Despite the suspension of all routine fertility treatments at all UK clinics during this coronavirus emergency - including here at the LWC - some essential services were allowed to continue. So it gives us great pleasure to report, first, that we now have permission to resume fertility treatments in the next few weeks, and second, that more than 100 IVF pregnancies achieved before the lockdown were confirmed as healthy and ongoing by ultrasound scans during the closure. Pregnancy monitoring was one of only a few services allowed during this time of anguish and frustration for so many patients, and the results at LWC brought joy to parents and doctors alike.
Pregnancy scans were performed at our otherwise quiet clinics at Cardiff, Darlington and in Harley Street, London. Michael Rimington, our lead consultant in Harley Street, described the sheer joy of patients echoing through the silent corridors. "At a time of isolation and desperation for so many," said Michael, "the sense of relief and happiness was quite dramatic."
"At a time of isolation and desperation for so many," said Michael, "the sense of relief and happiness was quite dramatic."
LWC nurse managers Anne Fisher, Jackie Biro and Mimi Arian-Schad also told similar stories of relief and tears, even among the few staff on duty as well as the joyful parents. Indeed, one patient described her positive scan as "a miracle in the midst of this pandemic." "We started treatment just before lockdown," she added, "and completed it at the beginning. This was our second time at the clinic and as ever the staff were friendly, professional and put us at ease knowing how nervous we were." Fertility treatment, of course, has no guarantee of success and there were unfortunately a small number for whom the scans could not confirm pregnancy. We are thinking of these patients at this difficult time, and know how devastating this can be.
"Indeed, one patient described her positive scan as "a miracle in the midst of this pandemic."
The successful results came from 76 fresh and frozen embryo transfers following IVF and ICSI before lockdown, and from 14 treatments with frozen donor eggs from the London Egg Bank and 19 with donor sperm from the London Sperm Bank. Many of the pregnancies were confirmed in patients having their first fertility treatment, but there were some too adding another brother or sister to families, some in same-sex couples.
Remarkably, one of the confirmed pregnancies was in a couple who'd been trying for eight years, another after 12 treatment attempts.
Pregnancy monitoring by ultrasound was allowed as an emergency service during the closure, and was performed in compliance with the government's prevention and protection rules. These too will be in place when fertility clinics resume their routine treatments, with social distancing and protective equipment the new normal. Here at LWC we will be following the guidance set out by the leading authorities in reproductive medicine, such that treatments can begin again safely, and once more bring couples that experience of joy which a few have experienced in the past difficult weeks.