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Pandemic impact on IVF families

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Fertility Help Hub has looked into this area with its new research

The impact of the global pandemic has affected huge numbers of potential IVF parents according to new research.

Many families have seen their IVF treatment suspended because of Covid-19.

Fertility Help Hub (FHH) has found 100% of people in suspended IVF treatment feel mentally traumatised by the continued set-backs. This uncertainty is also having a knock-on effect on health and wellbeing, with further research revealing that 68% of those on the waiting list have been eating worse since the pandemic hit and 61% have been exercising less. Their findings include:

  • Research has found two thirds of people currently in suspended fertility treatment will risk putting themselves under financial pressure to go private
  • 52% of patients surveyed feel uncertain about the risks and safety of fertility treatment during the pandemic
  • 55% of IVF parents feel clinics have not given clear guidance on the future
  • 47% of people feel that the delays caused by COVID could spell the end to parenthood
  • Over a third of hopeful parents say the delays have put even more pressure on their relationships with partners.

They say that through fertility treatment during a pandemic is stressful. Dealing with the uncertainty of not being able to access information and treatment takes its toll emotionally and can impact on physical health.

Founder of Fertility Help Hub (FHH) Eloise Edington launched the site following her own personal fertility struggle after her husband was diagnosed with Klinefelter Syndrome, something that affects approximately 1 in 660 men which made him infertile. The site aims to guide, support and connect the fertility community during their journey to parenthood, and demystify the complexities that arise along the way.

Eloise Edington said: “We know from our community that COVID has taken away from many the hope of becoming parents. At Fertility Help Hub, we are making it our mission to support people currently trying to conceive or in suspended IVF, with resources and guidance and also an opportunity to receive help directly from a number of clinics across the UK” 

There is lots of evidence to show that diet and lifestyle can directly impact on your fertility health, not only for conception but also for your baby’s development. Leading conception and pregnancy expert Zita West highlights the importance of good nutrition for healthy eggs and sperm, improving your chances of successful fertility treatment. 

  • Mindset and controlled exercise play a big role in preparing for IVF.  Increasingly, women are feeling less motivated, cutting back on exercise and putting on extra weight. It’s no good telling someone they have to be positive when they are not in a positive space to prepare. Breathing and guided visualizations (included in my HUG courses) will help to calm the nervous system and reduce stress hormones (meditation and yoga are the most powerful tools we have). So, start small and be consistent! However, 20 minutes a day is enough to change your outlook completely and you should note the following caveats: Recent studies into the links between IVF success rates and exercise levels suggest that low-impact, moderate exercise for short periods of time optimises the chances of success. In particular, try to avoid running or impact sports, and opt instead for walking, swimming or gentle yoga two or three times a week, for between 20 minutes and an hour at each session. The important thing is to maintain a healthy circulation and a healthy weight – being either overweight or underweight is not good. Leading up to an IVF cycle, we recommend no exercise other than walking while you’re regulating. Similarly, when you’re going through the stimulation phase, your ovaries are enlarged so again it is not a good idea to exercise. Finally, we recommend no exercise after the transfer until the pregnancy is established, when you should exercise only under guidance from your medical team.
  • Being outside in Nature: Studies show that being in bright light increases the body’s production of serotonin, which is why the benefit of outdoor exercise is not only the physical release of endorphins during the exercise itself, but also the impact of being outdoors. A gentle stroll through a park, an outdoor tai chi class or simply sitting in the open-air and watching the world go by will have positive effects on your mood and emotions. Furthermore, we need sunlight to manufacture vitamin D – which has a special significance in ovarian health.
  • Nutrition When you are trying to conceive, perhaps the saying ‘you are what you eat’ should read ‘you both are what you eat’. Eggs and sperm are cells like any others in the human body, yet in recent years how they are nourished is largely ignored. The maturing egg, sperm, endometrium (womb lining) and foetus depend upon nutrients for development. If the diet contains too many trans-fats, refined sugars, or excess additives – or is depleted of nutrients – research shows an individual’s fertility can be significantly affected. Protein, fats and carbohydrates are needed for healthy reproduction and fruit and vegetables to protect against free radical damage to which eggs and sperm are sensitive. Wholesome, traditional foods provide a good balance of what you need. There are too many food fads today that exclude some of these key nutritional building blocks – including low fat foods – as well as foods known to have detrimental effects for fertility, such as processed foods.

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