BACKGROUND: On March 17, 2020 an expert ASRM task force recommended the temporary suspension of new, non-urgent fertility treatments during an ongoing world-wide pandemic of Covid-19. We surveyed at the time of resumption of fertility care the psychological experience and coping strategies of patients pausing their care due to Covid-19 and examined which factors were associated and predictive of resilience, anxiety, stress and hopefulness.
METHODS: Cross sectional cohort patient survey using an anonymous, self-reported, single time, web-based, HIPPA compliant platform (REDCap). Survey sampled two Northeast academic fertility practices (Yale Medicine Fertility Center in CT and Montefiore's Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Health in NY). Data from multiple choice and open response questions collected demographic, reproductive history, experience and attitudes about Covid-19, prior infertility treatment, sense of hopefulness and stress, coping strategies for mitigating stress and two validated psychological surveys to assess anxiety (six-item short-form State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAl-6)) and resilience (10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, (CD-RISC-10).
RESULTS: Seven hundred thirty-four patients were sent invitations to participate. Two hundred fourteen of 734 (29.2%) completed the survey. Patients reported their fertility journey had been delayed a mean of 10 weeks while 60% had been actively trying to conceive > 1.5 years. The top 5 ranked coping skills from a choice of 19 were establishing a daily routine, going outside regularly, exercising, maintaining social connection via phone, social media or Zoom and continuing to work. Having a history of anxiety (p < 0.0001) and having received oral medication as prior infertility treatment (p < 0.0001) were associated with lower resilience. Increased hopefulness about having a child at the time of completing the survey (p < 0.0001) and higher resilience scores (p < 0.0001) were associated with decreased anxiety. Higher reported stress scores (p < 0.0001) were associated with increased anxiety. Multiple multivariate regression showed being non-Hispanic black (p = 0.035) to be predictive of more resilience while variables predictive of less resilience were being a full-time homemaker (p = 0.03), having received oral medication as prior infertility treatment (p = 0.003) and having higher scores on the STAI-6 (< 0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: Prior to and in anticipation of further pauses in treatment the clinical staff should consider pretreatment screening for psychological distress and provide referral sources. In addition, utilization of a patient centered approach to care should be employed.
Seifer, David B; Petok, William D; Agrawal, Alisha; Glenn, Tanya L; Bayer, Arielle H; Witt, Barry R; Burgin, Blair D; and Lieman, Harry J, "Psychological experience and coping strategies of patients in the Northeast US delaying care for infertility during the COVID-19 pandemic." (2021). Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Faculty Papers. Paper 69.
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