Fertility care, IVF treatments continue safely

Clinics follow COVID-19 safety protocols for patients to pursue treatments in pandemic

Caucasian woman in a mask talks to a caucasian fertility doctor in a mask as they sit in an exam room.

COVID-19 has put a lot of strain on medical care, forcing leaders to issue guidelines on essential versus non-essential care. During the heightened period of restrictions, the Sanford Health Fertility and Reproductive Medicine clinic felt the impact.

“I think the pandemic has been really hard,” says Keith Hansen, M.D., who specializes in reproductive endocrinology. “It has affected people in multiple different ways.”

After a period of closing for safety in 2020, Dr. Hansen and the Fertility and Reproductive clinic team took a careful, phased approach to providing care again.

For added safety, leaders were recommended to shut down all procedures including in vitro fertilization (IVF), transfers, and insemination.

Dr. Hansen said patients were understanding.

“Because we’re trying to help them conceive, we don’t want to put them or their babies in harm’s way.”

Safety a priority for mom and baby

Pregnant and lactating women should get vaccinated against COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged in recently updated guidance.

Pregnant or breastfeeding? CDC says to get COVID vaccine

The CDC’s recommendation echoes statements in strong support of vaccinations from Sanford Health providers as well as several of the nation’s leading obstetric organizations. It comes at a time when many regions of the country are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

This rise is driven by the highly contagious delta variant and draws attention to the potential risks involved for pregnant women who contract the virus. Expectant women run a higher risk than women who are not pregnant of severe illness and pregnancy complications from COVID-19, including possible miscarriage and stillbirth.

In short, the benefits in getting the vaccine far outweigh the theoretical risks.

Dr. Hansen also knows about the impact common viral infections have on pregnancy.

“If a pregnant woman gets influenza, she could get really, really sick. If you get really sick, it could increase the risk of miscarriage, stillborn, preterm labor and delivery. We want to figure out a way to reduce the risk of a person getting the virus and help them have a successful pregnancy.”

Patients undergoing IVF are tested first

With the complexity and expense of IVF treatments, the clinic has ensured patients can continue the process.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure we can deliver that in a safe, effective manner and reduce the chances someone would have to cancel their cycle.”

Patients are tested for COVID-19 when they begin their treatments. Pending a negative result, they will begin their treatment which can take anywhere from eight to 14 days, Dr. Hansen said. Patients are then tested again within 72 hours of the egg retrieval before they undergo anesthesia.

“We’re trying to space that out so we don’t have a number of patients in the same area at the same time, and we reduce the chances of someone getting the virus from our clinic or passing it to someone else,” Dr. Hansen said. “We want a healthy baby and a healthy mom. That’s our goal.”

Remember to call the clinic for your appointment needs. While some appointments require an office visit, the fertility clinic is offering video visits through My Sanford Chart for select Fertility and Reproductive Medicine appointments.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Family Medicine, Pregnancy, Specialty Care, Women's

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