Fertility Monitor Reveals How Coronavirus Is Changing the Way Women Conceive

by May 12, 2020

Women trying to conceive and pregnant women have had their care delayed or completely halted due to the novel coronavirus. As fertility treatments are delayed, many women have turned to other options, including at-home fertility treatments as Mira has noticed a 31% increase in ovulation testing during this outbreak. Also pregnant women are learning how to stay safe as possible from this virus along with adjusting to telehealth appointments, could these changes improve women’s health?

As many Americans have had their lives shifted, some are struggling with the possibility of putting their future on hold for the foreseeable future. Thousands of women have had fertility treatments canceled, and have no idea when they will be able to restart the road to trying to conceive again.

In Mid March, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine released a recommendation to suspend new treatments of IVF, ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination, along with frozen embryo transfers.

After a lot of media attention, and push back from not only patients but fertility doctors as well, another recommendation in April was provided with guidelines on restarting operations and allowing individual clinics to decide the best way to begin seeing patients again.

While some clinics are operational, some women are still left to decide what to do next. Some women have chosen to consider at-home options, products that help women track hormonal changes at home. Products like these have become increasingly popular for some women that want to continue trying to conceive.

Can femtech companies bridge the gap during this crisis?

Femtech is a newer sector of the technology world that combines technology and women’s health.  These companies focus on products that help women along with apps to track their cycles, pregnancies, and health issues. Femtech companies also create products that help women with hormone tracking from the comfort of their own homes. This makes it possible to find the answers to some of their questions about what’s going on with their bodies when trying to conceive.

Femtech companies such as Mira Fertility help women that desire to conceive with products that track fertility hormones to increase their chances of conceiving. This is all done from the comfort of customers’ homes. Companies like Mira are what women are turning to find more options to manage their fertility from home as shown by a growth of 31% of tests performed since the beginning of COVID-19 in the US. In addition to the company’s growth, online searches show that many are looking for ovulation tests, monitors, and trackers that can be used at home. Other keyword searches including ways to increase fertility also received a spike in searches in the past 30 days. Mira Fertility also did an internal survey with 93% of their customers stating they will continue to conceive during Covid-19 outbreak. 19% of those survey responses were from women who had fertility treatment delayed or completely halted and are looking for other ways to conceive.

Some respondents had worries about the coronavirus that would affect their attempt at conceiving. One woman responded: “I’m worried that both of our stress levels could affect it.”

Some women are worried about what happens after conception, one of the major concerns most women share is the type of care they will receive throughout their pregnancy.

Though some women have been unable to receive care from their fertility clinics, they were still willing to try to conceive at home. “Our fertility clinic is closed so we’ll continue to try to conceive naturally, although our chances of success are low”. Another woman writes: “Yes absolutely After failed IUI we were on track to start IVF but are now on hold.- this is delaying our treatment and I’m really anxious about this time lost”.

Some women are choosing to see the bright side of the pandemic as some women appreciate the extra time.  “Giving more time to relax, read and educate myself more on infertility at 45 years old”.  Another response: “We can try at any point in the day because we are at home all day.”

Understanding how coronavirus is changing customers’ lives gives companies like Mira Fertility the chance to help women with products that bridge the game during this time.

As Femtech companies work to help some women trying to conceive, the question of what the future will look like for women that need more invasive fertility treatments still remains unanswered.

Are fertility treatments truly essential?

The initial wave of the Covid-19 epidemic put a strain on the U.S. healthcare system, causing a number of elective procedures and surgeries to be canceled with no answer as to when these procedures will be reinstated. Among the elective surgeries considered nonelective were many fertility treatments.

The question of whether or not fertility treatments are truly elective has garnered a lot of attention from media. One nurse states that while fertility treatments are not elective, it simply is not a matter of life or death. After previous recommendations to completely cancel any new IVF procedures, an updated recommendation from the ASRM suggested fertility clinics resume business at their own discretion and closely follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when it comes to social distancing, temperature checks, and staff wearing masks if possible.

However, for some clinics, these precautions did not seem to make much of a difference. At a fertility clinic in New York, several staff members tested positive for Covid-19.  Another clinic in Chicago also reported staff with flu-like symptoms but were unable to test for Covid-19 due to limited testing available. Maintaining distance in a job that requires such invasive treatment is proven rather difficult as seen by clinics’ difficulty in keeping staff safe. However, many still believe the choice to take the risk should be left up to each clinic and each patient. As many continue to question the safety of remaining open, should there be any concerns to women that successfully conceive?

Is it safe to become pregnant?

With predictions of Covid-19 affecting our lives for the next 12-18 months, some find themselves asking if it is even safe for women to become pregnant during this time.  Some medical professionals suggest there’s little to no difference between a pregnant woman or a healthy individual coming into contact with the virus. However, there’s reason to suggest otherwise. There’s very little information on how the coronavirus affects pregnant women and unborn children. What little insight we do have has shown a possible increased risk to pregnancies in the second and third trimester.

A case was followed of a pregnant woman that miscarried at 19 weeks. Swab samples from blood and vaginal were collected. Swab samples were also collected from infants mouth, armpit, feces, and blood, all swab samples came back negative. However, two swab samples and biopsies obtained from the placenta and umbilical cord tested positive for Covid-19. These findings lead researchers to believe Covid-19 contributes to placental infections in pregnancies. Dr. Jane van Dis, an obstetrician-gynecologist conducted an informal survey to share their observations of the number of pregnancy losses related to COVID-19. The results were a 42% increase in first trimester losses, a 20% increase in second-trimester losses, and a 21% increase in third-trimester losses. It’s important to note many of the patients did not receive testing for Covid-19 so whether or not this placed a role in pregnancy loss could not be determined. Most positive cases result in a lot of asymptomatic individuals, which is why she suggests more testing be done.

How the future of women’s health may look

As state lockdowns continue to loosen the desire to resume life as normal strengthens, many studies predict Covid-19 will be apart of our daily lives for a minimum of the next 1-2 years. With predictions of coronavirus becoming a part of our daily lives, what can women trying to conceive or pregnant women do to protect themselves?  As more information is gathered on how Covid-19 affects pregnant women and it is no longer a new virus better guidelines can be given. However, women should continue to closely follow the guidelines recommended by CDC, ACOG, and maintain regular care during pregnancy under an Obstetrician.

An article written by MedCityNews suggests that improvements in assuring women receive the right amount of healthcare which will help decrease unnecessary testing, help mothers receive preventative interventions, and help mothers make better decisions on where they choose to receive care or give birth.

Fertility and pregnancy are only two areas in women’s health that will shift and reshape due to coronavirus being a part of our new normal.  Femtech companies will help women gain a better awareness of their fertility using FDA approved products. It’s important as healthcare providers find ways to help patients through virtual roles that we ensure our information comes from sound medical professionals. Lastly, as changes are seen in prenatal care the opportunity for women to become more empowered and play a bigger role in the care they receive is greatly available.

✔️ Medically Reviewed by Dr Roohi Jeelani, MD, FACOG and Lauren Grimm, MA

roohi jeelaniDr Roohi Jeelani is Director of Research and Education at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Dr Jeelani earned her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth, Dominica. She then completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, where she was awarded a Women’s Reproductive Health NIH K12 Research Grant. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr Jeelani has authored numerous articles and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals, and presented her research at national and international scientific meetings. A Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr Jeelani is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.

Lauren Grimm is Research Coordinator at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Lauren earned her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago, where she also completed her masters in Medical Sciences. Lauren has worked alongside Dr. Jeelani for the last 3 years, authoring a number of abstracts and articles in peer-reviewed journals, and presented her research at national and international scientific conferences. Lauren will be continuing her education this fall at Rush University Medical College in Chicago, IL as an MD candidate.

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