You would be hard-pressed to find anyone whose “normal” life hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. People are losing their jobs. Doctors and nurses are putting their own lives at risk to work on the front lines. Parents are being expected to work from home, some of them while homeschooling their own children.
There have been endless articles circulating online, full of tips and tricks for being stuck at home with kids during a pandemic. There are online childbirth courses being offered for pregnant women. There are memes going around about a coronavirus baby boom coming in nine months. But what about those who desperately want to become parents and have to rely on assisted reproductive technologies like IVF in order to do so?
According to Resolve.org, 1 in 8 couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Many of those couples choose to undergo fertility treatments in hopes of starting or growing their families. However, due to the ongoing health crisis, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recently issued new guidance for its members as they manage patients in the midst of the pandemic. And let’s just say the recommendations are not ideal for those hoping to get pregnant sooner rather than later.
The ASRM is now urging healthcare providers to suspend the initiation of all new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and non-urgent gamete cryopreservation (egg freezing), and to consider the cancellation of all embryo transfers, whether fresh or frozen. They are advising reproductive endocrinologists to continue to care for patients who are currently ‘in-cycle’ or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation, but to suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures. They are also encouraging doctor’s offices to minimize in-person interactions and increase utilization of telehealth.
While these new guidelines are undoubtedly in the best interest of the patients, as well as the doctors and nurses who treat them, this also means that many couples are being given no other choice than to put their family-planning goals on hold for the foreseeable future. And as anyone who has been through infertility knows, this kind of news can be completely devastating to someone who already feels like their fertility journey has been one big waiting game.
In my own experience, when undergoing fertility treatments each month starts with a renewed sense of hope. You think to yourself, “Maybe this will be the month that I finally see those two pink lines.” You take hormones, give yourself injections, and have seemingly endless amounts of doctor’s appointments and blood draws. When all of that ends in a negative pregnancy test, all of that hope that was there at the beginning comes crashing down, only to have to do it all over again the following month. This process takes a toll on you, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Infertility can be all-consuming. That’s why when others say, “just relax and it will happen,” for 1 in 8 couples that isn’t very helpful advice. Waiting “just a few more months” can feel like a lifetime to someone who has already been waiting too long.
So, to all of those who were about to start an IUI or IVF cycle after years of trying to conceive only to have it be postponed, I see you. To all those who were awaiting surgery in hopes of getting to the bottom of their infertility diagnosis, I see you.
You have every right to be frustrated that your plans have been put on hold yet again. You have every right to be upset, and even angry, that you can’t use this extra time at home to “just have sex and get pregnant” like everybody else. You’re allowed to feel all of the feelings during this time.
But when you do pick yourself back up, and you will, try and think of this as a physical and mental break from the usual demands of fertility treatments: a break from the injections, the hormones, the doctor’s appointments, the acupuncture sessions, the demanding schedules, and the commute to and from work. Use this time to do all of the things you enjoyed before infertility took over your life. Find yourself again.
Start a new workout regimen, read a book, or meditate. Tell yourself you are capable—of getting pregnant, of staying pregnant, of being stronger than you think, of doing hard things---and keep saying it until you believe it wholeheartedly. Put yourself in the best possible mindset for starting again when all of this is over, because it will be over, eventually. And you will have your chance, I promise. All you can do is what is in your control right now. It’s all any of us can do. But that doesn’t make it any easier, I know.
You’ve got this. And if you need extra support, check out the amazing community over at The Fertility Tribe. There, you will find real stories from real women who are also 1 in 8. We are redefining fertility, together, because honestly, who can do this alone?!
Kristyn Hodgdon is the Founder of The Fertility Tribe, an online community that is redefining the conversation surrounding all things fertility, from trying to conceive and infertility to pregnancy and postpartum mental health. She lives in Island Park, NY with her husband Dan and their 17 month old twins Brooke & Charlie, who were conceived via IVF. Kristyn believes that the more we talk about our experiences, the less isolating they become. That’s why Fertility Tribe’s mission statement is, “Redefining Fertility Together,” because, honestly, who can get through it alone?! Follow @thefertilitytribe on Instagram to join the conversation!