COVID has impacted every facet of our lives, including medical care. As you embark on your surrogacy journey during this unprecedented time, COVID-19 brings new challenges. And still for many people, it has inspired more determination than ever to find a path to building their family.
Fertility Specialist and Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Marie Werner from RMA New Jersey joined All Things Conceivable: A Surrogacy Podcast with Nazca Fontes to share what she’s learned about caring for her surrogacy patients during the global pandemic. Dr. Werner’s experience is particularly insightful as RMA New Jersey, like ConceiveAbilities, has remained open and active in guiding surrogacy journeys continuously through 2020.
NF: How is COVID-19 impacting the surrogacy journey?
“From the beginning, our practice really had a strong commitment to our patients and we know that fertility doesn't wait. Building a family doesn't wait, no matter really what's going on in the world. We stayed open through it all and we have a really efficient system in place to make sure our patients feel that we're doing everything in our power to limit exposure for every piece of the journey.
There are always risks involved and it's really important that our patients are aware of those risks before proceeding. Our patients have been very understanding of [our safety procedures] and I am appreciative of our relationship with our patients to get them to that point, because all of this is so emotional.”
NF: Even though ASRM initially recommended pausing treatment back in March 2020, RMA New Jersey did not shut down during COVID. Why were you able to stay open?
“I have a lot of respect for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. In such uncertain times, they were trying their best to offer patients the best guidance that they could. We have to remember that not every fertility center is the same. At the end of the day, patient autonomy is really important, especially when we're talking about a situation where we know eggs don't wait for us. We feel like fertility treatment is essential. Building a family is essential and we couldn't take that away from the patients.”
NF: What have you learned about surrogacy care during COVID-19?
“Medical professionals, fertility providers and agencies like ConceiveAbilities are all working together to make sure we're making this the safest journey possible, but we can't eliminate all risks. I would encourage all these patients to have frank discussions with providers about their fears, their anxieties, so they can help manage those. The most important thing in all of this is communication and counseling. As long as you feel like your team is supporting you in those ways, you should move forward. Because again, time is not on our side when it comes to these treatments and we want you to have your family now, not a few years down the line.”
NF: Is it safe to conceive during COVID-19?
“Information is limited since we have only been dealing with this for the past ten months. The literature the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has put out says that it is still safe to conceive. No one is telling anybody not to conceive, but we are telling pregnant patients that they are considered a higher risk population and the CDC just updated that guideline as well. It is important for everybody to know that is the case and to try to limit exposures as much as possible.”
NF: Should people wait to move forward with their surrogacy journey?
“I don't think waiting makes a ton of sense, given we just don't know what will happen next. Even if COVID-19 goes away, there could be another virus next year, so I would encourage all of my patients to continue moving forward. And so while life is not perfect, I think that we have appropriate ways to manage care from a medical aspect where I don't think people should be waiting to start this process.”
NF: What has been your “aha” moment during Covid?
“At the beginning of the pandemic when we kept our doors open, you saw all these lawn signs everywhere supporting our essential workers with a picture of the physician, the nurse, or the policemen. I got a small present delivered to the office from one of my patients that said, ‘Thank you for being an essential worker.’ I learned how important it is that we're here and doing this everyday for our patients and continue to be here for them. I am really thankful for that patient for putting it into words, because that's how we've been acting.
We will keep our doors open and we'll continue to help patients build their families without waiting and I think that's the most important take home message. I don't know how things are going to change, but we're certainly always going to be at the forefront of making sure we provide our patients with evidence-based practices. A big part of that is realizing that fertility is an essential service and that we're going to be here for them.”
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