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Frequently asked questions for patients on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated 4 March 2022. This page is no longer being actively updated but answers to previous FAQs can be found below.

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The British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists has said that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. This includes whether you are trying on your own or having fertility treatment.

The NHS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended in pregnancy and is the safest and most effective way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from coronavirus infection.

We have produced these questions and answers to help to explain how clinics are resuming fertility treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you have specific questions regarding your medical treatment you will need to speak to your clinic directly.

We will update these FAQs as needed and we will keep you informed via our website, Twitter and Facebook.

What is the current situation?

Fertility clinics can continue to offer treatment across the UK, but we know that treatment at some clinics may continue to be affected by the ongoing pandemic. Due to staff shortages or self-isolation, some may have to reduce the numbers of patients they can treat or stop treatments temporarily.

We will continue to monitor national and devolved government advice as well as that of the professional bodies and will react in an appropriate manner, should the situation change at any time.

Please read the Coronavirus guidance for patients for our most recent updates.

How are clinics keeping patients safe?

Our priority and that of the clinics is the safety of patients, their eggs, sperm and embryos and of clinic staff.

Centres may implement their own policies and different decisions may be made at a clinic level based on local circumstances about any safety measures they have in place, for example on social distancing.

Is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine if I am currently or planning to have fertility treatment, or I am already pregnant?

 

The British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists has said that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men and that patients planning or undergoing fertility treatment should therefore be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated or to complete the course if started. This includes whether you are trying on your own or having fertility treatment.

The safety of vaccination in pregnancy is supported by studies showing no impact on miscarriage rates and the absence of safety signals from the use of vaccines in over 275,000 women in the USA and UK.

The NHS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said vaccination against COVID-19 is strongly recommended in pregnancy to protect pregnant women and their babies.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the preferred vaccines for pregnant women of any age who are coming for their first dose according to the NHS.

Is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine if I am currently, or planning to donate my eggs or sperm?

Yes, it is safe. Guidance from the Joint UK Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services Professional Advisory Committee (JPAC) states that you must allow at least seven days from your most recent vaccination prior to donating eggs or sperm. If you feel unwell after the vaccination, you must not donate for seven days after your symptoms have improved.

Can my clinic stop me having treatment if I haven’t had a vaccine?

We strongly recommend that anyone having treatment has a vaccination because of the increased risks to mother and baby of Covid 19 in pregnancy.

The British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists has said that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men and that patients planning or undergoing fertility treatment should therefore be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated or to complete the course if started. This includes whether you are trying on your own or having fertility treatment. The NHS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended in pregnancy and is the safest and most effective way of protecting pregnant women and their babies from coronavirus infection.

We have advised clinics to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk that fertility treatment might create an additional burden on the NHS during the pandemic. Clinics may make local decisions on how best to do this based on whether they can offer safe staffing and the pressures on the wider local health system.

Updated information for patients at NHS clinics in Scotland can be found here.

Do I need to be tested for COVID-19 prior to treatment?

Some clinics may choose to include testing for COVID-19 for all patients having treatment including patients who are asymptomatic. The current guidance (as of 4 August 2021) from The Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) and the British Fertility Society (BFS) is that before starting treatment, consideration should be given to antigen testing (or an equivalent test if available, validated and approved). We have not stated clinics must test all patients as it is not a current recommendation made by Government. If you’d like more information on COVID-19 testing, please refer to the Government guidance which states that anyone with symptoms can get a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID19 test, whatever their age. Those with no symptoms can order free rapid lateral flow home test kits online or collect them from many chemists.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 during fertility treatment?

The British Fertility Society (BFS) and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) guidance (28 February 2022) says that patients who test positive for the coronavirus during treatment should have their treatment delayed. This is to minimise the risk of infection to other patients and staff and to mitigate any potential adverse effects of the infection on treatment cycle outcome.

Can my partner attend fertility appointments?

Centres may implement their own policies and different decisions may be made at a clinic level based on local circumstances about any measures they have in place, for example, when allowing partners to attend appointments.

The current guidance (as of 28 February 2022) from British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists says that measures taken during the pandemic to moderate the number of physical attendances remain useful but consideration should be given to balancing the protection of patient and staff safety with the other needs of patients undergoing fertility treatment. For instance, it is reasonable to for partners to be present at crucial times in the patient journey, such as embryo transfer and pregnancy scans.

What are the risks of COVID-19 and pregnancy?

The British Fertility Society (BFS) and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) guidance issued on February 28 2022 states that studies show Covid-19 infection during pregnancy to be associated with an increased risk of requirement for intensive care, ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) (also known as extracorporeal life support) compared to the situation in non-pregnant women. There is also an elevated level of risk to the fetus, in the form of premature birth, small for gestational age and stillbirth.

The BFS and ARCS say that patients planning or undergoing fertility treatment should therefore be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated or to complete the course if started.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and NHS have said vaccination against COVID-19 is strongly recommended in pregnancy to protect pregnant women and their babies. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the preferred vaccines for pregnant women of any age who are coming for their first dose according to the NHS.

More information on this can be found on the NHS website, RCOG website and GOV.UK website.

Can my clinic charge for a COVID-19 test and/or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Some clinics may choose to include testing for COVID-19 as part of their treatment strategy for all patients having treatment, including those who are asymptomatic. Our regulatory remit does not include the ability to stop clinics charging for these tests or PPE, but we expect patients to be treated fairly and safely at all times.

The Government guidance states that anyone with symptoms can get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID19 test, whatever their age. Those with no symptoms can order rapid lateral flow home test kits online.

Some clinics may also require patients to use PPE. We know that clinics have to cover their costs which is acceptable, but we expect clinics to charge patients a fair price for any PPE they are required to use.

Can clinics continue to offer immunosuppressive treatments?

Immunosuppressive treatments are not recommended because they are of unproven benefit and carry risks (some of which are serious). They are marked as ‘red’ on our traffic light system. There remains an additional risk in using such treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. These treatments make patients more susceptible to the virus and put them at high risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19.

The professional advice from the British Fertility Society, the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is that the use of empirical treatments of uncertain efficacy and safety, including immunosuppressive treatments, should be avoided. There is insufficient evidence of benefit from these treatments, and they may increase the risk of severe infection.

People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase the risk of infection are considered clinically extremely vulnerable according to the most recent UK government guidance.

Our advice remains that immunosuppressive treatments should not be offered as there is no evidence that these are effective. For more information please see our add-ons page here.

My clinic is not responding to me. What can I do?

Many clinics were operating with reduced staffing levels (where employees may be self-isolating or unwell). Some clinics may be operating on a reduced service and therefore may take longer to reply than usual.

We are unable to answer medical questions or questions related to your specific treatment. If your question is related to either of these, you will need to wait for a response from your clinic.

Will I be refunded if my treatment is cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for example if patients or staff need to self-isolate?

Before you begin treatment, consumer protection law states that clinics should explain in writing the circumstances in which treatment may be cancelled or postponed, and explain your rights and obligations should treatment be cancelled or postponed e.g. whether you are entitled to a refund of any prepayments.

The CMA has published guidance which sets out its views in relation to cancellations and refunds within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This explains the circumstances in which the CMA would expect a consumer to be offered a full refund where no services are provided as a result of COVID-19. This guidance also explains that in circumstances where a patient has already received some services they have paid for in advance, that they would be entitled to a refund of the services not already provided.

COVID has meant I cannot travel abroad for treatment. Where can I find information about importing my gametes or embryos from abroad?

General information about importing or exporting gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos can be found on our website here.

We’re nearing the 10-year storage limit for our eggs/sperm/embryos. Will we still be able to use them if we don’t have treatment before our storage expires?

On 1 July 2020, the Government changed the law to extend the current 10-year storage limit for eggs, sperm and embryos by 2 years so that those undergoing fertility treatment during the coronavirus outbreak have more time to continue treatment.

If you have any questions related to your frozen eggs, sperm or embryos we recommend you contact your clinic.

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Review date: 26 April 2024