08 Feb 2021 Fertility Services Thrive During COVID-19 Pandemic
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 created havoc in the field of assisted reproductive technology (ART), shuttering clinics, interrupting scheduled IVF procedures and stranding intended parents and babies amid worldwide travel bans.
But medical professionals, fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies adapted quickly and nimbly. ART professionals and advocacy organizations worked together to develop guidelines for reopening and operating safely.
Clinics embraced new technologies and operating models to reopen in May and June, welcoming a surge of patients. Our team at IFLG sprang into action, successfully assisting intended parents from countries subject to the U.S. travel bans obtain waivers allowing them to travel to the U.S. for the birth of their babies.
A recent Forbes Business Council article finds the fertility industry is thriving in the face of adversity and identifies four trends emerging from the pandemic that are likely to shape fertility services for Americans as the U.S. transitions “from the Baby Bust of 2020 to the Baby Boom of 2021.”
“Throughout the past year, I’ve observed four important trends emerging in the industry, all driven by Covid-19: operational efficiency, COVID-safe protocols, telehealth adoption and, last but not least, a surge in egg freezing despite lower overall IVF cycles this year,” writes author Claire Tomkins, who is founder and CEO of fertility financing start-up FutureFamily.
COVID-19 Restrictions Improved Fertility Clinic Operations
“Clinics figured out how to do more with less,” Tomkins writes. Clinics were forced to find ways to maximize resources and innovate in order to survive. Staff cross-training and increased use of digital over in-person communications allowed clinics to increase efficiency and cut costs – operational improvements that are likely to persist over the long run.
Fertility Clinics Adopted COVID-Safe Protocols
Fertility clinics have been a great reopening success story, Forbes reports: no known COVID-19 cases have been traced to a clinic. New COVID-safe protocols such as reducing staff in exam rooms and enhanced sanitation have built trust with patients and “builds robustness in the industry.”
Fertility Service Providers Embrace Telehealth
Virtual doctor visits have become the norm during the pandemic, and fertility treatment consultations are no exception. Whereas virtual consults were rare in ART before COVID-19 mandated distancing, now that clinics and patients alike have embraced the technology, the trend will only accelerate. “This is critical for an industry where demand already outstrips supply, and there is a great need to scale quickly and efficiently,” the article continues.
COVID-19 Pandemic Creates Surge in Egg Freezing
Enforced at-home time and the end of long commutes for many remote workers has spurred demand for assisted reproductive services, as we wrote recently about the pandemic-related shortage of donor sperm amid skyrocketing demand.
A similar trend seems to be occurring with egg freeing (cryopreservation). From June to September, the Forbes article reports, New York University’s Langone Fertility Center saw a 41 increase in egg-freezing procedures. Center Program Director Dr. James Grifo attributes the surge in part to improved insurance coverage for the procedure, on which we reported recently. In 2019, egg-freezing cycles were only about 10,000 of the estimated 300,000+ ART cycles performed in the U.S.—a proportion that is expected to expand as more women seek to preserve their future fertility in the face of pandemic-related social distancing constraints.
With the COVID-19 vaccine effort finally underway, we at IFLG join the entire world in anticipation of a time when we can safely gather and go about our lives. But we also know many things will never be exactly as they were before the virus struck. Humans responded to the pandemic with great resilience and life-enhancing innovation. We came through it stronger and better equipped to face the future. “Clinics are emerging more efficient, more robust and more tech-forward,” Forbes writes. “The same is true of the fertility services profession.”
For more information for intended parents, surrogates and donors navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our archive of COVID-19 news and information. For information on assisted reproductive technology legal services, contact our IFLG team today.