I hope the year ahead is a good one for you and brings you happiness.
If you are struggling today, please don’t forget that there are 3.5 million other people across the UK trying to conceive and probably finding it just as hard – you are not alone.
If you are finding that your fertility problems feel as if they are dominating everything in your life, it may be really beneficial to see a counsellor. BICA, the British Infertility Counselling Association, have a list of their members on their website, and you can find the nearest person to you. It’s a really good idea to see a counsellor who specialises in dealing with fertility problems because they will genuinely understand what you are going through – and will be aware of the issues that arise. The BICA list includes counsellors who will offer phone or Skype sessions so if you can’t find anyone near where you live, that doesn’t have to be a problem.
Counselling may not be for everyone, but it is definitely worth a try as some people find it incredibly helpful. It is a matter of finding the right counsellor for you and so there is nothing wrong with ringing a couple to see who feels a good match for you.
Called Blessing our Bodies, the workshop offers an opportunity to rekindle your body and mind connection through movement, music and art materials and share experiences in a relaxed and safe environment. It’s the sort of thing which would cost a fortune if it were being offered privately, but this is part of the research for a new arts project run by a dancer and choreographer, Maria Ghoumrassi.
It will take place in Greenwich in South East London on January 28 from 11.00 – 15.00 and refreshments and lunch will be provided. There are, inevitably, limited spaces but if you are interested in this fabulous opportunity, you can contact Maria Ghoumrassi at email@example.com.
I am going to be doing a brief chat about the things I think can help, and then we’ll have time for everyone to join in with questions and a discussion We’ll be starting at about 6.15 pm and the chat will be for half an hour or so.
Everyone is welcome to join the chat which is organised by the patient support charity Fertility Network UK. All you need to do is send an email to Hannah – firstname.lastname@example.org – and she will join you to the group. I look forward to chatting to some of you next week!
It’s that time of year again and it can seem as if you can’t escape images of cheery happy families whatever you do and wherever you go. Christmas is always a difficult time for anyone trying to conceive when it can feel as if everything conspires to remind you of what you don’t have – and of course, the festival itself is all about celebrating a very special birth.
I know lots of people offer lots of different advice about how best to get through the next few weeks, but I think the bottom line is that you need to try to find a way to make the Christmas break an enjoyable or rewarding time for yourself. It isn’t easy if you end up with dozens of invitations to family parties or child-focused events, but don’t forget that this is your holiday too and your top priority should be looking after yourself.
Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, and sometimes we assume that means that we need to put what others want and need ahead of what we might want and need ourselves – but actually sometimes that’s not the best thing to do. If you know you are going to spend a miserable afternoon at your friend’s Christmas party surrounded by the friends she’s made at her daughter’s nursery school who all want to discuss how to get children to eat broccoli and which is the best local primary – and who will all ask whether you have children yourself – it’s really quite acceptable to make an excuse not to go and just arrange to see your friend at another time over the Christmas period.
This is true of any events over the holiday period. Try not to feel guilty about making an excuse if you need to. Sometimes other people may not seem to understand, but there’s nothing wrong with being honest and saying that actually you would just find it too painful if you feel able to do that. Otherwise, you can always make an excuse – at this time of year, there are often so many things on that it’s very common to be double-booked. Don’t feel you have to do things that you know will make you feel upset and unhappy just because it’s Christmas.
If Christmas makes you feel lonely, never forget that there are 3.5 million people across the UK having difficulty getting pregnant – and it may be that your neighbour or colleague is experiencing exactly the same feelings.
Think carefully about the things you would like to do – an adults drinks party, a trip to the theatre or cinema and maybe you’d like to celebrate in your own way and do something completely different whether that’s a Christmas trip somewhere completely different (IVF-diminished funds permitting), a long seaside walk, tapas for two at home for Christmas lunch or a Christmas Day film marathon. You could consider doing something completely different, perhaps volunteering with an organisation like Crisis which provides Christmas for homeless people or Community Christmas which provides celebrations for isolated elderly people – in London, another option is Whitechapel Mission but there are similar schemes across the UK. It really is up to you what you want to do, and you don’t need approval from anyone else. Do something that will make you feel good and that you will enjoy – and most importantly, try to have fun.
In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people offering fertility support services – often at premium prices from people who have no relevant qualifications and limited knowledge or expertise. What many people don’t realise is that the national charity, Fertility Network UK, provides an amazing range of support services which are all completely free.
The Fertility Network Support Line, run by a former fertility nurse, Diane, offers a unique fertility support service. Diane has a wealth of experience and has worked for the charity for more than 20 years, She can help not only with minor medical questions but provide you with the help you need based on her years of experience, and all calls to her are in complete confidence.
The Support Line has often been described as a ‘lifeline’ by those dealing with fertility issues. It is very normal to feel isolated, out of control, lonely or depressed when dealing with infertility, and Diane is there to help. No question is too trivial to ask and even if you just want to talk you can give her a call on 0121 323 5025 between 10am – 4pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or email her at email@example.com.
Of course, that’s not all the charity has to offer. You can find a wide range of support groups right across the UK, an online community, a Facebook page and masses of information. Do check it out now at fertilitynetwork.org and save the money you were about to spend – or perhaps consider donating it!
Fertility Network UK organise regular online chats via Skype about specific topics, and the next one on Monday 28th November at 7pm will consider adoption. The guest speaker is Pippa Bow, Lead Social Work Adviser at First 4 Adoption. Pippa’s talk will focus on the adoption process – the main criteria to become an adopter, what adoption agencies look for in prospective parents, the children who need families and their age range, timescales and the process for being approved as an adopter. Pippa’s talk will last for about half an hour followed by a question and answer session afterwards.
First4Adoption is the national information service for anyone interested in adopting a child in England. Even if you are not planning to opt for adoption, many couples have the thought in the back of their minds. This talk is your chance to find out more and to pick the brains of an adoption expert. If you would like to join the session, you just need to let Hannah know – firstname.lastname@example.org
Those in the Jewish community who are experiencing fertility problems will almost certainly have come across Chana, an amazing charity offering help and support to Jewish couples with fertility problems.
They run a helpline and counselling service, organise information events and provide medical information – and now they are organising their fifth fund-raising “Tea-cember” event, where people can raise funds for the charity by organising tea parties – there’s an article about the event here and there is a lot more details about how to get involved on the Chana website.
It’s a great way to get together with friends, and also raise money to support a fabulous charity which provides a very special service to help people who are experiencing problems getting pregnant. Late year apparently more than 2,500 people took part in more than a hundred events – so why not join them this year?
The HFEA website
We begin with the HFEA website which is the best place to start. You can search for your local clinic using the Choose a Clinic tool – just type in your postcode or local region and you will get a shortlist of local clinics.
You can see more about the treatments they are licensed to carry out, services, facilities and staff. It will tell you whether they take NHS patients, the opening hours, whether there is a female doctor and links to a map.
Of course, the one thing you really want to know is how likely am I to get pregnant there? Which is the one thing no one can honestly tell you. The HFEA publishes success rates for all licensed clinics, but they may not be as clear cut as you imagine. Most clinics have broadly similar success rates and the majority of clinics in UK have success rates which are consistent with national average. Don’t forget, the patients treated affect the success rates.
You may want to look at the success rate for someone of your age, and make sure you are comparing like with like. The HFEA also gives the multiple birth rate, but a high rate doesn’t suggest a good clinic which has your best interests at heart. Naturally multiple births occur in 1 in 80 of all pregnancies, it’s around one in six after IVF. That may sound positive, but in fact multiple birth is the single biggest risk after fertility treatment. 1 in 12 multiple pregnancies ends in death or disability for one or more babies, and it is also more risky for mothers. Good clinics should not have very high twin rates. A really good clinic will have good success rates and low multiple rates.
When it comes to success rates, don’t get bogged down in fairly small percentage differences – in general they’re probably not that meaningful.
You will also want to know if you qualify for NHS funding. The guideline from NICE recommends 3 full cycles (fresh and transfer of any frozen embryos) for women of 39 and under and one full cycle for women of 40-42 who have had no previous treatment, who have a good ovarian reserve and who have spent 2 years trying)
In England funding comes from your local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) not your clinic so you need to find out their rules – and unfortunately they all make their own up as the NICE guideline is only a guideline. You can find out what your CCG is offering by visiting the Fertility Fairness website. The CCG will also set eligibility criteria – and each will have their own
Think about how close the clinic is to your home or workplace. Be realistic as a long journey is fine as a one-off, but think about doing it three or four times a week. Ask the clinic how often you will have to visit as some will want you in every day of the cycle, but others just a few times a week.
Think about how you will get there and how long the journey will take? Are you going to use public transport or drive? Will you be travelling in the rush hour? Can the clinic offer early morning appointments or will you need to take time off work? Will it fit around your job?
Fertility treatment prices are not regulated and can vary hugely. Clinics that charge more are not necessarily better so do look into prices. The headline figure on clinic websites is rarely the total cost of treatment – ask instead what the average person actually pays
The HFEA does require clinics to offer you a personalised costed treatment plan, but check what is included – drugs, counselling, scans and bloods, freezing and storing spare embryos, follow-up consultations etc.
Many clinics offer unproven additional treatments. Many are not scientifically proven. The HFEA has advice on some of these . Additional treatments can be very expensive, and you may risk paying a lot for something that may not make a difference – and may even bring additional risks.
Will there be someone you can call with any problems/concerns? You should be given a contact to call if you are concerned about anything at any time. And is counselling included in the cost of treatment? You may think you don’t want or need it, you may may find it helpful once you have started treatment. So check if you are going to have to pay for counselling, and if it is included, ask how many sessions.
Is there a counsellor based at the clinic? Some counsellors also offer telephone counselling and you can find a list of fertility counsellors on the British Infertility Counselling Association website. Is there a patient support group?
How soon could you get an appointment and when could you start treatment if it is recommended ? How long are waiting times for donor eggs or sperm? At some clinics,
there are still waiting lists for donor eggs and sperm but others have plenty of donors, so do check.k
Do you like the clinic?
I think this is far more important than you might initially think.
Talk to anyone else you know who has been there, look online for views – but remember that everyone is different. Go to any open days or meetings for prospective patients and think if the clinic feels right for you. It may sound ridiculous, but it matters.
Trust your instincts, and don’t hink they don’t matter. Make sure that you have chosen a clinic that you will be happy with.
Treatment isn’t always easy, but it is certainly much easier if you are being looked after by people you like and trust.