Women opting for riskier intensive fertility treatment amid pandemic delays, poll finds

Six in ten women fear time to get pregnant falling short

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
@mayaoppenheim
Tuesday 18 May 2021 07:50
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<p>Three in 10 are prepared to push their physical and mental health ‘to the limit’ if it means their chances of conceiving improves</p>

Three in 10 are prepared to push their physical and mental health ‘to the limit’ if it means their chances of conceiving improves

Women are placing their health at risk as pandemic-related delays in fertility treatment push them into seeking more aggressive medication.

Research by polling company Opinium discovered three in five women in the early stages of their fertility treatment intend to undergo more intense healthcare, with around half willing to suffer “over-medication”.

This is despite the fact it can trigger ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which leads to blood clots, kidney failure and pregnancy loss.

While six in ten women polled fear their time to get pregnant is falling short as a direct result of the Covid crisis, around three quarters intend to accelerate their fertility treatment.

The pandemic has triggered delays on fertility treatment, with researchers finding three in 10 are prepared to push their physical and mental health “to the limit” if it means their chances of conceiving improves.

SAFE Campaign, a coalition of organisations and health professionals which have concerns about fertility treatment in the UK, raised fears clinics “incentivise profit” which in turn poses a risk to women’s health.

Clinics are offering women refunds if they do not conceive which pushes doctors into doing anything they can to get a woman pregnant to avoid paying back money, the campaign group said, adding that this leads to doctors “over-medicating” patients. Issues with “over-medication” are more prevalent in the US.

Campaigners warn there is also an issue with fertility services offering several cycles of treatment for a reduced price as they may be financially incentivised to “over-medicate” in the first cycle to try and avoid forking out money for later cycles.

Kate Davies, registered independent fertility nurse consultant, said: “The role of the health professional is crucial in keeping fertility patients safe. It’s one of the most emotionally-charged areas of our health and it’s no surprise that after a year of delays some women are starting to feel that the clock is ticking.

“With patients in a vulnerable position, we are worried that the financial incentive clinics will face could ultimately influence clinicians’ medical decisions impacting patient safety, especially as they face a backlog of anxious patients combined with the pressure of commercial interest.”

More than one in five women who had fertility treatment say they made themselves ill with what they forced their body to endure, researchers found. While seven in 10 said they suffered potential symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia.

The study polled 533 women who are considering, currently going through, or who previously went through fertility treatment.

Natalie Silverman, an ambassador for SAFE campaign, said: “Going through fertility treatment can be one of the most stressful times in life, and I know from personal experience that at times you can feel like you would do anything to get pregnant, even if deep down you know you may be compromising your mental and physical health.

“That’s why checks and balances in the sector are so important. Patients should be able to rely on fertility clinics acting in their best interests, even if that means questioning and seeking guidance on a more aggressive course of treatment.”

It comes after a study shared exclusively with The Independent found more women are considering technology-aided methods of trying for a baby in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

A poll of 400 women, by Stowe Family Law, found almost half of women are now contemplating technological conception procedures they would not have thought about before the public health emergency.

Researchers at the UK’s largest family law firm found the most popular option is egg freezing, followed by IVF, sperm donation, and surrogacy. But some 16 per cent of women said they were altogether abandoning plans to have a child any time soon as a direct result of the pandemic.

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