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Fertility Clinic Holiday Hours: What You Need to Know to Prepare in Advance
December 19, 2012
When it comes to holiday hours, each fertility clinic operates differently. Some clinics close for a few days or even weeks during the winter holidays. Other clinics maintain morning monitoring hours, but schedule IVF lab procedures for after the New Year. Closing all or a portion of the facility allows treatment staff to spend much needed time with family, gives them the opportunity to catch up on paperwork, and offers down time to thoroughly clean the lab without risking egg or embryo viability.
Joe Massey, M.D. of Servy Massey Fertility Institute in Atlanta, Georgia says holiday closings are not only essential to clinic staff, but the well-being of patients as well. “Patients who haven’t gotten pregnant all year need time with their families, private time away from the doctor’s office. There is a lot of pressure to succeed in IVF and people don’t want to have surgery or pregnancy tests on a holiday. That just adds an extra layer of stress,” he says acknowledging the emotional component of fertility treatment.
How Fertility Doctors Handle Emergencies During Holiday Closings
Should an emergency situation arise, the fertility doctor on call uses their discretion and expertise to advise the patient. This might include opening the clinic for the patient, or referring them to local emergency or hospital care until regular hours resume. However, there are also unforeseen, non-emergency situations in which the lab might open.
Bradford Kolb, M.D. of HRC Fertility in Los Angeles, California relays that on occasion, fertility treatment staff will accommodate an egg retrieval or transfer on short notice. “This isn’t plastic surgery, this is biology. Even though we have a schedule, the body may not follow [it]. Patients come first,” he says. Given the time sensitivity of these procedures, it is imperative to be available to mid-cycle patients quickly. “We are always available for emergencies, even if that means we have to come in on a holiday, we’re going to take care of it,” echoes Massey.
What should a patient do if cycle day 1 happens to fall on the day of a clinic closing? Both fertility doctors agree that instructing the patient to use birth control pills will buy the patient and the doctor some time without delaying an entire cycle.
How Fertility Clinics Prepare for Holiday Closings
Typically the fertility clinic staff is aware of holidays and closings in advance. “Starting in early November and December, staff tells patients what to expect over the holidays,” says Massey. Doctors and nurses work out a plan with their patients so treatment ends or begins when appropriate. Necessary prescriptions can be called in beforehand, but if there is an urgent need for fertility drugs during off hours, clinics maintain an inventory of fertility drugs to provide to patients on an as-needed basis. Similarly, monitoring can be arranged at a remote facility, local hospital, or OB-GYN office. Dr. Kolb assures patients that most fertility clinics go the extra mile to support their patients. Fertility doctors and staff will make accommodations to the best of their ability, but it is also important for the patient to actively prepare for closings.
What Fertility Patients Can Do to Prepare for Holiday Closings
There are a number of ways fertility patients can take matters into their own hands to prepare for clinic holiday closings. The first is to get in the habit of knowing your fertility clinic’s hours of operation. Even before the start of a treatment cycle, it is a good idea to check the calendar. Make note of potential days for intrauterine insemination (IUI), egg retrievals, embryo transfers, and basic monitoring. Be aware of the days your clinic will be closed. Patients must understand the availability of their physician or nurse, and the appropriate number to call during off hours.
Dr. Kolb encourages patients: “Having this information will minimize angst and emergencies. [The patient] will be more prepared up front, have less stress, and will understand the team is there for [them].”
By preparing in advance, fertility patients will eliminate last minute stress, will feel good about their plan for the upcoming year, and will be able to focus on the joys of the holiday. Dr. Massey tells patients, “Focus on your existing family this year and we’ll build up your family for next year. Next holiday season is going to be very different than this one.”