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Will delaying fertility treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic affect chances of falling pregnant?

A study published last year in the journal Human Reproduction has some reassuring results for our patients, particularly those with a diminished ovarian reserve.

During the beginning on the pandemic in 2020, patients planning to undergo fertility treatment in the hopes of starting their family had their dreams shattered. Treatments were delayed, the transportation of donor sperm and donor eggs was affected due to international flights and patients found themselves facing an increasingly stressful situation with no end in sight.

We all know that when it comes to fertility in both men and women, you can’t stop the clock. A diminished ovarian reserve places more pressure on women to start a family earlier rather than later and the COVID-19 pandemic helped exacerbate an already stressful situation.

With this in mind, academics from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) formed a task force to help provide guidance for patient management and determine whether this short yet inconvenient delay in fertility treatment would impact the pregnancy outcomes of women with diminished ovarian reserve. The academics looked at 1790 patients that met the criteria and found that when compared to women who did not delay their treatment, there was no difference in live birth rate.

In a normal situation, a delay in treatment may be due to logistical, financial, medial or personal reasons and it is well documented that over a course of several years, the ovarian reserve of women will begin to decline as well as their fecundability. In women with fertility problems, however, the actual length of times it takes for a clinically significant decline in ovarian reserve or the likelihood of a successful pregnancy is in not understood.

The results of this recent study is very reassuring for patients with a lower than normal antral follicle count (AFC) or AMH, suggesting that embryo development is not affected by a short delay in IVF treatment.

The study found that a delay in IVF treatment for up to approximately 180 days did not affect the live birth rate in women with diminished ovarian reserve, in comparison to the women who began their treatment within 90 days of presentation.