As the year draws to a close, this newsletter covers ELANZA’s Top 2020 Reproductive Health takeaways. We hope you enjoy reflecting on the changes and challenges of the year with us…
The anticipated “baby boom” didn’t arrive
2020 began with speculation there would be a lockdown-induced rise in pregnancies, as couples spent more time together cooped up indoors. In fact, financial and health worries, childcare problems, enforced distance (or proximity!) have meant that for many people starting or expanding a family has taken a backseat during lockdown. Some European research is even saying that, in contrary to the anticipated “baby boom,” we are set for a “baby bust” as people abandon or delay plans for kids.
Meanwhile, egg freezing exploded
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, egg freezing was already the fastest growing fertility treatment. However, lockdown dating difficulties as well as fears of pandemic pregnancy have rapidly accelerated the uptake. For instance, New York University’s Langone Fertility Center saw a 41% increase in people freezing their eggs compared with the same time period in 2019.
ELANZA launched a virtual decision aid 1 hour workshop for patients, “Is Egg Freezing Right for Me?”
And at-home sperm freezing continued to grow
Amidst data suggesting sperm counts in the West are falling, there's been a surge of men's health startups applying tech to tackle male reproductive health issues. The ELANZA blog took a look at the rising trend of sperm preservation.
More single people considered parenthood
The number of women and men pursuing parenthood without a partner - through donor eggs/sperm, surrogacy, adoption or fostering – has been growing for several years. Although the vast majority of people still cite a preference to raise a child while partnered, not only are people are settling down later in life but dating during lockdown has become more challenging. 2020 saw a surge in articles, blogs and stories of unpartnerned people questioning whether they should “go it alone” rather than risk future infertility.
Fertility clinic closures were stressful times
Most fertility clinics were temporarily closed during the first half of 2020, along with other types of what was initially considered “non-essential” medical care.
A New York-based study found that patients had mixed opinions regarding the ASRM closure recommendations, but many were “very upset.” British research found almost all patients reported stress, worry and frustration at the situation, while some expressed anger and resentment at the “unfairness” of it. More than 1 in 10 patients reported not being able to cope “at all,” with reports of “intense feelings of hopelessness and deteriorating well-being and mental health.” On the ELANZA blog we covered fertility care changes during COVID-19.
Telehealth boomed during the disruption
2020 was a tipping point for how many of us around the world access care. In the US, data shows that telehealth claim lines increased 4,347% nationally from March 2019 to March 2020.
Overall, patients and healthcare providers reported high levels of satisfaction (~90%) with the use of telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic.
And many patients and healthcare providers reported willingness to continue using telehealth after the pandemic.
ELANZA launched 30-min virtual coffee slots so people with questions about fertility and next steps could easily access a strategy session with a fertility mentor.
Reproductive health campaigners cheered
In the US, news that Joe Biden won the US Presidential Election was met with relief from many reproductive health campaigners, who anticipated the redaction of many Trump-era policies.
In a move heralded as a sign of things to come for other countries, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the government aims to abolish an income cap to make it easier for all couples to receive subsidies for fertility treatment, in response to Japan’s declining birth rate. The ELANZA blog covered Biden’s plans for reproductive health care.
But also despaired
The nomination of Amy Coney-Barrett to the US Supreme Court triggered the Editors of leading journal Fertility and Sterility to publish a letter opposing her seating, calling it “an enduring step backwards for women’s individual liberty."
In Poland, a near ban on abortion caused crowds to take to the streets in protest.
Taboos were further challenged
The Duchess of Sussex wrote openly about her miscarriage; Chrissy Teigen and John Legend shared the experience of losing their son at 20 weeks into pregnancy; a host of people in the public eye - such as Amy Schumer - shared their reproductive health challenges; and there has been a boom in menopause startups.
The COVID-19 vaccine fertility “fake news”
To close out an unbelievable year, a false post appeared on social media claiming that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women.
The image, which went viral on Facebook and elsewhere on social media, purported to be a screenshot of a news article declaring the vaccine is "female sterilization," according to an unidentified Pfizer head of research.
Pfizer and independent immunologists have now debunked the claim.
And a miraculous baby was born…
Molly Gibson was 27 years in the making.
The baby girl was born from an embryo that was frozen in October 1992, and stayed that way until February 2020, when Tina and Ben Gibson of Tennessee adopted it.
Molly has set a new record for the longest-frozen embryo to have resulted in a birth, breaking a record set by her older sister, Emma.
"We're over the moon," says Tina Gibson. The couple had struggled with infertility for nearly five years before Emma’s birth.
Digital health has been at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted more than ever the importance of digital transformation in better serving patients.
We have been very proud this year that ELANZA Wellness was named a MedCity Home Health Startup to Watch, was selected for the Deutsche Bank WiST accelerator and Allbright FoundHER, received investment from Accel’s Scout Fund, as well as featuring in Grazia, Women of Wearables and The Fertility Podcast (half a million downloads; 100 countries) among many more highlights.
But mostly we are proud that we have been able to support the essential work of our fertility doctor partners by connecting their patients with resources and a supportive community during stressful clinic disruptions. Next year will see an exciting expansion of our products and services, which we can’t wait to share.
Thank you for being part of ELANZINE and continuing to support us in our mission to enhance the experiences and outcomes of fertility patients around the world.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy 2021!
The ELANZA Wellness team
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