Fertility Forum – bringing professionals and the public together

If you’ve ever wanted access to clear, reliable information about fertility problems and treatment, the Fertility Forum on 30 March is for you. Set up by patients working with all the professional bodies in the field, the Fertility Forum aims to be a day of pure evidence about fertility with no promotion for particular clinics or treatments, and no one selling anything. It’s all about evidence.

The Fertility Forum will take place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in London, and many of the UK’s leading fertility specialists will be speaking at the day, and there will be three strands of talks. They will cover everything from nutrition and lifestyle advice to the latest developments in fertility treatment. There will be talks on specific fertility issues such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), on donor treatments and surrogacy, on recurrent miscarriage, on stress and fertility support, on male fertility problems and how men deal with infertility. The HFEA will give advice on how to choose a fertility clinic and there will be a talk on deciding whether to opt for treatment abroad. How embryos develop and why IVF does and doesn’t work will also be discussed along with an assessment of the evidence on additional treatments like endometrial scratch or embryo glue, and there will be a session on accessing NHS funding. You will be able to choose which talks you attend when you get your tickets. There is a charge for the tickets (£25) to cover the cost of putting on the day, but there are no additional charges.

The day has been organised by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Fertility Society working in partnership with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Fertility Network UK alongside the Association of British Andrologists, British Andrology Society, Association of Clinical Embryologists, British Infertility Counselling Association, Royal College of Nursing and the Senior Infertility Nurses Group. The Donor Conception Network will be taking part in the event along with other patient groups including the Miscarriage Association. The day will be opened by the RCOG President, Professor Lesley Regan, and the Chair of the HFEA, Sally Cheshire CBE.

To find out more and to buy your tickets go to http://bit.ly/FertilityForum

Could scientists have found a cure for PCOS?

It’s incredibly common, but little has been known about what causes polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Now scientists in France think they may have found the solution. They believe PCOS may be triggered by exposure to high levels of Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) in the womb which may overstimulate brain cells and raise the level of testosterone in the body.

Experimenting on mice, the researchers were able to reverse the effect of the AMH by using a drug which can be used to control hormones and they are now planning to trial this in women. If it works, it could be a solution to restore ovulation in women with POCS.

PCOS is a very common condition, and women who experience it have a number of symptoms often may include irregular periods, excess body hair, weight gain, oily skin and cysts on the ovaries. Many, but not all, experience difficulties trying to conceive and PCOS is often a cause of fertility problems. You can read more about the new research in New Scientist here.

Diet advice for PCOS

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, you may be interested in this article about diet and PCOS. It is based on advice from  Clare Goodwin, a  PCOS nutrionionalist who is a former athlete. She discovered she had PCOS and had to give up her career in athletics, but devoted her time to studying nutrition and finding out more about how her PCOS affected her body. It is an interesting read.

A story I’d love to be true – red wine and PCOS…

1024px-a_glass_of_red_wineAccording 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…


For advice and support for PCOS

UnknownDid you know that as many as one in five women has polycystic ovaries, and between five to ten per cent have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which occurs when women who have polycystic ovaries also have additional symptoms – including difficult conceiving. It is one of the main causes of fertility problems for women, but many people are unaware of the syndrome unless they have some personal experience of PCOS.

The symptoms can include irregular periods and ovulation, unwanted facial or body hair, oily skin, acne, thinning hair or hair loss and weight problems which may mean being overweight and having difficulty losing weight. It can also cause depression and mood changes. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS and want more information, the charity Verity can offer lots of support and advice – check them out at www.verity-pcos.org.uk

Weight loss and PCOS

800px-Belly-2354_1920_(1)If you’ve got polycystic ovary syndrome, a common fertility problem, you may have been told to lose weight or to take up more exercise.  Now, a new study from researchers at Penn State College of Medicine in the USA has shown that this advice really can make a difference.

The study found that women who were supported to make lifestyle changes, reducing their calorie intake with a specified diet and taking more exercise, lost significant amounts of weight and improvements in their reproductive health. You can read the study itself here 


Why you should never forget breakfast…

Many women who lead busy lives end up skipping breakfast, but new research from the University of Tel Aviv has shown that eating a big breakfast can have a positive impact for women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Women with PCOS can produce too much insulin, which can decrease fertility by affecting ovulation, and are often told that losing weight will help balance insulin levels – and cutting out breakfast can seem a good way to deal with this.  However, not everyone with PCOS is overweight and this particular study looked at women who fall within the normal weight range. One group were given a high-calorie breakfast, average lunch and low-calorie supper, and the others were given a low-calorie breakfast, average lunch and high-calorie supper – but both groups had the same number of calories in total each day.

The results showed that although neither group had experienced any weight loss or gain, the group who ate a big breakfast saw a drop in their levels of insulin and testosterone – and they had a 50% increase in their ovulation rate!

This isn’t going to be a weight-loss solution, but the research team believe that eating a big breakfast and smaller supper could also have an impact on some of the other symptoms which are often associated with PCOS such as skin problems and excess body hair. You can read more about the research here 







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