These are uncertain times! Unfortunately this week I made the difficult decision to postpone the Surrogacy Sisterhood scheduled in May; with travel bans already affecting surrogates in Tasmania and New Zealand, I am concerned that further bans could occur at any time. No fear! We shall reschedule and the surrogates are in good spirits – we’ll be meeting over Zoom while we bunker down in our homes.

If you are planning IVF treatment or a surrogacy here or overseas, unfortunately there is no certainty of the full impact on your arrangement. It is a moving feast. You should refer to your treating clinic and agencies for specific advice.

We’re part-way through a surrogacy arrangement overseas – what do we do?

For travel advice and information, always rely on reputable sources including the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website. Smart Traveller is currently advising all Australians to reconsider non-essential travel; airlines have grounded their international fleets. Australian residents will be supported to travel home, but you can expect there to be delays in returning home; you can also expect to have to self-isolate upon your return.

There are also likely isolation requirements in your destination country, or in some cases prohibitions on entry.

What about IVF treatment?

Many IVF clinics in Australia and overseas are releasing statements for their patients undergoing fertility treatments and trying to conceive, and offering remote options for appointments. You may not need to delay your treatment, but it depends on individual circumstances and you need to rely on the advice of your clinic and treating medical practitioner. You can follow your individual clinic’s updates on their social media accounts, or else they are also sending emails to patients.

The Fertility Society of Australia released recommendations for anyone considering or in the midst of fertility treatment.

In the United States, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), issued new guidelines during the pandemic, with the following recommendations:

  • Suspend initiation of new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF) including retrievals and frozen embryo transfers, as well as non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
  • Strongly consider cancellation of all embryo transfers whether fresh or frozen.
  • Continue to care for patients who are currently “in-cycle” or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation.
  • Suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures.
  • Minimise in-person interactions and increase utilisation of telehealth.

You can expect that if you were planning on creating embryos with a donor, your cycle will be delayed or cancelled unless it has already commenced. This also appears to be decided on a clinic-by-clinic basis, or a state-by-state basis.

We’re already pregnant – what does coronavirus mean for us?

The advice from the medical practitioners is that pregnant people who contract coronavirus will likely suffer mild to moderate cold or flu like symptoms, and there appears to be no evidence of an increased risk to the pregnancy, such as miscarriage, prematurity, fetal abnormalities or any other complications.

Pregnant teams may expect increased restrictions on attendance at medical appointments, including not allowing intended parents to attend appointments. This is ever-changing and teams part-way through a pregnancy should look to their treating hospital for information and guidance.

If you are planning a pregnancy, undergoing fertility treatment or already pregnant, you should follow the advice of your particular clinic and medical practitioner.

…and the birth?

Sadly, it seems some parents progressing through international surrogacy will not be able to attend the birth – either because of hospital restrictions on support people and visitors, or because of travel bans and isolation requirements. This situation must be incredibly stressful for intended parents and surrogates alike. You should contact your clinic or agency to discuss the best way to manage the birth and newborn days, should you be unable to travel or be placed in isolation around the time of the birth. I have read of many babies being cared for by nannies, or surrogates, as the intended parents cannot be there in time for the baby to arrive. Whilst upsetting and stressful, I am confident that agencies will do their best to make sure the babies are well cared for until the parents can arrive.

Good luck! There are no precedents for what we are experiencing. Please take it one day at a time, and look after yourselves and your families.

You can find more information in the free Surrogacy Handbook, reading articles in the Blog, by listening to more episodes of the Podcast. You can also book in for a consult with me below.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I advocate for positive, best practice surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

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