-assessment.
GD0014 would be regularly reviewed to see if it is continuing to achieve its aim of enabling as many patients as possible to have safe treatment through these difficult times with the continuing pandemic.
As clinics receive approval to reopen, we will publish this information in a list on our website to make patients aware.
Storage limit for frozen eggs, sperm and embryos extended during coronavirus outbreak
In recognition of the potential impact that the COVID-19 pandemic may have on those wishing to start a family, the Government has today confirmed that the current 10-year storage limit for embryos and gametes will be extended by two years.