Social media – is it helpful?

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For many of those with fertility problems, social media has become a key source of information and support, but is that a good thing? There’s quite an interesting article in the British Medical Journal on the subject which you can find here (and you can sign up for a free trial for 14 days to access the whole thing).

It is written for medical professionals but is still of interest to patients – one of the points it raises is about concerns that social media may be used to offer “dangerous or unsuitable remedies”. It’s an interesting issue as I know how many times I delete what are apparently “comments” on this blog that are actually people advertising their businesses for fertility patients. One clinic overseas was attempting to post promotional comments on a daily basis at one point – personally, I’d be worried about any clinic that needed to advertise itself in that way (and just to reassure you, I’ve yet to come across anyone who has visited the country for treatment let alone the clinic). Having been an administrator for another fertility group online, I saw how often posts were reported and then deleted because they weren’t from fellow fertility patients but from people offering miracle cures or promoting their businesses.

Despite all this, I think social media can be incredibly helpful and can provide support that may be difficult to find elsewhere – particularly with a problem like fertility which it can be hard to talk about – and that the problems outweigh the negatives – but I’d be interested to know what you think too so feel free to post your comments (but beware, I will delete anything that is promotional…)

Could your ethnicity affect your chances of IVF success?

120px-Pregnancy_test_resultNew research suggests that ethnicity may affect the chances of ending up with a baby after fertility treatment. A team from The University of Nottingham and the fertility unit at Royal Derby Hospital analysed data from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to see whether ethnicity had an impact on treatment outcomes, and found that there were some significant differences. According to the data, White British women are more likely to get pregnant with IVF or ICSI than women from a number of other ethnic groups.

This is the biggest study to look at the outcomes for individual ethnic groups in this way, and it considered the number of eggs collected and fertilised and the number of embryos produced as well as the pregnancy and live birth rate. The researchers also considered potential reasons for the differences in outcomes for the different ethnic groups and discuss factors such as genetic background, environment, diet, socio-economic and cultural factors and attitudes to medical care and accessing fertility treatment. They also discuss the fact that South Asian women are at higher risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which can affect egg quality and success rates.

You can find out more about this research here 

The HFEA would like your views

logo-hfeaThe Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have launched the beta (draft) version of their new website to the public and it is aimed at people like you – fertility patients. They want to know what you think of it. Have they got it right?

They have put together a survey so you can give your feedback about the new site. This includes a number of questions about how the information on clinics is presented – including their birth statistics in the Choose a Fertility Clinic section. The HFEA are keen to hear your views about how they have chosen to present these.

The beta service is a work in progress, with new information and features planned for the next weeks and months. You can give your views by completing the beta survey that can be found on the website. Please take a look at https://beta.hfea.gov.uk

Why watching the Olympics doesn’t damage your sperm count…

120px-TV_highqualitySo the Daily Mail tells us that watching too much Olympic sport on TV  “could spell problems ahead” for men who want to become fathers. I am pleased to tell you that watching the Olympics is not going to make you infertile…

The report is based on research from Copenhagen University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology which found that healthy young men who had a “couch potato lifestyle” and watched more than 5 hours of TV a day had lower sperm counts than those who were more active.

It isn’t the first time that research has concluded that too much TV is bad for your fertility (see this report here with some common sense advice from Professor Allan Pacey) but this research discovered that sitting at a computer screen for the same amount of time didn’t have the same impact – it was thought that the men who watched TV were also likely to eat less healthily and take less exercise – which brings us back to the root of the problem with the point about watching the Olympics being bad for your sperm count.

The reality is that it’s a healthy lifestyle which makes a difference to your sperm – and to your general health and well-being. You don’t really need academic researchers to tell you that a man who spends entire days in front of the TV eating chips and drinking beer is less likely to be fertile than a man who watches masses of Olympics on TV but also eats healthily and enjoys getting out and about taking moderate exercise.

Can you help stop the cuts?

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88Fertility Network UK have a number of media requests for people to talk about how the cuts to NHS fertility services that are happening across England are affecting them. They really need people who are willing to talk about it as the situation is only reported on when the media can give an insight into how this affects those who need treatment.

In particular, they are looking for people who are unable to access any NHS IVF services because they live in South Norfolk, mid-Essex or north-east Essex where funding has been cut completely. They also need people who live in areas where NHS IVF could be cut completely in the near future: Basildon & Brentwood, Bedfordshire, Ipswich and East Suffolk, and West Suffolk. Other areas where cuts have occurred include Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, North East Lincolnshire and Somerset.

ITV news have been looking for people affected by the postcode lottery anywhere in the UK. They are keen to speak to people who have moved house to try to access NHS treatment, who are going overseas because they can’t access NHS treatment or are embarking on treatment in the private sector because they can’t get NHS treatment.

This is your chance to have your voice heard. Email catherinehill@infertilitynetworkuk.com or phone 07469-660845.

What Fertility Network UK is all about…

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I’ve just been reading a few comments about Infertility Network UK’s new brand and logo, and it seems that some people have misunderstood what the new brand is about. Fertility Network isn’t going to be focusing on people who are pregnant or who are having babies – it’s still a charity for those who are having difficulty conceiving.

The word “infertility” is a negative one – and you may have noticed that it is very rarely used in fertility clinics any more. Most people who visit clinics aren’t technically “infertile” anyway but are experiencing fertility problems. Changing the name of the charity isn’t about forgetting people who are having trouble conceiving or about offering support instead to people who can conceive easily, it’s about being more positive and upbeat in the way the issue is dealt with.

It’s always difficult when things change – but I really think this is a positive step forward. I remember reading articles in the past which talked about people with fertility problems as “infertiles” or “barren”. Personally, I welcome the fact that Fertility Network UK is moving away from negative labelling, although it is a great shame if some people haven’t appreciated what the rebrand is about and feel that they are being excluded in some way – it’s really not the case at all.

Can you help save fertility funding in Suffolk?

images-21Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG have announced they are consulting on cutting the number of NHS-funded IVF cycles they offer from two cycles. They will either cut to one cycle or stop offering any treatment at all. The CCGs have asked for people to comment on these proposals before 5 September by filling in a feedback form on their website here .

If you live in the area, don’t forget that you can also write to your local MP about the proposals.  The local MPS are:

Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP West Suffolk Matthew@matthewhancock.co.uk

Mr James Cartlidge MP South Suffolk james.cartlidge.mp@parliament.uk

Jo Churchill MP Bury St Edmunds jo.churchill.mp@parliament.uk

Dr Daniel Poulter MP Central Suffolk and North Ipswich daniel.poulter.mp@parliament.uk

Rt Hon Ben Gummer MP Ipswich ben@bengummer.com

Dr Therese Coffey MP Suffolk Coastal therese.coffey.mp@parliament.uk

Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and chief executive of Infertility Network UK said of the proposals; ‘Why is it increasingly deemed acceptable to remove access to NHS treatment for people with fertility problems? Infertility is defined as a disease and is as deserving of NHS treatment as any other medical condition. To ignore the plight of the approximately 3.5 million people in the UK who are unable to have children without medical help is cruel and unethical.’

Good news for Hartlepool fertility patients

ivf_science-300x168Good news for fertility patients in Hartlepool where fertility treatment will continue, despite the local trust having stopped offering fertility services in the area.

The local council said there hadn’t been a proper consultation and won an injunction to prevent the closure of the local fertility unit. Now services will be retained with a new provider. You can read more about this here

Ask A Consultant

800px-Woman-typing-on-laptopIf you’ve got questions you’d like to ask a fertility specialist, you may want to join Infertility Network UK’s online chat session via Skype this Thursday titled ‘Ask a Consultant’.

This month’s guest speaker is Shipra Singh Krishna, Consultant Gynecologist. Shipra will address the most commonly asked questions before those joining the group have the opportunity to ask their own questions during a Q and A session.

The session begins at 7pm and all you have to do to join the group is email your Skype username to hannahtramaseur@infertilitynetworkuk.com

Could the menopause really be reversed?

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It’s hard not to get excited about headlines shouting that “Scientists ‘REVERSE’ menopause: Women who’d not had a period in five years are now menstruating again after their ovaries were rejuvenated” – but does it really mean what it claims? Will the menopause be a thing of the past? Will women be able to conceive naturally later in life?

The story was originally reported in New Scientist and concerns research carried out by specialists at a Greek fertility clinic, Genesis Athens. The team found that a blood treatment,  platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, which is most often used to help wounds heal faster, could also have an impact on ovaries. They injected PRP into the ovaries of older women and found that it appeared to rejuvenate them. They say they have managed to “re-start” periods in women who are menopausal, one of whom had her last period five years before. Note the ONE!

It is potentially exciting, but this is still at an experimental stage, and more work will need to be done to prove that this is effective and that it is a safe treatment which should be available more widely.  You can read more about it here. You can find comments from Professor Geeta Nargund about her concerns about this technique here.