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Podcast Review: ASRM Today – Update no. 12 from the ASRM COVID-19 task force

15 February 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1083

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has issued Update no. 12 – Testing and Vaccine Truths from the ASRM COVID-19 task force. This update addresses patient management and clinical recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic. ASRM Today, the ASRM weekly podcast hosted by Jeffrey Hayes, welcomed Dr Jodie Dionne-Odom, a member of the task force, to discuss the updates. 

This podcast is less than ten minutes long, giving a succinct overview of the new guidance and highlighting the main takeaway points. The host asks Dr Dionne-Odom sensible questions that allow her to convey the main topics of the update. I appreciated the simplicity with which Dr Dionne-Odom delivered the themes; it meant that her points could be easily understood and were not confused with complicated jargon. 

Dr Dionne-Odom begins by discussing the new COVID-19 variants that have been found worldwide, warning that they are more easily transmissible than the original strain. She stresses the importance of social distancing and receiving vaccinations, especially among the pregnant population, as they may be more likely to have severe symptoms than non-pregnant women. She reassures listeners that the vaccines have high levels of safety and efficacy but that we should warn patients that they should expect side effects including sore muscles and headaches. 

Although the ASRM is very clear regarding their stance on vaccinating pregnant women, people from outside of the USA may find this recommendation confusing as many countries currently do not recommend vaccination during pregnancy. The ASRM feel, however, that the risks of catching COVID-19 during pregnancy outweigh the risks of taking the vaccination.

One of the main subjects discussed in the podcast is when it may be safe to perform elective surgeries following a coronavirus diagnosis. Dr Dionne-Odom explains that this should be an individualised process based upon the severity of symptoms experienced by the patient. She stresses that the timeframes discussed in the update are not 'hard and fast' and should be seen more as suggestions to help you decide when a patient may be ready for surgery. 

Upon reading the guidance in full I have to admit I found the recommendations in this section of the update a little vague. As healthcare providers it is useful to have strict guidelines to adhere to, to avoid misinterpretation. This is especially true in the fertility sector where patients may play down their COVID symptoms as they are keen to restart their treatment and not 'waste time'. I'm hopeful that as more information becomes available the advice surrounding treatment of patients post-infection becomes more stringent and less open to interpretation. 

The final take home message of the podcast is to urge providers to spread the message that the vaccinations do not cause or contribute to infertility. This is a great note to end on and an important point to raise with patients. 

Overall, I think the podcast gave a quick and easy overview of the new COVID-19 guidance issued by the ASRM. On the whole Dr Dionne-Odom was very clear regarding the ASRM's clinical recommendations, with only some areas of the guidelines currently too unspecific. Since the podcast does not cover all the topics discussed in the update in detail, I would recommend that professionals read the guidance in full to best counsel their patients. 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Today: Update no. 12 from the ASRM COVID-19 task force with Jodie Dionne-Odom
American Society for Reproductive Medicine |  18 January 2021
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