When a story about the World Health Organisation apparently deciding to revise their definition of infertility to include single men and women without fertility problems who wanted to become parents, there was an inevitable media flurry of stories about the NHS having to offer them fertility treatment.
In reality, the chances of this happening in the UK in our current fertility funding climate is very slim. It is already hard for couples with proven fertility problems to access treatment in many parts of the country, let alone those without them. We have seen cuts to fertility services in recent months and fewer and fewer fertility patients are now being offered the treatment that NICE recommends – which is three full cycles of IVF for those who are 39 and under. So the idea that commissioners are going to rush to start offering treatment to single men and women is far from likely…
When you read about fertility problems, it’s nearly always women who are speaking out and telling their stories, but I’ve been really heartened to see that more and more men are opening up about their experiences of fertility tests and treatment. This article by Dan Rookwood in the Evening Standard is a great example.
Dan makes it clear that it isn’t just women who find it difficult when other people announce their pregnancies, that it isn’t just women who feel the disappointment when every period comes, that it isn’t just women who come to dread that question about when they are going to get around to having children… And anyone who has struggled with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and who has been told that being less stressed might help will know exactly where Dan is coming from when he says that “nothing stresses you out more than someone who can’t give you any definitive answers telling you not to stress out“.
It’s a great article and well worth a read – it’s really important that we start to realise that fertility problems affect men just as much as they affect women.
One small quibble though – Dan says that he and his partner opted to transfer two embryos in order to “double our chances of success“. It is very important to be aware that although it may feel that way in fact putting back two embryos most definitely doesn’t double your chances of success – it just increases your chance of having twins. Dan explains that he and his partner began their treatment in the US, and if that’s where they had their IVF, it would explain this entirely as not all clinics in the States are as concerned as we are here in the UK with reducing multiple pregnancy. Here, a team would usually recommend single embryo transfer for a first IVF cycle if the embryos were good quality. Although we all know twins who are fine, many others are not – and multiple pregnancy is the biggest health risk from IVF, which is why it is so important to choose a fertility clinic which has a good success rate combined with a low multiple rate.
If you want to know more about fertility and live in Wales, you may be interested in a fertility information event organised by Fertility Network UK and sponsored by Darren Millar AM.
Held at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay on Saturday 19th November from 10.30am to 4pm, this free event will bring together fertility clinics, practitioners and support agencies from all over the UK and Europe.
There will be the opportunity to have an informal chat and to pick up information on clinical and donor treatment options; fertility counselling; alternative family options; male fertility and local support services
For more information please contact Alice – firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the Daily Mail, “A glass of red wine a day could keep polycystic ovaries at bay”, which is one of those stories you’d just love to be true. So often it seems that anyone trying to conceive is told to avoid many of life’s small pleasures – like coffee and wine – so a story suggesting that a glass of red wine every day is actually a good thing for some fertility patients sounds delightful.
The story claims that a natural compound called resveratrol which is found in the skin of grapes could potentially re-balance the hormone imbalances that women with PCOS experience. The women in the trial were given resveratrol in a pill form for three months and it was found to reduce testosterone levels and fasting insulin levels. The scientists leading the trial, which was published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, suggest it might help reduce the risk of metabolic problems common in women with PCOS. You can find the full report here.
But it reminded me of something – a story some years back about red wine which claimed that drinking lots of red wine would make you lose weight which was duly taken to pieces by the excellent NHS Choices. They made it clear that the amount of the magical resveratrol found in wine is “a fraction of that present in grapes and berries, as much of the chemical is filtered out during the wine production process. You would gain more resveratrol from eating the grapes and berries themselves than drinking wine – but that makes a much less exciting headline.”
And of course, the women in this PCOS study weren’t given wine to drink – they were taking a daily supplement of 1500 mg of resveratrol. Apparently, to get just 500 mg of resveratrol daily by drinking wine, you’d need to be consuming 40 litres, which means to get the benefit from it these women had you’d be getting through 120 litres of red wine a day. Which I don’t think anyone is going to recommend…
If you are experiencing fertility problems and feeling lonely and isolated, I am sure you will find this video will resonate with you. The video is part of Fertility Network UK’s #HiddenFaces campaign for National Fertility Awareness Week and has been generating a lot of positive responses from people who know what it’s like to live with fertility problems. It was made by Jessica Hepburn, who is a trustee of the charity and an author – she writes a blog called after her book – The Pursuit of Motherhood – which is also worth looking at.
Jessica is an amazing woman who has swum the Channel to raise funds for Fertility Network UK and she is the brains behind the wonderful Fertility Fest which some of you may have been fortunate enough to attend in London or Birmingham earlier this year.
Thank you Jessica on behalf of everyone who knows what it is like not to be able to conceive, thank you for talking about something so personal and difficult, thank you for your courage and warmth and for all you do to raise awareness of something so many people find too difficult to talk about x
Fertility services in Lancashire are under threat with all eight Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups(CCGs) proposing cuts to NHS-funded IVF. They have a survey which you can complete to make your feelings known about this – it needs to be done by tomorrow, October 14 – http://tinyurl.com/Assisted-Conception-Services
You may also want to write to your MP, as this may help to ensure the CCGs realise that the guidance from NICE which they should be following is both clinically effective and cost effective. Fertility Network UK have a draft email you can use, and if you wish you can add details of your own personal situation which will help to explain to your MP why this is so important – if you are able to help them see how your fertility problems make a difference to you emotionally, financially and socially this will really help. You can find the draft letter which you may wish to email, half way down this webpage http://infertilitynetworkuk.com/nhs_funding_2
The MPs for the areas covered by the eight Lancashire CCGs are: NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG:
Kate Hollern MP
Jake Berry MP
Email: email@example.com NHS Blackpool CCG:
Paul Maynard MP
Gordon Marsden MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG:
Lindsay Hoyle MP
Seema Kennedy MP
Nigel Evans MP
Email: email@example.com NHS East Lancashire CCG:
Andrew Stephenson MP
Julie Cooper MP
Graham Jones MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS Fylde & Wyre CCG:
Paul Maynard MP
Cat Smith MP
Ben Wallace MP
Mark Menzies MP
Email: email@example.com NHS Greater Preston CCG:
Mark Hendrick MP
Seema Kennedy MP
Ben Wallace MP
Nigel Evans MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS Lancashire North CCG:
Cat Smith MP
Ben Wallace MP
Email: email@example.com NHS West Lancashire CCG:
Rosie Cooper MP
Seema Kennedy MP
This year’s Fertility Show will take place at London’s Olympia on November 5 and 6. If you haven’t been before, it is certainly worth considering a visit as you will find many of the country’s leading experts under one roof offering a wide range of talks on every aspect of fertility over the two day show. There are also more than 100 exhibitors from clinics around the world as well as advice groups, charities, acupuncturists, diet, nutritional & lifestyle advisors and many others.
You may have heard about recent research suggesting that boys born after ICSI were likely to have lower sperm counts – and you may have been concerned about it. If you were, you may find this commentary from Bionews by Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, who is one of the country’s leading sperm experts, reassuring.
There has always been a question about the future fertility of males born using ICSI, and it had been suggested that they might inherit their fathers’ fertility problems. The latest research has found that the sperm of ICSI-conceived men is of lower quality than average, but when fathers have particularly poor sperm quality this doesn’t seem to be passed on to their sons. You can read Professor Pacey’s interesting commentary on the subject here.
The brilliant NHS Choices also has a commentary on the research behind the headlines, and you can find that here.
The fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has just published its report on the number of incidents in fertility clinics. These incidents can be all kinds of things going wrong in a clinic from a patient suffering from hyperstimulation to a letter sent to the wrong person by mistake.
Incidents in fertility clinics are rare – they occur in less than one percent of the treatments performed in the UK fertility clinics – but each incident is one too many.
The HFEA’s annual report on fertility clinic incidents shows that the total number of incidents increased slightly but for the first time since the HFEA began publishing incidents reports, there were no A grade (the most serious) incidents reported at all.
HFEA Chair Sally Cheshire called on fertility clinics to substantially reduce the rate of incidents next year. She said “The UK’s fertility sector is one of the most developed in the world, and the high level of professionalism in the sector is highlighted by both the fact that fewer than 600 incidents were reported out of more than 72,000 treatments, and that no ‘grade A’ incidents were reported in the last year. We want to ensure clinics give patients the best possible treatment, so that they have the best chances of having the families they so dearly want. So, while incidents are already occurring infrequently, we want to see them reduce even further. I’m setting the challenge to all clinics in the UK to make sure that the overall number of incidents has decreased by this time next year. It’s not only ‘grade A’ incidents that can have an adverse effect on patients. All incidents, whether it’s a letter sent to the wrong address, or a case of ovarian hyper-stimulation, can have serious consequences for patients, and more has got to be done to make sure that fewer people are affected in the future.”
Fertility Network UK is holding an online session on male fertility problems on 29th September at 8pm. The guest speaker is Dr Sheryl Homa, a clinical scientist and andrology specialist.
Sheryl’s talk will focus on male fertility problems and this will be followed by the usual Q & A session afterwards. The session will last for about 45 minutes. If you would like to join the group, you can email our to Hannah who will give you all the details firstname.lastname@example.org