This is a collaborative post
Covid-19 has affected the way life is lived for millions of people across the globe- including those hoping to grow a life of their own.
In December of 2019, the lives of nearly every single person on earth were poised to change. With the emergencies of the novel coronavirus, our activities of daily living have been disrupted, to say the least. Some are frustrated because they miss their families, unable to travel or visit them. Others, injured, because they are unable to mourn their dead the way they are accustomed. Some just miss haircuts.
Couples who have been contending with infertility issues, and hopeful to start programs like surrogacy or IVF have come to an unfortunate stumbling block. Simply put- they can’t. They can’t continue with their treatments or travel to meet the doctors and medical teams they’ve selected to help them. Once again, they feel powerless to do anything to rectify their situation. “It is heartbreaking to see.” Says a representative from ilaya, a company that excels in providing families from all over the world with fertility solutions. While ilaya has several specialities, one of their main focus is with IVF Ukraine. “It’s hard to tell these people we can’t help right now, and even harder to try and explain why that is a good thing.”
The Ticking Clock of Infertility
Keeping people safe is the top priority, Ilaya says, but the clock is always ticking for couples who are struggling. Infertility rates have been notably increasing since our parents were kids. In the last 20 to 30 years, infertility rates have risen to affect nearly one in five couples. Which leaves a huge percentage of the population in need of assistive measures should they decide to have a family of their own. While many factors can, or could, reasonably cause this continual climb of infertility issues, one of the main issues that doctors are attributing to this childless crisis is that of maternal age.
Women are waiting much longer than ever before to start families. Where it was once expected to see an average maternal age of about 21 years, it’s much more common for contemporary families to wait until the mother is in her late 20’s or early 30’s before beginning to attempt conception. Which can translate into issues conceiving for some. This is largely because the female fertility rate begins to drop mid-thirties, and continues on a steep decline until menopause begins.
Later maternal age is absolutely not the only factor affecting rising fertility rates, some are suggesting that increasing paternal age may also negatively impact a couple’s chances of falling pregnant, as older partners are more likely to be exposed to damaging environmental factors or have health problems that could impact their fertility. Despite increasing parental age, there are probably many other factors at play, what is known is that fertility treatments and options for addressing fertility issues are in high demand, especially in Ukraine.
COVID Shutdowns and IVF Ukraine
Ukraine has long been poised as a sought after destination when it comes to fertility tourism. With easily accessed borders, inexpensive treatments, favourable laws, and access to cutting edge technology- it’s no wonder that hopeful parents across the globe flock to the country to seek answers to some of their most personal problems. However, despite the popularity here, fertility programs across the globe have faced varying heights of hurdles in the face of the novel coronavirus shutdowns.
Throughout the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and many, many more, hopeful couples are being turned away from fertility programs that they had already begun or were scheduled to begin. In the US, it wasn’t just fertility treatments put on hold, but all elective procedures were under pressure to be suspended during the outbreak. In other countries, pre-existing practices are being adapted to a post-COVID world, while few programs have yet to re-initiate, the guidelines and laws that shape them could be changing quite drastically. Leaving many suspended in limbo.
While IVF Ukraine struggles to function during this time, it appears that existing programs are just taking a sabbatical, with few proposed changes to existing laws or fertility medicine structure.
The Future of IVF
It has become evident that couples struggling with fertility issues are worldwide phenomena, one that affects many and requires more attention. COVID-19 has brought this reality into stark focus, as the outcry of forgotten couples begins to join the fervour of other marginalised groups that this virus has highlighted.
Leaving many lawmakers to take this time to implement a better structure. Yet few are. The UK government finally agreed to an extension on the “shelf-life” laws of frozen fertility materials, such as eggs, sperm, and embryos. After years of conflict over the 10-year statute, seemingly ignoring literature and improved cryogenic technology, the extension came as a welcome result in a murky time. Some proponents of the extension firmly believe it should be extended indefinitely. No longer compelling fertility injured couples to wait to store their materials until it’s too late.
Other countries are looking to scrap certain fertility programs altogether, citing fallout from the coronavirus as a good model on how things can go very wrong. But IVF Ukraine is holding firm. “We will do whatever it takes to be there for our patients,” ilaya closes. “Both now and when the pandemic is over.”
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post