It was great to be at the launch of Fertility Fest 2018 this morning, the fertility arts festival organised by Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier-Farr. We were treated to inspiring words from Jessica and Gabby and an exciting extract of the sort of thing we can expect to enjoy during the festival. You can see the line-up for this year’s festival on the website – www.fertilityfest.com and you can buy tickets now too. I’m already really excited about this year’s festival – there are some amazing artists and expert and fascinating discussions. Make sure you get a ticket before they all sell out – and I hope to see you there!
It’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, and if you’re due a smear test, make sure you make an appointment now! Women who are trying to get pregnant still need to have regular smear tests, and if you’re worried about it clashing with treatment, discuss this with a healthcare professional. Screening is so important because it can help to protect you from cervical cancer, as can making sure you know about the symptoms and by seeking medical help if you experience these. The symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal bleeding between periods or after intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge, discomfort or pain during intercourse and lower back pain.
Around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK, and it’s the most common cancer in women who are under 36. The vast majority of cervical cancers are caused by infections with a virus called high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is an extremely common virus and it is passed from one person to another through skin to skin contact in the genital area. About 80% of sexually active adults are infected with some type of HPV at some time in their lives but for most of them this won’t lead to cancer.
You can find lots of useful information about every aspect of cervical cancer on the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website.
If you haven’t seen the final episode of Hannah and Lewis Vaughan-Jones’ video diary of their IVF journey, you can find it here on YouTube. It made me cry, and I think Hannah and Lewis are incredibly brave to have been so open about their experiences – not only is it heartening to anyone going through fertility problems themselves, it’s also hugely helpful to friends, families and colleagues to give them an insight into the reality of treatment. All too often people dismiss infertility as some kind of selfish 21st century indulgence – mostly, of course, those who’ve managed to conceive without any trouble themselves. By being so honest, Hannah and Lewis have given a vivid illustration of the very real pain and suffering that is all too familiar to the one in seven of us who have personal experience of fertility problems.
So thank you to Hannah and Lewis for doing this and for telling your story on behalf of us all. It is not an easy path to take, but perhaps there is some solace in knowing how much you have helped so many other people – and very best wishes for the future.
If you’re fed up with people DOING things for January – whether it’s Dry January, joining a spin class or taking up tap dancing – you may like to read Lesley Pyne’s latest blog post. I’ve known Lesley for a long time and have witnessed her building up her support network to help other people who are experiencing involuntary childlessness – she offers lots of support and inspiration for anyone living without children, and has helped many people through their own difficult times. You can sign up for regular emails from Lesley which offer tips and advice. What’s more, she’s right about January and people doing things – it can be exhausting to be faced with other people’s bouncy enthusiasm when you’re just trying to get through things yourself.
I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year – I’ve come to the conclusion that if you try to give things up, you just feel more focused on them and have a sense of being deprived when you can’t have them. And when you don’t feel you HAVE to go to the gym or go running, it can make exercise seem much more attractive. I know it may be my strange logic, but it works for me…
New research has found huge discrepancies in the prices people are charged for IVF and for many extras such as blood tests or drugs as reported here in the Times. It can be difficult if you need treatment as you don’t always feel you have time to shop around – but this shows that it is at least worth making a few calls to see whether anywhere closer to you may offer treatment at a lower price. If you do this though, you do need to make sure that the price isn’t lower because not everything is included in the cost you are being given or because the treatment is not the same. It is also important to be aware that the headline costs on clinic websites often have little to do with the real costs that you will end up paying as a patient.
It’s not just the treatment itself where costs can differ but also the prices paid for any additional treatments which some patients are now considering. When I was looked into this, I was surprised at how big the differences were in the charges for add ons. For example, some clinics were including embryo glue in the cost of an IVF cycle whilst others were charging for it and the costs ranged from £75 to £350. It was a similar picture with endometrial scratch, which you might be able to get free at some clinics across the country by taking part in a clinical trial or which could cost you up to £450. I looked at a small sample of clinics and even in those, found these wide price discrepancies but it does show that it is worth at the very least asking why your clinic is charging what it does if it is much more than others.
Finally, don’t forget that the cost is one part of the equation. If you are having to travel a long distance to the clinic – or if it is overseas – this in itself adds costs both financial and in terms of stress. You will also want to check out the clinic details on the HFEA website to see the latest outcomes from treatment and to see how it is ranked by inspectors and other patients. There is a section in the patient ratings about cost which is particularly relevant as it shows whether people ended up paying more than they expected for treatment at that particular clinic so make sure you have at least considered these things before committing yourself.
Happy New Year everyone – and welcome to 2018. I hope it is a successful and happy year for you all, and that you can strike a balance between doing all you can to help yourself with your fertility problems and making life start to be difficult and miserable.
It may sound odd, but anyone trying to conceive is keen to do all that they can to make a difference to the outcome of treatment and there are many things you can do which are entirely sensible and likely to be beneficial – eating healthily, taking exercise, trying to take care of yourself as much as you can. What is not so likely to be beneficial is making strict rules for yourself which are incredibly difficult to follow and leaving yourself feeling constantly guilty if you don’t quite meet the mark – and then blaming yourself for your fertility problems. I’ve seen so many people recently who are following strict dietary rules and other guidance from therapists and complementary practitioners which can make life start to feel like a military exercise – and it really can start to become counterproductive if it is making you stressed. The truth is that being overweight, eating unhealthily and drinking too much alcohol can affect your fertility, but an occasional glass of wine or piece of chocolate is really not going to ruin your chances of fertility treatment working.
So for 2018, be kind to yourself – try to be as healthy as you can, but don’t forget to think about what makes you happy too!
I know that when you are trying to conceive the start of a new year can feel tainted with the sadness of another year passing when you haven’t managed to conceive – and another year when the number of friends and family members who don’t have children seems to have dwindled even further after having to deal with endless pregnancy announcements and putting on a cheerful face. It’s better – if not always easy – to try to put that behind you on Dec 31st and to look forward to the year ahead, to see it as a fresh start with new challenges but possibly new happinesses too.
If you are thinking of making new year’s resolutions, don’t set yourself difficult targets that you will struggle to reach – perhaps think more about being kinder to yourself, looking after yourself and focusing on doing more of the things in life which make you happy. They so often disappear when you’re trying to conceive and all you can focus on is that one seemingly unattainable thing – but try to think about the things that you enjoy and make sure you do more of them whatever they may be from walks in the country to going to the cinema. Set yourself some dates to look forward to in your diary – book something you know you’ll enjoy and you can give that some focus. Whatever it is you’re planning, take care of yourself and have fun!
I don’t often put personal posts on this blog, but today I did want to say thank you to Juliet Tizzard who is leaving her role as Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at the regulatory body for fertility treatment, the HFEA. If you’ve been to the Fertility Show in the past, you may have seen Juliet speaking there about how the Choose a Fertility Clinic pages on the HFEA website can help if you are trying to decide where to have treatment. She’s driven some of the exciting steps forward for the HFEA such as the new website where patients can find lots of helpful information about different clinics and can give feedback after they’ve had treatment. Juliet is moving on today to the Health Research Authority where she will do a fantastic job – but she will be missed!
If you’d like to join us for the Fertility Network UK online chat via Skype on Wednesday 13th December at 7pm, we will be discussing Christmas. It’s always a hard time for anyone who is experiencing fertility problems, and we’ll be talking about some strategies which can help with a Q and A session at the end.
You can find the details of how to join on the Fertility Network UK website.
Now, the online fertility magazine ivfbabble is using pineapples as part of a campaign of solidarity for those experiencing fertility problems. Their “stronger together” campaign is a brilliant idea which aims to bring people together and to make us all realise quite how common fertility problems and that we are not alone.
You can read more about the pineapple pins here – www.ivfbabble.com and you can buy the pins directly on Amazon or from ivfbabble and any profits from the sales will be donated to Fertility Network UK.