And what does a “shutdown” really mean for patients?
Patients of fertility clinics often find themselves learning about many new policies, procedures and treatments at once, which can often be overwhelming. In fact, some of the new terminologies can even sound frightening. However, when patients hear the term “shutdown” during an appointment, the good news is that there is nothing to be alarmed about. It’s actually a normal maintenance routine that all clinics follow throughout the year.
For fertility clinics, a “shutdown” refers to the period of time when the staff are performing preventative cleaning, running quality controls on equipment, and completing routine maintenance to make sure the clinic’s state-of-the-art lab is running as effectively as possible.
During a shutdown period, the lab and surgical centers do not perform any procedures at all. This includes egg retrievals, embryo transfers and sperm aspirations.
At Main Line Fertility, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a regular, temporary “shut down” occurs during the same months every year – usually around the July 4th holiday and again at the end of December.
Bridget Brennan, RN at Main Line Fertility, explains that despite the potentially scary terminology, the facility staff does not “disappear” during this time. She says, “During a shutdown, our staff is completing and updating necessary training. Nurses and staff are also still seeing patients for a variety of reasons, including hormone checks, pregnancy tests, OCP starts, cycle staging, ERA tests, hysteroscopy, injection trainings and orientations.”
She pointed out, “It’s important for patients to know that during a shutdown, there are no impacts to frozen eggs, embryos or sperm. The biggest concern for patients is inconvenient timing and having to take a cycle off or delay a treatment.”
Many patients may want to know if they need to do anything to prepare for their fertility clinic’s bi-annual shut down.
Colleen McCauley, an IVF Patient Support advocate at Main Line Fertility advises, “We do our best to alleviate any interruptions in patient care. During this time, we recommend that patients prepare for their upcoming IVF cycle by getting their medications ordered, scheduling any needed consultations with their doctor, and continuing their prenatal vitamins and any supplements. Patients may also choose to do monitored oral medicated, injectable medicated, timed intercourse, and insemination cycles on the physician side of the practice.”
Over the years, the staff at Main Line Fertility has found that some patients use the time off during the shutdown to take vacation or enjoy the holiday season (and the period of time off from medication and weekly appointments). Please note that the IVF nurses and staff at the facility are still available weekdays to answer any questions and to assist in scheduling necessary appointments and medications coordination. (However, during a shutdown, the IVF staff is not available on the weekends).