New Brunswick

Fertility treatment delays amid COVID heartbreaking for some hopeful N.B. parents

Fertility treatments are known for being emotionally and physically draining, but some hopeful parents in New Brunswick going through the rigorous process during COVID-19 say the cancelled appointments and longer wait times are nearly too much to bear.

New Brunswick's only fertility clinic is cancelling appointments because of stricter guidelines

Chloe and Kyle Foulkes, with their dogs Raleigh and Nevada. The couple has decided to 'fight till our dying day to have a family,' says Chloe. (Chloe Foulkes)

Fertility treatments are known for being emotionally and physically draining, but some hopeful parents in New Brunswick going through the rigorous process during COVID-19 say the cancelled appointments and longer wait times are nearly too much to bear.

Hillary and Luke Newman have been trying to conceive for five years.

After years of testing and waiting, they were taken on as patients in August 2020 at Conceptia Fertility Clinic in Moncton, N.B. The couple was told they would get a call in 2021 about starting in vitro fertilization (IVF).

But despite COVID, the call came sooner for the Saint John couple than expected.

"When we were called before Christmas, we just thought it was such a great Christmas gift," said Hillary Newman.

"We let our parents know on Christmas Day. A lot of tears were shed."

Luke and Hillary Newman have been trying to conceive for five years. They received a call just before Christmas, letting them know they would start IVF treatments on Jan 21. The appointment was cancelled the day before because three zones went into red. (Hillary Newman)

They were expected to start treatments Jan. 21, but 24 hours beforehand, three zones, including Saint John and Moncton, went into red.

The appointment was cancelled.

"This is a process that has so much waiting in it, without COVID that, you know, just adding additional wait is really, really hard on the heart," said Newman.

Chloe and Kyle Foulkes also live in Saint John, and can relate.

Since 2017, they've been trying to have a baby and were told 12 hours before their IVF appointment in November 2020 that a change to orange meant they'd have to reschedule.

"We had been preparing for for about three months with lifestyle changes, diet changes, supplements," said Chloe Foulkes.

"So, yeah, that was pretty heartbreaking."

You're always waiting on your miracle, so every little break that you get that's positive, you hold on to that.- Chloe Foulkes

She has a new appointment scheduled for March, but can't count on it happening. She's trying to temper her hopes.

"You're always waiting on your miracle, so every little break that you get that's positive, you hold on to that," said Foulkes.

"So it's a little bit of hope, and then you're met with despair as you get these cancellations or things get postponed."

Craig Ferguson is the director of Conceptual Fertility Clinic, one of only two full-service fertility treatment centres in Atlantic Canada. The other is in Halifax.

Craig Ferguson, director of Conceptia, one of only two fertility clinics in Atlantic Canada, says because the clinic is inside the Georges Dumont Hospital in Moncton, N.B., it had to write stricter guidelines into its COVID operational plan. (Craig Ferguson)

He said staff at the clinic speak to patients every day and know of their frustrations, but in the red phase, he said the clinic is only treating about one-quarter of the patients it normally would.

Ferguson said he feels for them, but there isn't much that can be done under the circumstances. The clinic is inside the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, which presents challenges.

"Hospitals have stricter guidelines than clinics elsewhere in the community," he said.

Like other business that want to open in the province, the clinic had to write a COVID operational plan, which Ferguson said had to be approved by Vitalité Health Network.

"I'm sure they're doing the best with what they have," said Hillary Newman. But that didn't stop her, or others from writing to their MLAs to ask to have more spots open up at the fertility clinic.

"Most of what we were told was that it's not necessary right now for elective surgeries and this is considered an elective surgery, as much as it breaks our hearts," she said.

"This is really the only way that we can have a family, and that is essential to us,"said Foulkes.

"My husband and I have chatted about that, we will fight till our dying day to have a family."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.

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