By Clodagh Meaney
Women who have had their upcoming IVF treatment cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis have spoken out about their experience.
The decision to halt treatment came following a recommendation from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) regarding public safety amid the health pandemic.
With approximately 6,000 IVF cycles taking place in Ireland each year, since clinics in closed in the middle of March hundreds of patients have been left uncertain about their treatment.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland today, Denise Phillips from Newbridge, Co Kildare opened up about her experience. The mother of one and her husband were hoping to grow their family this year and was due to begin an IVF cycle before being told the treatment could not go ahead.
"It was a big shock because you mentally build yourself up so much that when somebody tells you that you can't go ahead it is just devastating. Beyond devastating."
"I had an initial consultation and was going in to start my scans, get my medication and start our journey but then I got a phone call saying that all IVF cycles were postponed or cancelled," she told the programme.
"Obviously the Government has to do things that are right but it's awful for somebody to take away your chance, after all, that's already been taken from you. What happens if this is around for a long time?"
Denise told the programme that IVF patients were suffering "huge anxiety.".
"Their families don't know they are having treatment and they are in isolation. They don't want to leave the house in case they pick up something and then won't be able to get treatment once the clinics re-open. Everyone's mind is racing."
Another woman, who did not wish to be identified said: "We have been treated like broodmares. I feel as though my rights, my liberty has been taken away."
"I do not have autonomy over my own body, my own reproductive system. It is abhorrent."
Speaking to the programme Dr John Kennedy, Group Medical Director of Sims IVF said the situation was "awful" but could not be prevented in the interest of health and safety.
"You can take all the precautions with regard to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) but it is by no means perfect and if you have a good stockpile of PPE that should probably be in the hands of the general hospitals at this point."
"We generally would have (egg) transfers booked four to six weeks in advance so we had a full transfer list for April. That's four or five transfers a day, five days a week. We are having to cancel all of them on a rolling basis so the numbers are mounting up all the time," he told the programme.
Discussing a timeline for clinics reopening their doors to IVF patients, Dr. Kennedy said: "My gut is telling me nothing good is going to happen in April, it is unlikely something will happen in May, but certainly after that if all the clinics are still closed really everything is going to start to struggle an awful lot."
There is concern about a potential backlog of patients once services resume to which he told the programme that clinics are retaining staff so when it comes to a time where they're able to commence treatment they will be in a position to do so.