And Why It's Important
The COVID-19 pandemic has put many things on pause. For those undergoing fertility treatments, this includes starting a family. In fact, in many parts of the country, routine fertility care, non-emergent surgeries and fertility treatments, such as intrauterine inseminations and in-vitro fertilization (IVF), have been put on hold due to the pandemic.
But, for patients with cancer and other fertility-threatening medical conditions, “pause” is not an option.
“Young patients with a new cancer diagnosis are overwhelmed by the many decisions they have to make in a very short period of time, including preserving their fertility,” says Northwestern Medicine Reproductive Endocrinologist Kara Goldman, MD, who is also the medical director of fertility preservation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “No one could possibly prepare for what it's like to experience all of this in the context of a pandemic.”
The Northwestern Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center has continued to provide the same level of urgent, highly time-sensitive care to patients in need of fertility preservation, with even more compassion.
“Our entire team has rallied around our fertility preservation patients,” says Dr. Goldman. “All members of the team have been phenomenally well-organized, committed and compassionate. We are committed to helping our patients have excellent experiences and outcomes despite the challenging circumstances.”
The Power of Fertility Preservation During the Pandemic
Fertility is often something that people think about in vague terms. You may know that you want to start a family someday, or have another child someday, but you may not know specifically when. However, chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplants, surgery and many other medical interventions for people with cancer or other illnesses can severely impair fertility, or even eliminate the possibility of one having genetically related children in the future.
A cancer diagnosis or other fertility-threatening diagnosis coupled with the pandemic creates a deadline for many people. “To put a deadline on fertility can be absolutely devastating,” says Dr. Goldman. “The associated feelings of loss cannot be overstated, and patients often share that the negative impact of cancer on their fertility is the most traumatic part of their diagnosis.”
In fact, studies show that patients may consider altering their cancer treatments to preserve fertility. Dr. Goldman asserts that people shouldn’t have to choose between treatment and preserving fertility, especially during the pandemic.
Fertility Preservation Clinic Puts Patients First
People with cancer, or who are undergoing treatment for cancer, are also at a greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19. That means the Fertility Preservation Clinic needs to take extra precautions to help protect their patients.
“Our care has remained diligent and detail-oriented, but at a distance,” explains Dr. Goldman.
The center is using telehealth to deliver care via video chat or phone, limiting in-person visits without compromising cycle outcomes. When patients do need on-site care, the clinic ensures that the office is as empty as possible by strategically spacing out in-person appointments.
“Preserving fertility provides patients with cancer and other fertility-threatening conditions a tremendous source of hope during an otherwise dark time,” says Dr. Goldman. “To be able to provide this uninterrupted care despite the ongoing pandemic has been incredibly life-affirming.”