in vitro fertilization

COVID-19 Pandemic Derails IVF Plans for Women, Leaving Family Plans in Limbo

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and many women who’ve chosen in vitro fertilization have had their lives and their families' futures left in limbo while they wait

NBC Universal, Inc.

The coronavirus has put so many life events on hold and for many, that includes starting a family. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and many women who’ve chosen in vitro fertilization have had their plans derailed by the pandemic — their lives and their families' futures left in limbo.

Jennifer Fuentes and her husband Chris have been trying to have a baby for three years. Three rounds of IVF have sadly ended with three miscarriages, but in March, Jennifer started medication for her fourth round of IVF. That's when the coronavirus hit and her doctor called.

"I would never wish it on anyone. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through," Fuentes said. "They just called and said, until further notice, we just have to put everything on hold ... This is not the perfect time to do this, and I understand that. But to be mentally prepared for this, is just super frustrating.”

A similar frustration for Julie Capozzi, a 37-year-old who lives in one of the hardest hit areas in the entire country: Queens.

She and her husband Anthony had their “miracle baby” through IVF two years ago, and are now trying for a second child. Capozzi has an embryo that’s ready to transfer, but she’s concerned about any unknown effects of the virus.

“Personally, it's hard. It’s hard. I try to fight back the tears but there’s just times where you have to let it out," Capozzi said. "You already having those emotions then add on top of it this virus that’s taking over the world.”

In March, The American Society of Reproductive Medicine put out guidelines that include: Suspending new treatment cycles, including egg retrievals; considering cancelling embryo transfers; and continuing care for patients who are in-cycle.

Dr. Zaher Merhi of New Hope Fertility in Manhattan says the biggest concern for his patients is egg retrievals.

"It can be tricky because we don’t know when this pandemic is going to end," Merhi said. "(Patients) are very worried about waiting because they don’t want to lose the eggs that they have ... If you wait 6 months, the woman might miss her chances of getting pregnant using her own eggs."

Dr. Merhi says he has stopped about 70 percent of his operations, but his clinic is still open. He’s treating each patient case-by-case — many via tele-health services — while also offering an at-home IVF kit.

"Which basically you come to the office only on your day of your egg retrieval, so you don’t have to come multiple times to do monitoring for blood and ultrasound."

In the meantime, the waiting game continues for the two women. Capozzi is hopeful about an embryo transfer — when the time is right.

"It’s going to be another little miracle, because you only need one," Capozzi said. "So we’re trying to stay hopeful.”

While Fuentes is focused on the stay at home order, hoping others do the same.

"It’s really frustrating to some of us because the longer we have to stay inside, the longer we have to wait to start back up with our doctor and this is something that people have been dreaming about their whole life."

For the latest information on the guidelines regarding pregnancy and in vitro fertilization from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, visit their website.

Contact Us