Worried about the unique threats and challenges posed by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on human reproduction, fertility experts have instituted several studies on the impact of the virus.
The fertility experts under the aegis of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the feotus and neonate.
They affirmed in a joint statement made available to The Guardian by the President of IFFS, who is also the joint pioneer of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART) Maryland, Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, the importance for continued reproductive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said lessons learned from these experiences would be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.
According to the joint statement, in addition to helping patients, reproductive medicine practices are uniquely positioned to gather data and help to further COVID-19 research.
They noted: “Reproductive medicine professionals and practices are essential front-line resources for screening, monitoring, and assessing the prevalence and impact of the disease on patients and their progeny through Point-of-Care data collection.
“ESHRE, ASRM and IFFS are committed to continuous monitoring of the effects of COVID-19 on gametes and reproductive tissues, collecting data on pregnant patients infected during the pandemic, and assessing the outcomes of mothers and neonates.”
Examples of these research and registry efforts by the fertility experts are:
In the United States of America (U.S.A.), the ASPIRE (Assessing the Safety of Pregnancy In the Coronavirus Pandemic) Study is a nationwide prospective cohort study of pregnant women and their offspring during the COVID-19 pandemic. All patients under the care of a reproductive medicine specialist who conceived spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technology (ART) between March 1st and December 31st are encouraged to participate.
ESHRE is gathering global case-by-case reporting on the outcome of medically assisted reproduction (MAR) conceived pregnancies in women with a confirmed infection (https://nl.surveymonkey.com/r/COVID19ART).
The affiliate society of ASRM, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) is including mandatory COVID-19-related questions in their Clinic Outcome Reporting System (CORS) registry of ART, which accounts for over 95 per cent of all ART cycles in the U.S.A.
ESHRE is gathering data and mapping MAR/ART activity during the pandemic, country by country whether and /or when they stopped offering treatment and when they have resumed care.
IFFS is conducting COVID-19-related periodic surveys to assess global trends in access to MAR/ART services.
The fertility experts concluded: “Reproductive care is essential and reproductive medicine professionals are in a unique position to promote health and wellbeing. In addition, ASRM, ESHRE and IFFS are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the fetus and neonate. The lessons learned from these experiences will be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.”
They said reproduction is an essential human right that transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, and country of origin: a human right to which the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique threats and challenges. Reproductive health care professionals are in a special position to provide advocacy for this right and promote the health and well being of their patients.
The fertility experts said COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique global challenge on a scale not previously seen and the infectivity and mortality rates are higher than previous pandemics and the disease is present in almost every country. They also said the propagation and containment has varied widely by location and, at present, the timeline to complete resolution is unknown.
In the earliest stages of the pandemic, ASRM and ESHRE, independently recommended discontinuation of reproductive care except for the most urgent cases. More recently, with successful mitigation strategies in some areas and emergence of additional data, the societies have sanctioned gradual and judicious resumption of delivery of full reproductive care.