Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alert

ARGC COVID-19 Alert / update: 23rd March 2020

The ARGC have been monitoring the developing situation and government recommendations. To ensure our priority of the health and welfare of our patients and staff, and comply with social distancing restrictions, it is with regret that we will be suspending the start of new treatment cycles

Moreover, the ARGC monitor patients very closely after embryo transfer for a healthy pattern of pregnancy hormone levels and prescribe medication if appropriate. Due to circumstances beyond our control, this level of monitoring may not be possible over the coming months and could impact the progression of early pregnancy.

  • We ask our patients who are pregnant to contact us so that we can provide advice where necessary.  
  • Patients who are currently undergoing fresh treatment will be counselled on a case by case basis and given the option either to postpone the treatment or to consider freezing embryos. Freezing will be undertaken at the pronucleate stage, and the charges for freezing will be waived.
  • Patients planning/or undergoing frozen embryo transfer, IUI, or those about to embark on a fresh treatment should contact us so that we can counsel them on an individual basis. 
  • The ARGC will continue to provide a service and support for patients wherever possible working within safe limits and safe storage of eggs, sperm and embryos.

We understand that this is a very difficult and distressing time for everyone, we will continue to support our patients in every way possible and ask you to contact us by telephone to discuss any concerns. New patient and follow up consultations will continue to be offered by telephone or video call. Patients who have had to defer treatment will have priority as soon as it is safe to start treatment cycles again.

ARGC COVID-19 Alert / update: 19th March 2020

The British Fertility Society (BFS), Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS), and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have all updated their guidance on 18 March. 

The BFS guidance summary advises that

  • It is expected that UK licenced fertility centres will now be working to suspend treatments
  • Centres are expected to minimise their impact on NHS resources.

The HFEA’s update stated that they “…expect clinics to follow the [above] advice…) but also said that “ [w]here clinics remain open either to continue treatment or provide a skeleton service…), which is confusing.

The ARGC have written an open letter to the HFEA today asking for urgent clarification. < click here

Taking the above into consideration, the current advice at ARGC remains as follows (pending further clarification from the HFEA):

  • Patients who are currently undergoing fresh treatment will be counselled on a case by case basis and given the option either to postpone the treatment or to consider freezing embryos. Freezing will be undertaken at the pronucleate stage and the charges for freezing will be waived.
  • Patients planning/or undergoing frozen embryo transfer, IUI, or those about to embark on a fresh treatment, will all be made aware of the above advice and counselled accordingly.
  • The ARGC will continue to provide a service and support for patients wherever possible working within safe limits and safe storage of eggs, sperm and embryos.

ARGC COVID-19 Alert / update: 17th March 2020

On the 16th of March, the Chief medical adviser for the UK government stated that pregnant women will join other at-risk groups, including the over 70’s and people with underlying conditions, in being asked to stay at home.  He also said that there were currently no known COVID-19 complications in pregnancy, however, this advice was taken as a very precautionary measure “while we try and found out more”.

The RCOG are currently updating their guidance to be issued shortly

Moreover, The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has published a full statement about COVID-19: https://www.eshre.eu/Press-Room/ESHRE-News to state that

  • As a precautionary measure, all fertility patients considering or planning treatment, even if they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for Covid-19 infection, are advised to avoid becoming pregnant at this time.
  • For those patients already having treatment, they suggest considering deferring pregnancy with oocyte or embryo freezing for later embryo transfer.
  • ESHRE further advises that patients who are pregnant or those (men and women) planning or undergoing fertility treatment should avoid travel to known areas of infection and contact with potentially infected individuals.

Taking all of the above into consideration, the current advice at ARGC is as follows:

  • Patients who are currently undergoing fresh treatment will be counselled on a case by case basis and given the option either to postpone the treatment or to consider freezing embryos. Freezing will be undertaken at the pronucleate stage and the charges for freezing will be waived.
  • Patients planning/or undergoing frozen embryo transfer, IUI, or those about to embark on a fresh treatment, will all be made aware of the above advice and counselled accordingly.

ARGC COVID-19 Alert / update: 16th March 2020

Coronaviruses are common; COVID-19 is a novel strain of this group of related viruses, which was first identified in the last few months in Wuhan, China.

The ARGC has been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19, both nationally and globally. As is the case with all the professional health organisations, the safety and health of our patients, staff, and the public at large is our priority. We continue to regularly check the available general guidance from Public Health England https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and World Health Organisation, in addition to any specific recommendations from the relevant authorities/regulators in our field of practice (like the HFEA https://www.hfea.gov.uk/about-us/news-and-press-releases/2020-news-and-press-releases/hfea-coronavirus-covid-19-guidance/, ESHRE, ASRM), and will update our advice and implement the appropriate measures accordingly.

We are currently undertaking the following actions:

  • Treatments will continue as normal and the situation will be kept under constant review
  • Regular patients’ assessment and temperature checks at the start of treatment, at hysteroscopy/cyst aspiration, during treatment, and at egg collection and embryo transfer (fresh/frozen)
  • Patients’ assessment and temperature checks prior to all infusions
  • Patients’ assessment and temperature checks prior to semen analysis on the day of egg collection
  • We expect all patients (male and female) to immediately notify ARGC if any of the following symptoms appear:
    • Fever (37.8 or above)
    • Dry cough 
    • Shortness of breath
  • If you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID19, please inform ARGC straight away by telephone. Do not come to the clinic
  • If there are concerns regarding the safety of patients or staff, we will endeavour to complete the treatments started, whenever appropriate. However, we reserve the right to cancel/stop treatments on a case by case basis
  • The effect of adjuvant therapy (Humira/IVIG/ILP/steroids), if you were to have COVID-19 or be exposed to it, is unknown. It is unlikely, however, given the information currently available, that this therapy will cause additional problems in the healthy population with no underlying medical conditions. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, it will always remain the patients’ choice whether or not to proceed with immune testing and/or treatment under the current circumstances.
  • Please always follow the NHS advice regarding calling 111, and self-isolating if you have been exposed to someone with symptoms of COVID-19, or have travelled from countries at high risk
  • ARGC’s staff have also been instructed to follow the Public Health guidance/NHS advice, and will self-isolate if required
  • ARGC is undertaking additional cleaning and disinfection measures
  • ARGC would also like to use this opportunity to remind you to follow standard good hygiene practice such as:
    • Cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze
    • Use a disposable tissue, if possible, and dispose of it in a bin
    • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water especially every time you cough or sneeze, or use an alcohol-based hand-sanitising product
    • Avoid touching your face with your hands
    • If you have a general cough/cold, avoid close contact with others such as hugging or shaking hands

ARGC COVID-19 / Patients Q and A

Q: Does COVID-19 impact on my chances of becoming pregnant?

  • Currently, there is no data or scientific evidence to suggest that COVID-19 impacts on your chances of becoming pregnant

Q: If I am pregnant, will COVID-19 have an impact on my pregnancy, or increase my risk of miscarriage?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists  (RCOG) has published a full statement about COVID-19 (https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/coronavirus-covid-19-infection-in-pregnancy-v2-20-03-13.pdf ) to advise that:

  • There is no added risk to pregnant women
  • Unlike the Zika virus, there is no evidence of added risk of congenital abnormalities
  • The limited data available to date suggest there is no increased risk of miscarriage or early pregnancy loss
  • Pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of infection than the general population.
  • Only one case to date has been reported of a possible transmission from the mother to baby. It is not known if this was in the womb or after the baby was born

Q: How will you ensure that my eggs/embryos/sperm will remain safe at the ARGC?

  • The ARGC have access to four stand-alone embryology laboratories and three separate operating theatres which provides us with additional flexibility for safe management of your treatment during this time
  • ARGC also have some of the strictest laboratory protocols to provide our patients with the highest standards in patient care
  • ARGC will continue to maintain the cryostorage options in all its facilities to ensure the safe storage of eggs, sperm and embryos for all its patients

Q: Does ARGC plan on stopping treatment for a period of time?

  • Given the current information and guidance, the ARGC will not be stopping treatment. However, the situation is under constant review and will be adjusted accordingly if need be
  • We are offering patients to have remote consultations by telephone or skype (whenever possible) to avoid unnecessary travel
  • Appointments requiring clinic visits such as scans, operative procedures etc, will be continuing as normal.