We are truly living in an unprecedented time with COVID-19 becoming a permanent fixture in our day to day lives here in the US and around parts of the world. Unfortunately, for the many patients who hope to travel to the US for infertility treatments, that task just became more daunting. Since March we have seen fertility centers become more and more creative, in order, to help our intended parents access care and achieve their dreams of building their family, in the safest way possible.
Patient concerns usually fall into two categories:
When can I come to the US to complete my IVF cycle to cryopreserve embryos for my future surrogacy journey?
Under the current guidelines, whether patients can come to the US is completely dependent on the country of origin. There are still many areas of the world which remain on the travel ban list and many countries which would require a quarantine of their nationals upon re-entry into their home country.
This makes traveling to the US for IVF a very daunting task from a time perspective, adding a potential two week quarantine on either end of a 2 week treatment process.
China is one of the countries listed, but other countries in Asia are not part of the travel ban. Due to this reason, we have had egg donors and patients travel from other parts of Asia for treatment. We have also had patients who travel to another Asian country, such as Cambodia first, prior to coming to the US.
Once in the US, we have a program for COVID testing which would allow patients to access the care they need for IVF ultrasound monitoring, while they remain in quarantine.
For patients who are able to commit to these significant time requirements, there is still a way to access care during these unique times.
Can my surrogate safely begin the transfer process during COVID-19?
In general, the data concerning COVID-19 and pregnancy outcomes have been reassuring. The CDC has issued statements which put pregnant women into a higher risk category because women who are pregnant have a weaker immune system and are considered to be in an “ immune compromised state”. For this reason, every year pregnant women are thought to be more at risk during flu season and are recommended to have a flu vaccine to minimize the chance of more severe illness from the flu virus.
However, the initial studies from China, following pregnant women with COVID did not find pregnant women to suffer more severe illness compared to other age matched groups. This is different than what we have seen in the past with the SARS virus or with the common flu virus, which tended to have more severe symptoms in pregnant women. In addition, studies have not shown any evidence of vertical transmission of the virus from the pregnant woman to the newborn, if she becomes ill during pregnancy.
Due to these two facts, in the US, there has not been any recommendations from CDC or American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist for women to stop attempts at conception. Pregnant women are asked to exercise caution to minimize exposure to COVID-19. To this end, the obstetrical community has not reported an increased incidence of any alarming outcomes during pregnancy related to COVID-19. It is important to remember that pregnancy under any circumstance carries with it a level of risk, even from something as common as the flu which we deal with every year. COVID-19 certainly presents an added challenge, but so far the data has shown a need for us to stop women from conceiving. At our center and centers across the US, we have continued to help intended parents continue their family building journey through surrogacy.
Dr. Sandy Chuan is a double board-certified fertility specialist, with extensive experience in complex IVF cases and third-party reproduction. She is known for delivering individualized care; combining the best of science with compassion to optimize the chance for success for every patient. During her career as a fertility specialist, Dr. Chuan has received numerous awards including America’s “Top Doctor” from 2017-2019 and in 2018 Dr. Chuan was named "Top Doctor" by the San Diego County Medical Society (SDCMS) in San Diego Magazine.
Her particular areas of interest include PCOS, diminished ovarian reserve, fertility preservation, mini stimulation, male factor infertility and PGT. She is also passionate about family building for patients who hope to become parents through egg donation and/or surrogacy. She is privileged to provide cutting-edge care with a great track record of success, to patients both in the U.S. and across the globe.