We’ve been getting a lot of questions from our Ovally community on how COVID-19 might affect fertility, as well as access to fertility treatments in the US and in Europe. But before we dive into this content, we’d like to send our heartfelt well-wishes to you, dear readers, and hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. For the purposes of this post, we’ll stay focused on fertility; if you’re looking for more detailed information on COVID-19, here’s the latest from the CDC. We’ll keep updating this post as more information becomes available.
This is a question we frequently get during our free Ovally consults, so we decided to lay out different considerations in more detail. If you’re asking yourself this question, you’re already a step ahead: You know that it typically takes more than one egg to hopefully have a baby with the help of fertility treatment, and that you might need more than one treatment cycle to collect enough eggs to be more comfortable with your chances of being able to take advantage of them to have a baby later on.
In the earlier days of egg freezing many women weren’t told that each egg may only have a 5-10% chance of becoming a baby (which decreases with age as egg quality goes down), and that 15-19 eggs seem to provide the highest likelihood of a live birth without increasing the risk of overstimulation. At Ovally it’s important to us that you have all the information you need to make treatment decisions and avoid possible disappointment later on. We hope the below helps you think through whether it may make sense to undergo more than one treatment cycle, and what the decision process could look like:
Earlier this year we began looking into the diagnoses behind fertility issues, starting with ovulatory dysfunction. In this post, we’ll be digging into the most common diagnosis, “diminished ovarian reserve”, affecting 31% of cases in the CDC’s report, which is based on ~260k IVF cycles performed in the US. Diminished ovarian reserve does not only affect IVF treatment but any kind of fertility (preservation) treatment, making it particularly relevant for the Ovally community.
The question of drinking before and during fertility treatment tends to bring out strong opinions. It also comes up a lot with our Ovally customers: “Can I have at least a little Spanish wine during treatment?”. For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on alcohol consumption before and during fertility treatment until conception only, and leave out any research on pregnancy and alcohol. As usual, check with your doctor on their guidance regarding alcohol intake during any fertility treatment. We’re summarizing the findings of high-quality research studies for you, but your doctor may have access to relevant, yet to be published findings.
We’re surrounded by positive messages about exercising, yet there are surprisingly few quality studies that have looked at a potential link between exercise and fertility. We know that female athletes often have irregularities with their cycles, and that high levels of exercise seem to be associated with longer menstrual cycles. Research on fertility patients has been inconclusive – one study showed that moderate exercise was correlated with a lower likelihood of having a baby, another showed the opposite.
Doctors perform a series of tests and ask a number of questions as you prepare for and undergo the stimulation phase of egg/embryo freezing or IVF. These tests and questions help determine whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure, whether you’re able to proceed or have any risks, and what your outcomes may be. To make the process a bit more transparent, we’ve included some of these questions below (note that they’re neither comprehensive nor prescriptive). Keep in mind that every doctor will have their own protocols, and we recommend asking them about their process:
It’s always heartbreaking when an egg freezing or IVF cycle does not work, or the outcome isn’t as good as you’d hoped. Even though Ovally patients complete a battery of pre-treatment tests to make sure to the extent possible that they’re a good candidate for the procedure, these tests still cannot rule out some risks that a cycle might be unsuccessful or less successful, with either no or few mature eggs retrieved. Below are some examples of such situations that we’ve observed, backed up by scientific literature. These examples are not comprehensive, and we advise you to always ask your doctor for what risks might exist in your specific case.
Relatively clear answers and quality research can be hard to come by in fertility research. However, when it comes to how food relates to fertility outcomes, there are some decent data! The short answer is: Avoid fast food, and instead embrace fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and foods high in omega 3, such as nuts. This goes not just for women undergoing fertility treatment, but also those hoping to conceive naturally. This “Mediterranean diet” has also been linked to higher sperm count and sperm quality in men. And yes, the literature actually refers to it as a “Mediterranean diet” – we swear we didn’t make it up because Ovally‘s partner clinics are in Spain :)!
“My friend suggested that I freeze my eggs in Europe because costs are much lower. After doing some research online, I felt overwhelmed by all of the unknown variables – is it safe, will anyone speak English, how long will I be there, where do I even start!? I was ready to give up on the whole idea and just empty my savings account to do the procedure in the US. Then I read about Ovally and reviewed their website. Shortly after, I had a phone call with a fertility coach, and then she took it from there! She matched me with the perfect clinic and even helped me plan my travel! My experience with Ovally was fantastic. They were in touch regularly before, during, and even after the process. Also, I could reach out to them asking even the smallest of questions, and would receive an almost immediate response.
Undergoing any kind of fertility treatment is a sensitive and very personal matter. Unfortunately, many still associate fertility treatments with stigma, which we are hoping to help decrease. That’s why we’re delighted to share Gillian’s Instagram story about freezing her eggs with Ovally. We’re grateful to her for her openness and honesty in sharing her story publicly.
Gillian says about using Ovally: “I had been considering egg freezing for years, but was daunted by the cost. Ovally made that feasible for me, but the experience was so much more valuable than I expected. Having a resource other than my doctor that I could go to for all my questions (including travel planning!) made an intimidating process so much more pleasant. Compared to friends who did this in the US, I felt like I got substantially better care both physically and psychologically. ”