Are you going to bed too late?

Could your sleep patterns be affecting your sperm count? New research from China has found that going to bed after midnight along with sleeping much less or much more than average seems to have an impact on sperm.

The research team looked at more than nine hundred men who had regular sleep patterns and divided them into groups who were all given different sleep durations and bedtimes. They then carried out semen analyses over a period of six months, and found that those who were having the shortest sleep had lower sperm counts and lower motility.  They also found that those who went to bed after midnight had lower sperm counts regardless of how long they then slept for.

So, if you are trying to conceive, it’s certainly worth ensuring you get to bed before midnight – and that you don’t get too little or too much sleep. You can find the full paper from the team at China’s Harbin Medical University, which was published in the Medical Science Monitor, here 

The US fertility lottery

A fertility clinic in the US has recently held a lottery offering a number of free cycles of IVF – which was a good PR exercise for the clinic itself. I’ve just been reading an article about this and was surprised to discover that the “free” cycle didn’t actually include the cost of any drugs (which, as anyone who has been through treatment will know, are extremely pricey). Nor did it include any additional treatments such as PGD or sperm freezing should they be needed. Entrants also had to be under the age of 43.

The lottery was drawn live on Facebook, 30 winners from the 500 or so entrants which seems a small number given what was on offer. But perhaps not, as they also had to agree to forfeit their right to anonymity as the names and locations of winners would be announced during the live draw.

This was carried out for the US National Infertility Awareness Week and whilst the sentiments may appear honourable, the idea of winners having to agree to let the world know about their fertility problems is something I struggle with – as is the concept of a prize which involves spending hundreds of pounds…

Could you help shape training for doctors of the future?

There’s a very exciting opportunity to help inform the new curriculum for specialist doctors who are training in gynaecology and obstetrics. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is looking for a range of people to join a new public insight group to help identify the communication skills and clinical knowledge that doctors need to give the best possible care.

The curriculum is updated every so often to ensure that new evidence or technology is taken into account, and the RCOG is committed to involving people who use services in all aspects of their work. Although the expertise of experienced doctors is vital, it is just as important to involve service users to hear what knowledge and skills they feel specialists of tomorrow should have.

The Public Insight Group will aim to include people from across the UK with a variety of needs and experiences. It may also include representation from individuals who have particular understanding of the needs of specific communities and can represent the experiences and needs of those groups effectively. There will be a core group of around 20 people who will meet face-to-face for an initial workshop session. After this, the group will be coordinated mainly by email as the new curriculum develops.

A wider consultation group will bring a broader pool of views into the project. This group will only be involved by email. Both the core and the wider group will play a crucial role in informing the new curriculum over the next year. Both groups will be communicated with regularly to gain insight and feedback will be given to members about how the new curriculum is progressing.

For more details about what is involved and to see whether this is something you may be interested in, see here 

Miscarriage

Thanks to The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman for this article about her experience of miscarriage. It is raw, honest and very moving, and she raises important questions about why it is that we don’t talk abut miscarriage. Why is it that women are often encouraged not to mention that they are pregnant until they reach 12 weeks because of the risk of miscarriage? It assumes that we would want to keep losing a baby secret, that it is something to be hidden and not talked about. For some people, this may make things easier but for many others, not being able to talk about something so heartbreaking can make it even harder to cope.

Miscarriage is devastating whenever it happens in pregnancy – and if you’ve taken time to get pregnant in the first place, it can feel even more overwhelming. If you, or anyone you know, is affected by miscarriage, the Miscarriage Association, can offer support and advice and is a really helpful source of information.

In praise of fertility nurses

Today is International Nurses’ Day, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to fertility nurses. When people think about different fertility clinics, there’s always a focus on the consultants when in fact although they are in charge of a patient’s care, they may do very little of the day-to-day care during a cycle of treatment. It’s often the consultants who attract patients to one clinic or another, and yet it may be the nurses who can make a real difference to how you feel during your fertility treatment.

Different clinics have different ways of working, but nurses may carry out scans and check bloods as well as doing much of the more practical dealing with fertility patients. More often than not, a fertility nurse will teach you how to do your injections, will talk to you about how you are feeling, will be there at the end of the phone as a first port of call for your questions or queries. It’s also the fertility nurses who may notice when you are finding it hard to cope and who may suggest a session with the clinic counsellor.

So today, let’s say thank you to the fertility nurses who do so much to help fertility patients but take so little of the credit…

Conceiving Histories

If you’re in or near London, there’s an event later this month which may be of interest presenting the work to date of a project called Conceiving Histories, which looks at what the researchers call “the history of un-pregnancy” – so trying to conceive and the politics of childlessness in the past as well as the ambiguity of early pregnancy diagnosis.

It is funded by Birkbeck, University of London and the Wellcome Trust and aims to identify and research case studies from different historical moments. At this particular event they will be looking at pregnancy diagnosis today and in the past.

It will take place on Wednesday 17 May and it is free to attend but you need to book – further details here.

Fertility buddies

What a brilliant idea from the Jewish Fertility Foundation reported in the Atlanta Jewish Times in the US to sponsor a training scheme for “fertility buddies”.  People who have been through fertility problems will be trained to provide support and guidance to others who are just starting out on their fertility journeys. The support system will include regular contact between the two to discuss feelings and problems that can arise.

The Jewish Fertility Foundation will carefully match the buddies, almost like a dating service match, to try to help ensure that the system works well. It’s such a brilliant idea – you can read more about it here. The Foundation also organises “infertility sensitivity training” for those working within the faith who may encounter people with fertility problems. Congratulations on two great initiatives which will make such a difference to those experiencing fertility problems.

Scottish Fertility Options Day

If you live in Scotland, have you registered to attend the Scottish Fertility Options Day on 6 May in Glasgow? It promises to be a really interesting day – with lots of useful information whatever stage of your fertility journey you are at.

There are talks on health and wellness, including the odds of IVF working for you, the psychological impact of infertility and innovations in embryo research. Speakers include Dr Sarah Martins da Silva, fertility counsellor Alison Elliot, Consultant Clinical Embryologist Dr Rachel Gregoire and a representative of The Natural Fertility Centre.

The day is organised by Fertility Network Scotland and it is free to attend – you can book online and it is well worth going along if you can.

Have you tried a support group?

If you’re immediately thinking “I don’t need a support group” or “I don’t like the sound of support groups”, “Aren’t they full of needy people?”, “Wouldn’t it be a bit embarrassing?” or “I think it would make me feel worse” – think again…

“I don’t need a support group” – Does anyone absolutely need a support group? Not really – but for those who go along, it can be a welcome additional source of companionship and support. You may not need a group, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it helpful.

“I don’t like the sound of a support group” – I often think that calling fertility networking groups “support” groups is one of the most off-putting things about them. The idea of a support group conjures up visions of having to start by saying “My name is x and I am infertile”. It’s not like that at all. Think of a support group as a way to meet up with others who are going through similar experiences and an opportunity to share and learn from one another.

“Aren’t they full of needy people?” – No, they are full of people like you and me. We all need help sometimes, but the groups are full of people who are actively doing something about this and have decided to help themselves. They’re the stronger ones who are finding ways to get the support we all need during fertility tests and treatment.

“Wouldn’t it be a bit embarrassing?” – People are often anxious about going along to their first support group. Fertility problems are so personal and so intense and it can feel frightening to think that you are going to open up a bit in front of others – but remember you don’t have to. What you say in a group is up to you. Some people talk a lot, others a less depending on how they feel and what they need. A group is a source of warmth and friendship rather than of embarrassment and most people overcome any shyness very quickly.

“I think it will make me feel worse” – You might think that an evening focusing on fertility would be a rather gloomy and miserable event – and that it would be full of tears and sadness. In fact, in every support group I’ve ever run, there has been far more laughter than tears – if you don’t believe me, why not try one and see…

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying a support group. Fertility Network run them right across the UK, and groups are listed on the Fertility Matters events page so you can find your nearest group. Go along and see what you think – you may find you are pleasantly surprised…

National Infertility Awareness Week

It’s the final day of National Infertility Awareness Week in the US and there are still lots of ways to get involved. Check out the website for events like the Walk of Hope if you live in the States, but those who don’t you can still support the week on social media using the hashtags #ListenUp #NIAW to help raise the profile of the week and the cause.

This year’s theme is “Listen Up!” and RESOLVE, the US support network, is hoping that anyone who cares about infertility can feel empowered to do something that makes a difference, either in your own family building journey or to help someone else. They are calling on everyone to “Listen Up!” and become part of the movement.