COVID-19 - Q&A's for patients

Pregnant women are known to be more vulnerable to viral infections. Such infections and the associated high fever they might induce could be difficult to treat. Moreover, some anti-viral drugs may be contraindicated in pregnancy.

If oocyte or embryo freezing are available for the short postponement of pregnancy, and considering it does not reduce the chance of pregnancy, deferred transfer has been proposed as a precautionary strategy.

While there is currently no evidence that being infected with the coronavirus will affect pregnancy, ESHRE recommends this precautionary approach.

A pregnancy resulting from fertility treatment is the outcome of a controlled medical procedure; a pregnancy resulting from natural conception is not. An IVF pregnancy can be suspended or deferred, even after treatment has started; a non-IVF pregnancy cannot.

There are, however, a number of considerations in a non-IVF pregnancy, which several authorities have addressed:

• Pregnant women have been identified as more vulnerable to some infections than the general population. However, from what we know so far, pregnant women with coronavirus infection do not appear to be more unwell than others.
• The preventive public health advice now in place for everyone - self-isolation, self-distancing - is as applicable to pregnant women as to anyone. The most effective protection advice appears to be regular handwashing. Any pregnant woman thinking she has coronavirus infection should alert her doctor or midwife.
• From what we know so far on whether coronavirus infection in a mother can be transmitted to her newborn (or even unborn) baby, the scientific evidence appears reassuring. .

Please note that we recommend a temporary cessation of ART practices. Our recommendation will be adapted with further information and in line with further evolution of the pandemic.

We recommend a temporary cessation of ART practices and expect that IVF treatments could be restarted as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is under control and the risk of infection reduced to a minimum. There is currently no clear information or good estimation of a timeline. ESHRE will keep monitoring the situation and update their advice whenever new information is available.

Of course, any decision on restarting treatments will need to take into consideration the national recommendations on non-urgent medical procedures, the impact on the clinic's organisation and the safety of patients and staff. Please contact your fertility doctor for more information.

Freezing eggs and embryos is frequently carried out in IVF treatments; excess embryos may be frozen for later embryo transfer, or occasionally all eggs or embryos are frozen as a safety measure. In both cases, studies have shown that freezing eggs or embryos has no negative effect on the chances of pregnancy or live birth.

There is currently no evidence that an infection with the coronavirus has an effect on fertility, or on the quality of sperm or eggs. 

Currently, there is no evidence of any adverse neonatal outcomes as a result of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy. As this is a new virus, it will take some time before information is available on its effects. For mothers infected with the virus and showing symptoms at the end of their pregnancy, reports are reassuring; most babies seem to be healthy. Please remember that the ESHRE statement is about postponing IVF treatments as a precaution, but it does not imply advice for ongoing pregnancies. Please contact your obstetrician or family doctor for more information on any precautions you can take.

Fertility preservation for cancer patients is considered an urgent procedure, as these patients have to undergo cancer treatments which can usually not be postponed. Furthermore, fertility preservation techniques always result in freezing of the oocytes or sperm with embryo transfer being postponed until after the patient has recovered from the cancer treatments.