|IFFS COVID-19 Task Force Statements|
IFFS COVID-19 Task Force Statements
6 May, 2020
As of May 6th the coronavirus pandemic involves 187 countries with over 3,600,000 cases reported and over 250,000 deaths. The virus has spread at different rates and has had variable impact as its epicenter has progressed from Wuhan, China to western Europe and now the United States. These various regions are in varying stages of recovery and have adopted a wide array of coping strategies. Mitigation strategies including quarantine or social distancing have proven to be most effective but additional critical information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus including the mode of spread, optimal testing practices and effective treatment have been slow to emerge.
There is still minimal additional information available regarding the reproductive effects of COVID-19. No new, unique risks to mother or fetus have been identified yet but available data are far too preliminary to offer significant reassurance. Most ART centres around the world suspended treatment in March voluntarily as a precaution or in response to government mandates or professional society recommendations. Plans are now being made to re-open ART centres in a number of countries. Several professional organizations including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology have issued recent guidance for recommended policies and procedure for re-opening.
IFFS Surveillance recently completed a brief online survey to assess the impact of the pandemic as of May 2, 2020. The study, which queried respondents from 93 countries, found that fertility therapy was not regarded as an essential medical service during the pandemic in 76% of countries; 62% of countries modified their policies regarding fertility treatment by legal or professional society mandate; and in 83% of countries ART centers were closed or offered limited access for special circumstances. Nevertheless, respondents were aware of open centers in 37% of countries in which a mandate was issued. Regarding personal experiences with COVID-19, 21% of respondents knew of reproductive healthcare providers that had contracted the virus and 5% knew of deaths in this population. Please continue to consult the IFFS COVID-19 international resource center for updates.
7 May, 2020
IFFS has joined with our sister professional organizations, including the ASRM, BFS, ESHRE, FSA, HFEA, RCOG, RANZCOG, and others around the globe with regard to recommendations that patients with infertility consider deferring pregnancy and that care providers suspend initiation of reproductive treatment including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro-fertilization/embryo transfer (IVF/ET) including retrievals of gametes and frozen as well as fresh embryo transfers and non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
Reasons cited for undertaking these extraordinary steps include avoidance of possible complications of assisted reproduction treatment and pregnancy; potential virus-related complications of pregnancy and concerns of possible vertical transmission to the fetus in SARS-CoV-2 positive patients. Additional objectives include support of efforts for reallocation of critical healthcare resources and consistency with current recommendations for social distancing. Subsequent advisories have described exemptions for patients with urgent need for fertility preservation including those facing imminent treatment with gonadotoxic therapy likely to deplete gametes, such as cancer patients.
The counseling of pregnant patients is another unique challenge. There are limited data regarding the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the fetus and the course of pregnancy. At this time, it does not appear, from the available literature, that pregnant women are at higher risk for severe disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the clinical manifestations of COVID-19 do not appear to differ between pregnant and non-pregnant women of reproductive age. Very limited data exist regarding neonatal and fetal risks. This is especially so for the first trimester.
IFFS endorses restraints on assisted reproduction, social distancing and the guidelines of the WHO, CDC, RCOG, ESHRE, ACOG, ASRM, BFS, FSA and others, regarding pregnancy and fertility therapy. As the COVID 19 pandemic continues, with and unpredictable timeline of containment, mitigation, and development of vaccines and/or therapeutic cures, IFFS will continue to update our Resource Center for the benefit of our federation of fertility societies, their members, patients, staff, and families, and IFFS colleagues and partners.
27 March, 2020
As details continue to emerge, research increases, and new recommendations develop, IFFS hopes to keep you apprised of relevant content and resources to help you navigate clinical and research decision-making in this challenging time. This is an extraordinary period, and we must join together to share knowledge and support each other as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic. IFFS remains committed to its member societies, partners, and all of the patients and communities our colleagues serve.
12 March, 2020
IFFS is carefully following the coronavirus pandemic and measures to contain and mitigate spread of the virus to individuals across the globe. Accordingly, we are monitoring updates issued by the World Health Organization ( www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control ( www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html ).
Our highest priority as the largest organization of fertility societies of >50,000 healthcare professionals in 67 countries is to promote the public health and the health and safety of our member organizations, their members, patients and communities, our collaborators and sponsors, and IFFS staff and leadership.
As a Non-State Actor in official relations with WHO, we fully support recommendations being provided by WHO. In addition, we encourage all to access the available resources above and country- and region-specific professional healthcare organizations about this rapidly evolving situation for their personal safety and that of their patients, families and communities.
The global situation is dynamic and can change at any moment. Effects of the coronavirus on pregnancy are currently unknown. Patients who are considering pregnancy or who are currently undergoing fertility therapies are advised to check with their personal health care professionals for next steps.
As an organization devoted to global education and advocacy for reproductive health through workshops, symposia, regional meetings and World Congresses, keeping current on updates from reliable, evidence-based sources, such as the WHO and CDC, will help inform our decisions about our IFFS activities over the next several weeks and months. Please visit the IFFS website at
www.iffs-reproduction.org for periodic updates.
Linda Giudice, MD, PhD