Summary Report: Physical Health, Psychological Wellbeing and Social Support in COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 has constituted a significant threat to public health around the globe, including in New Zealand and Australia. Our study sought to explore health behaviour changes and the psychosocial implications of COVID-19 for fertility patients. Sixty participants (58 female; 2 male) completed an online survey with items including demographics, fertility history and treatment, changes to physical and mental health status and perceived support. Participant responses were summarised using descriptive statistics.  

 No participant, nor their partner, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 at the time of the study. Most patients indicated that COVID-19 had some degree of impact on their fertility treatment experience, including interruptions to treatment owing to clinic closure and fear of getting pregnant. Patients reported over the last 6-12 months, negative health behaviour changes including a reduction in sleep quality and physical activity, weight gain, increased loneliness, and increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Whilst most participants received clear communication about restrictions and the availability of treatment from their clinics,  over half reported being offered nil to very little professional psychological support. When provided professional support, this was most commonly via fertility doctors and nurses (rather than mental health professionals).

Undertaking fertility treatment is known to be stressful, even during ‘ordinary times’. Commensurate with larger international cohorts, this study highlights the additional negative impact of COVID-19 on patient health behaviours and psychological wellbeing. Given the ongoing challenges presented by continuing outbreaks of COVID-19, our preliminary findings highlight the need to consider strategies to enhance patient psychological care during this unprecedented time.

Acknowledgment: Thank you to the participants who assisted with this study.

Research Team: Dr Iolanda Rodino (The University of Western Australia), Dr Sonja Goedeke (Auckland University of Technology), Dr Melissa Oxlad (The University of Adelaide), Dr Sarah Nowoweiski (Newlife IVF)