For couples struggling with infertility, the impact of Covid-19 means the pandemic won’t only be defined by the devastating number of lives lost, but also the number of lives never created.
An estimated 20,000 rounds of IVF have been cancelled during the past three months, along with countless other investigative infertility procedures.
Chana, the UK’s leading fertility support organisation for the Jewish community, has seen first-hand the distress this has caused to those hoping for a child.
Among them is Joanna*, who was in the middle of IVF treatment when her clinic called to cancel her embryo transfer on 18 March.
She recalls: “It had been a long journey to get to this point. I’d had various procedures, been on medication, my eggs had been collected and then fertilised and finally a year after our journey began, here we were with healthy embryos ready to transfer.
“We were so excited, but when the call came to cancel my appointment I was in shock, I actually couldn’t speak. It was only later when my husband came home from work and called them back, that I understood.
“They explained the embryos would be frozen and I would be prioritised as soon as the clinic reopened. Obviously, they were very apologetic, but it didn’t help. I knew enough to realise there were no guarantees my embryos would survive the freezing and defrosting process.
“For days after that call, I was reeling from the overwhelming fear of never experiencing a positive pregnancy test, of never being pregnant, of never bringing my baby home.”
Chana’s clinical manager, Romy Shulman, explains: “At Chana, we’ve seen the closure of clinics become too much to bear for some clients and have been working round the clock to maintain a high level of support for couples who are reaching out like never before.
“We’ve moved all our therapeutic services online and created support groups for others in similar situations.”
For Joanna, this support has been a lifeline. “The opportunity to share my thoughts, feelings and connect with people going through similar situations has made the weeks more manageable,” she explains.
To help couples like Joanna, Chana is launching an emergency appeal, Worth Every Donation, on 12 and 13 July, which aims to raise £700,000 in 36 hours.
Carolyn Cohen, Honorary Executive Director, says: “We are facing challenging times, balancing an increased need from clients, with the fact that all our fundraising activities have been cancelled.
“Clinics are starting to reopen, although uncertainty remains, and prices will undoubtedly rise as a result of the increased safety measures.”
However, there is hope on the horizon.
“There absolutely will be life after this pandemic,” continues Carolyn. “Even in the midst of lockdown, we were delighted to hear that Chana had its 786th baby born with our help.
“This news makes us even more determined to be there for couples longing for a family. It would be fantastic if our community could be part of creating this new life by backing our campaign and helping clients like Joanna continue their journey and take home the most precious gift of all.”
For more information, visit www.chana.org.uk
Worth Every Donation goes live on 12 July at www.charityextra.com/Chana
* The client’s name has been changed to protect her identity