Patients’ views of delayed fertility care during the COVID-19 pandemic as a conception catastrophe: the experience of U.S. FertilityIQ users

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2021 Dec 10:1-7. doi: 10.1080/0167482X.2021.2011855. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Assessment of psychological reactions to delays in fertility treatment have often utilized single clinic samples during the time that fertility treatments were paused. We, therefore, assessed emotional reactions to treatment cancelations due to COVID-19 in infertility patients across the United States after treatments had begun to resume.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey emailed on 27 May 2020 and closed on 30 June 2020, to 53,600 website users inquiring about their experience since the COVID-19 pandemic. A subset of FertilityIQ users (n = 13,490) opened the survey invitation and 1806 respondents participated in the survey (13.4% response rate).

RESULTS: The majority of respondents (female, 67.4%; male, 61.7%) were 31-40 years old; most were planning to start treatment immediately (women, 42.6%; men, 44.7%) or were undergoing treatment (women, 34.9%; men, 29.8%) at the time of treatment cancelation. Patients (women, 21.1%; men 19.1%) or clinics (women, 57.7%; men, 40.4%) canceled treatment. Most clinics had resumed treatment at the time of the study (women, 90.0%; men, 73.7%). Cancelation resulted in sadness (women, 83.9%; men 86.7%) and anger (women, 45.4%; men, 36.7%); greater than half of the participants whose treatment was canceled (women: 66.8%, n = 630; men: 73.7%, n = 14) agreed with cancelations. Greater than 70% of respondents were at least somewhat concerned about reproductive chances (women, 84.7%; men, 72.4%) and exclusion of partners (women, 73.3%; men, 72.4%). Distress/concern was associated with clinic cancelation, disagreement with delays, age, diagnosis, and concern about delays and pregnancy chances (p <.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Respondents were distressed/concerned about the effect of the pandemic on their fertility. Distress was highest in women with a poorer fertility prognosis, no control over treatment cancelation, and high concern about the effect of treatment delay on pregnancy chances. Emotional support, education regarding treatment delay and fertility, and efforts where possible, to include patients in decisions to delay treatment are warranted in future treatment delays.

PMID:34889702 | DOI:10.1080/0167482X.2021.2011855

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