Women undergoing fertility treatment have been forced to make difficult decisions after a medical oversight body called for postponing procedures during the coronavirus pandemic as they race against time to get pregnant.
The Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine released a statement in April urging member doctors to ask patients to reconsider in light of how difficult a coronavirus infection will make their treatments and the possibility of mother-to-child transmission.
“I was about to progress to the next step, but it was suddenly halted,” said a 33-year-old Tokyo woman who started receiving treatments three years ago.
The woman was undergoing in vitro fertilization and was about to have fertilized eggs transplanted into her uterus when the directive was released. On that basis, she decided to postpone the step but said it was frustrating because she had been waiting so long.
A 30-year-old woman in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, also stopped visiting her fertility clinic.
“It is painful to have to give up on my limited chances,” she said, conceding she would have been haunted by concern about getting the virus if she became pregnant.
But a JSRM official emphasized that “the statement was not intended to make people refrain from getting pregnant.”
“We want people to receive proper treatment in accordance with their respective circumstances,” the official said.
Akiko Matsumoto, who heads a nonprofit organization that supports people with fertility struggles, said the statement has prompted many to halt treatment while others are proceeding because of advanced age.
“Fertility treatment is a battle against time in some respects,” said Matsumoto. “There are many medical institutions that have already taken measures against infections, and we want them to continue providing treatments to offer support to people who are feeling worried and anxious.”
In the wake of the organization’s statement, the health ministry decided to slightly lower the age limit for couples receiving state subsidies for infertility treatment this fiscal year, allowing women under 44 to receive the aid instead of those under 43.
Japan has been subsidizing in vitro fertilization and micro insemination for couples who earn less than ¥7.3 million ($68,000) combined annually.