Coronavirus – COVID-19
COVID-19 and Fertility Treatments
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a constantly-evolving situation that is affecting the United States and the international community. We want our patients to feel confident that we are closely monitoring all developments and adhering to recommendations from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and local and state health agencies. We understand that our patients may have questions about how this affects their treatments, how we are helping to minimize the spread of the disease, and how our business operations may change during this unique time. We are committed to the health and safety of our patients and staff. We are also committed to providing services to our patients so that they can safely continue their fertility journey now, or as soon as feasible.
California IVF Fertility Center remains open to continue care for patients undergoing treatments. We have implemented all recommended safety precautions, and have taken additional steps to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, we have taken steps to assure patients will receive credit for any planned procedures interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. We encourage our fertility patients to contact us with concerns or questions during this stressful time.
In addition to our normal universal disease prevention control measures, California IVF Fertility Center has implemented additional precautionary steps to help minimize the chance of spreading COVID-19. We are following all of the recommended guidelines for risk reduction including but not limited to:
- Frequent disinfection to high touch items such as keyboards, telephones, door handles, and furniture in common areas
- Practicing “social distancing” of at least 6 feet when practical
- Having hand sanitizer available in all common areas
- Keeping any sick or symptomatic employees out of the office
- Asking sick or symptomatic patients to delay treatments
- Providing ongoing training and updates to all employees on safe practices
- Monitoring evolving changes and new publications regarding COVID-19
Additionally, our Sacramento fertility team has instituted several additional steps to help reduce any risk of disease transmission and increase patient safety. New patient visits, or follow ups, may be conducted via Skype or telephone. Patients that have appointments may notify us of their arrival and have the option of waiting in their car for their scheduled appointment. Our staff will call the patient when the exam room is ready. This allows patients to avoid waiting in the waiting room and minimizes contact with other individuals. All patient care areas are cleaned after every encounter as an added precaution to frequent cleaning of staff work areas. Another important measure for our patients is making sure they are not financially disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter in place mandates or orders as it related to scheduled fertility treatments.
We are currently proceeding with all cycles for patients who are in good health. If, during the course of a scheduled cycle, a patient begins to demonstrate symptoms of illness and/or has a confirmed exposure to COVID-19, the cycle may be delayed or canceled. Patients will be able to reschedule their treatments at a later time. Full credit will be provided when treatments are postponed. In the event an oocyte retrieval has already occurred, our staff will remain on site to complete the culture process to ensure the safety of the embryos. Medication costs will not be refunded. Patients may elect to delay the start of treatment without penalty. If there are any questions about treatment costs or credit, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
New patients to the practice may proceed with confidence that we will be able to complete the new patient process in person or by remote methods such as Skype or telephone. The pre-cycle testing can be coordinated as well as patient education and scheduling of future visits. Our hope is to minimize the delay when the world begins to return to normal. We are implementing new procedures designed to streamline the on-boarding process so any potential delays may be minimized. As an added step, patients may contact our office and set up an informational session with one of our experienced coordinators. During this session, the coordinators can review the available options during the pandemic, as well as provide you with information about various fertility testing and treatment options. These informational sessions are without cost or obligation. Or goal is to offer patients facing fertility challenges the opportunity to make use of any “down time” to gain a better understanding of available options if they continue to experience difficulty becoming pregnant.
Prevention & Treatment of COVID-19
If you or anyone in your household is currently exhibiting flu-like symptoms (cold, fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath), please seek treatment from your primary care provider. Please be advised that all patients entering the clinic will be screened related to current health, travel history, and COVID-19 exposure. If you are already experiencing flu-like symptoms or have recently traveled to a high-risk location and you are currently in treatment or are scheduled to come in for an appointment, we ask that you call our office immediately to discuss your options.
Social Distancing & Single Guest Policy
In an effort to best serve our patients and keep our staff safe, we are adhering to recommendations for “social distancing” by offering telemedicine appointments for both new patient consultations and follow-up visits that do not require in-office examination.
We are implementing a single guest policy. Only one guest will be permitted to accompany any patient while in the exam rooms or treatment area. If additional family members are coming to your appointment, we ask that they remain in the car or outside during your visit. While this may be inconvenient, this will assist us in maintaining social distancing as much as possible. We have also restricted all industry sales and technical representatives from visiting unless required to maintain operations of the fertility center.
Patient and Pregnancy Risks
Most individuals of reproductive age are not considered “high-risk” for COVID-19. Currently, there is no published data or information to suggest that COVID-19 impacts fertility.
Currently, very little is known about the impact of COVID-19 on reproduction and pregnancy. There are reports of women who have tested positive for COVID-19 delivering babies free of the disease. This data is reassuring but must be interpreted with caution given the small numbers. There may be increased adverse outcomes during pregnancy that are currently unknown, but data specific to COVID-19 is still limited. Previous studies looking at other coronavirus infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), indicated there was no transmission to the fetus from infected mothers. Coronaviruses are unrelated to the ZIKA virus, which had very clear implications for pregnancy and fetal development. Given the available information, it would be wise for individuals with confirmed or presumed COVID-19 infection to avoid pregnancy. There does not appear to be any cause for alarm for women already pregnant.
Out of an abundance of caution, patients who have high likelihood of having COVID-19 (fever and/or cough, shortness of breath, and either exposure within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 patient and within 14 days of onset of symptoms, or a positive COVID-19 test result), should strive to avoid a pregnancy. If these patients are undergoing active infertility treatment, we suggest that they consider freezing all oocytes or embryos and avoid an embryo transfer until they are disease-free. California IVF will work with patients to credit any unused treatments. We are not able to reimburse patients for any medication related expenses.
Questions and Answers
- Should I delay seeing a fertility specialist or moving forward with fertility treatment in light of COVID-19?
- Most individuals of reproductive age are not considered “high-risk” for COVID-19, and therefore it is not necessary to delay your new patient consult or treatment coordination. You should discuss any ongoing or planned treatments with your coordinator to avoid any confusion about your options. We offer telemedicine appointments for initial consultations for patients that do not wish to come to our office. Our staff are taking all recommended safety precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- If you develop a fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing, please seek care immediately from your primary care provider. Please avoid contact with others as you may be infected and risk spreading the disease to others. Inform our clinic if you are infected, or at risk of being infected, with COVID-19. You will need to delay any treatments until cleared by your doctor.
- If I recently traveled abroad, will that impact when I start treatment?
- Most individuals traveling abroad will be subject to testing and screening upon arrival. We recommend waiting two weeks after traveling to start your treatment. There are steps in the coordination process that may be accomplished during this time and all patients are encouraged to discuss their individual situation with their coordinator.
- Are my eggs/embryos/sperm at risk of exposure to COVID-19?
- No. Our laboratory is designed to avoid any viral transmission or exposure to any other tissues or cells during the treatment process. Our lab has a positive pressure air handling system, HEPA filtration system, UV light filtration system, and maintains extremely rigorous cleaning and quality assurance protocols at all times. Our laboratory adheres to all best practices for safety and infection prevention.
- Will your clinic shut down for a period of time?
- We do not intend to shut down for any period of time. We have a team of clinical and administrative staff who are committed to providing the most effective care possible, in the safest environment possible. The nature of the current pandemic is unpredictable for everyone. We will maintain patient care unless specifically directed otherwise. The management team at California IVF is working hard to avoid reductions in staffing. A core team will continue to provide maintenance of backup and safety measures of our clinic and embryology laboratory at all times. Any interruption of treatment services will result in a financial credit to avoid any unfair charges to our patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all aspects of our lives. Infertility is a disease that can have significant emotional and physical impact on patients. Significant delays in treatment can further the toll on patients. For many patients, significant delays in treatment may lower the overall chances of success. The staff at California IVF Fertility Center remain committed to minimize treatment delays and we encourage open communication about our patients’ situation and options for proceeding, or preparing for future treatments. If you have any questions about your options, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Ernest Zeringue MD
California IVF Fertility Center
Sacramento, California 916-979-5599