Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Eric J. Forman, MD, HCLD

Each day during the COVID-19 pandemic, we'll share an update from a member of our team in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Today's note is from Eric J. Forman, MD, HCLD, Medical and Laboratory Director at Columbia University Fertility Center and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYP/CUIMC.

Closed sign

The fertility clinic is closed today. That still hasn’t quite sunk in. For the first time in my 10 years as a reproductive endocrinologist, our office is closed. Large fertility clinics like ours don’t close, ever. I’ve worked on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. I’ve driven to work through a blizzard and stayed in a hotel for the weekend so that we could complete time-sensitive IVF cycles. I’ve worked during Hurricane Sandy, when patients risked running out of gas to get to the clinic for monitoring and embryologists wore head lamps to see in a dimly-lit lab with limited power from an emergency generator. I’ve worked through down times where the IVF lab was closed, but there were always patients doing IUIs or gearing up to start IVF. 

Today the fertility clinic is closed. No morning monitoring. No IUIs. No egg retrievals. No embryo transfers.

I often stay up late entering treatment plans for upcoming cycles. There are no upcoming cycles. I usually wake up every morning (sometimes in the middle of the night) excited to see how our patients’ cycles are going. But there are no cycles going now. No patients waking up extra early to have an ultrasound to monitor their progress. No couples nervously struggling at night to figure out how to do their injections.

We are staying busy with virtual telemedicine consults and our embryologists will be in daily to check and fill liquid nitrogen tanks that house frozen eggs and embryos. There still are embryos growing in the lab. But soon there won’t be embryos growing either.

What remains open is our patients’ burning desire to start their treatment. That desire is stronger than ever. They’re nervous that their chances dwindle the longer their treatment is delayed. Patients have offered to sleep on the street or in our lobby so they could continue their treatment. Despite a global pandemic their desire to grow their families cannot be quenched.

But not today. Today, the fertility clinic is closed. Stay safe, everyone.

Eric J. Forman, MD, HCLD