Coronavirus means some couples may never conceive as Covid-19 puts IVF on hold
Right now, time is something we are all more aware of.
Whether it’s the days spent working from home, the weeks spent in self-isolation, or the months spent waiting for this crisis to end.
But for thousands of potential parents, time is something they can ill afford.
In the past week I’ve spoken to dozens of hopeful mothers and fathers who’ve had their fertility treatment postponed due to the pandemic.
Some had their IVF cycles cancelled with just a day or two’s notice.
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Kirsty Duncan was already taking her fertility drugs when the clinic called last week to say they couldn’t go ahead with her IVF.
She has low AMH, meaning her egg reserves are running out. And with every month, they deplete further.
“The biggest fear is that we don’t get to bring a baby home, that we don’t get to experience what a pregnancy feels like” she told me.
“I just can’t comprehend the level of grief that would bring.”
There are tens of thousands of women and men already grieving for lost chances.
Each year in the UK, around 75,000 cycles of IVF are carried out, resulting in around 20,000 births.
If coronavirus closes clinics for just six months, half of those babies may never be born.
And if fertility has always been a game of luck, this crisis brings another cruel twist.
There has been little consistency in the way clinics have responded – some are already closed, while others have continued treatment. It has been a postcode lottery of parenthood.
One clinic we spoke to blamed the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Until Monday, the HFEA was not compelling clinics to close, contributing to the variation in the way clinics have responded.
The HFEA says they too are at the mercy of evolving advice.
But this week they finally told all clinics to end treatments by April 15th, except in exceptional cases, such as when a woman wants to freeze her eggs before undergoing chemotherapy.
The aim is to relieve stress on the health service and divert doctors and nurses to the frontline.
The few clinics currently still open can continue IVF treatment until the closing date, meaning some couples will get lucky.
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All of the potential parents we spoke to accept that their battle comes second to the fight against this virus.
But what’s made things even more painful is the glut of articles predicting a baby boom as couples cooped up at home together opt for the opposite of social distancing.
Nobody conceiving naturally is being told that their fertility could place a strain on the NHS, yet it is implied that infertile couples present a burden.
For now, nobody knows when clinics will reopen their doors. Instead, those in need face months of uncertainty.
The devastating reality is that the impact of coronavirus won’t just be measured by the number of lives lost, but by the number of lives which may never be created.