Following our latest update on the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on our clinics, we have put together a list of frequently asked questions to reassure and guide you through this difficult time. We will continue to update this page as information becomes available or changes, but if your question has not been answered below and you still have concerns, please contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
(Updated: 5 Jan 2021)
Q: With the national lockdown announced on the 4 January 2021, can my treatment still go ahead?
We want to reassure you that we will continue to provide treatment under our current guidelines during the national lockdown in place from Wednesday 5 January. These guidelines were put in place from May 2020 to comply with Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) professional guidelines and keep patients safe. Our full service clinics in Cambridge, Norwich and Wickford are continuing to provide treatment.
We hope that a new national closure of fertility clinics should not be necessary. This is a view reinforced in a statement for patients published by the HFEA on the 5 January.
Q: Should fertility patients be offered the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have recently updated their guidance on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes a section on pregnancy and those trying to become pregnant. JCVI advises that, for women who are offered vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination in pregnancy should be considered where the risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection is high and cannot be avoided, or where the woman has underlying conditions that put them at very high risk of serious complications of COVID-19. In these circumstances, clinicians should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with the woman, who should be told about the absence of safety data for the vaccine in pregnant women. JCVI does not advise routine pregnancy testing before receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. For more information, please visit the HFEA website and Public Health England.
Q: How can I contact Bourn Hall?
A: Our phone lines are currently open between 10am and 3pm Monday to Friday. You can also contact us via email on email@example.com if you have any queries. Due to the unprecedented amount of emails we are receiving, it is taking us slightly longer to reply. If you have received the automated acknowledgement email from us, this means we have received your email and one of our team will be responding to you personally as quickly as we can. Please bear with us, as this is taking a bit longer than usual in the current circumstances, but rest assured we will get back to you.
Q: Bourn Hall are meant to be calling me – what number will this call come from?
A: Please be aware that calls from Bourn Hall will appear on your phone as a blocked number or private caller – ‘no caller ID’. This is to protect your privacy but can mean important calls are missed or declined. Please keep an eye out for these type of calls if you are expecting to hear from us.
Q: I see that all patients are required to take a Covid-19 test. How do I get a test?
A: We are able to supply you with a test at a small cost. Alternatively, if you are experiencing any symptoms, the NHS can provide you with a test free of charge.
Q: What is the Covid-19 testing protocol at Bourn Hall?
A: During this period we have introduced some new protocols around Covid-19 testing. These are as follows:
- Women having IVF/IUI will be required to have two tests – once at the beginning of treatment and once during stimulation/endometrial preparation
- Women are required to self-isolate from the day of the second test up to and including the final procedure (embryo transfer)
- Women and men will be tested and required to self-isolate before all procedures (SSRs, HyCoSys, Hysteroscopy, endo-scratch)
- Men do not need to be tested during IVF. They will only need to be tested before sperm storage or donation.
The rationale of this approach follows NHS and NICE guidelines, which indicate that, if one has a negative swab result and has self-isolated since the day of the swab being taken, one should be of low risk for carrying the virus at the time of the procedure.
Q: I have received my Covid-19 test but my treatment is still several weeks away. When should I take the test?
For Frozen Embryo Transfer (patient only) – Please take the swab on the day that you are due to start the HRT (i.e. Progynova tablets or equivalent).
For Egg Collection (patient and partner) – Please take the swab on the first day of stimulation (S1). Please note, if donor sperm is to be used, only the patient is required to do the swab.
For Intrauterine insemination (IUI) (patient and partner) – Please take the swab on the first day of your cycle. Please note, if donor sperm is to be used, only the patient is required to do the swab.
By taking the COVID-19 test before treatment, you can feel confident in starting your treatment and then take informed lifestyle choices to reduce any possible risk of becoming infected while you are having treatment.
Q: What is Bourn Hall doing to meet the HFEA conditions to keep patients safe?
A: We have a robust plan in place that makes sure we can offer treatments safely for all our patients and staff. The protective measures we have put in place include screening everyone visiting our clinics for COVID-19, reducing the number of people in our clinics, following social distancing as much as possible, providing PPE to all who need it, encouraging good hand hygiene, and minimising face-to-face interactions. We are also reducing the need to visit our clinics with telephone appointments and consultations using a secure virtual platform. We also have an e-consenting platform which can be accessed from home to complete consent forms and questionnaires.
To help us keep all our patients and staff safe, we will ask you not to be accompanied by anyone (including your partner) when you visit our clinics. Anyone coming driving to the clinic with you is welcome to wait inside your car in the car park – we just ask that they do not enter the clinic building.
It is still vitally important that you are accompanied home after having a procedure under sedation, such as egg collection or surgical sperm retrieval. We’ll chat to you about how you are getting home when we organise your procedure, and will organise for you to be delivered to the safe care of the person accompanying you home without them needing to come inside the clinic.
Q: Is it safe for me to become pregnant?
COVID-19 is a new virus, so there is limited scientific and medical evidence on how it affects pregnancy. However, UK’s specialist body, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), has advised that there is no evidence that COVID-19 infection is any worse in pregnancy, increases the risk or miscarriage or pregnancy complications. The RCOG have also advised that there is no evidence of babies being born with harm as a result of COVID-19 infection, and the UK Government has not advised people to avoid becoming pregnant. For these reasons, we have decided to start offering fertility treatments again.
We hope this reassures you, but we of course realise that you may have your own personal reasons for wanting to delay becoming pregnant. If you are worried, you can book a consultation to explore your options, including the possibility of creating and freezing embryos for when you feel ready for a frozen embryo replacement cycle.
Q: Has there been any clarification about how COVID-19 has affected NHS funding for fertility investigations or IVF?
All fertility treatments were suspended on 23 March (including NHS funded treatment) along with other NHS funded elected procedures. From week commencing 11 May, fertility clinics, who meet the HFEA criteria and are approved to restart treatments, can begin to re-open subject to strict safety guidelines enforced by the HFEA.
To ensure fair provision, the Health and Social Care Secretary has written to all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to confirm they are in a position to begin resuming fertility treatments for those in their area with their currently approved providers. He made it clear that all fertility patients should be dealt with fairly and not face any additional disadvantage as a result of the service suspension.
The new measures will mean individuals and couples looking to start fertility treatment will be able to safely continue to do so. We have not yet received any guidance from the CCGs about any changes to NHS funding for IVF due to COVID-19. As and when we receive specific information from the CCGS we will notify you if there are updates which affect your eligibility for NHS funding.
Q: What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 during treatment?
If you start to have symptoms of COVID-19 during treatment, you can choose to cancel your treatment, or we can offer you a test to check if you have an active COVID-19 infection. If you test positive, we will need to cancel your treatment. If you develop symptoms after egg collection but before embryo replacement, we will ask you to freeze all of your embryos and have an embryo replacement once you are fully recovered. To protect all our patients and staff, we will not treat anyone with an active COVID-19 infection until they are fully recovered.
We plan on minimising the possibility of patients developing COVID-19 during treatment by screening everyone before visiting our clinics, and by offering a COVID-19 test. By taking the COVID-19 test before treatment, you can feel confident in starting your treatment and then take informed lifestyle choices to reduce any possible risk of becoming infected while you are having treatment.
Q: What support are you offering patients?
We know that struggling to conceive is emotional challenging, and that many patients feel their anxiety about fertility treatment has been amplified by the current situation. We want all our patients to be able to access much-needed support during this truly difficult and uncertain time.
Our dedicated fertility nurses are available to support you and, though we currently have reduced staff numbers, they can advise you during this difficult time. Our nurses can also refer you to our independent fertility counsellors who are offering appointments by telephone or online via video platforms such as Skype.
One of our counsellors has also written several blogs to support your physical and emotional wellbeing including advice about coping with uncertainty to help you process your emotions and prepare for when treatment resumes.
While you are waiting to start your treatment you can do positive things to get ‘fertility fit’ so you are in the best position possible when your treatment starts – take a look at our blog for advice on improving your fertility at home.
Coronavirus related queries:
Q: Could having the coronavirus affect my fertility?
A: There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus will have an effect on fertility.
Q: If I am pregnant will Covid-19 increase my risk of miscarriage?
A: According to the RCOG, there is currently no data suggesting an increased risk of miscarriage, early pregnancy loss or congenital effects of the virus on fetal development. More information can be found here.