For anyone with any experience at all of fertility problems, there’s a general understanding that probably the worst thing someone can say to you is “just relax…”, and yet this is the advice a TV doctor gave on ITV’s Lorraine programme. Dr Hilary Jones apparently said to a caller who was asking for advice after three unsuccessful rounds of IVF; “What I would say is, and this is probably the hardest thing to do, is just relax about it. There have been so many people that I’ve known who’ve gone through several rounds of IVF and nothing happens. And when they’ve given up, and gotten on with their lives, it miraculously happens naturally… Sometimes stress itself can have a very negative effect. So try living your life as normally as you can.”
I suppose this just shows why you should stick to asking fertility specialists for advice rather than a TV doctor, but there has been an understandable backlash from fertility patients and the charity Fertility Network UK. There is certainly a lesson to be learned for TV producers about the risks of getting a GP, who is by nature a generalist rather than a specialist, to offer advice to those who have already been treated by experts in any field of medicine. But should any doctor, even if they are a GP rather than a specialist, be telling people to “just relax” or suggesting that stress might be to blame for infertility? Apart from anything else, we all know that fertility problems cause huge amounts of stress – and that telling someone who is trying to conceive to “just relax” is about as helpful as telling them to get a dog, go on holiday or any of the other helpful advice that non-experts in the field like to pass on.
There is another problem here though, and that’s to do with blame. Suggesting that your stress levels might be responsible for your blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis is nonsense, and yet many people do end up feeling that it’s their fault they can’t conceive in a culture which encourages you to believe that you can make the difference to outcomes by thinking positive, clean eating or complementary therapies. The truth is that none of these things are going to unblock your tubes or get rid of endometriosis, and for a medical professional to suggest that getting pregnant might miraculously happen naturally if you just relax is quite bizarre.
It’s Endometriosis Awareness Week organised by the charity Endometriosis UK. They are aiming to increase understanding of endometriosis particularly among women who may not yet have a diagnosis. It takes a shocking average of seven and a half years in the UK to diagnose a woman with endometriosis.
The charity’s website is full of useful information about endometriosis and explains the symptoms which can include painful, heavy, or irregular periods, pain during or after sex infertility, painful bowel movements and fatigue. Around one and a half million women in the UK are currently living with endometriosis which can affect anyone of childbearing age.
There are lots of ways to get involved if you are interested, and you can organise or take part in Endo the Night which is a fundraising initiative aimed at helping to support the charity. Meanwhile, if If you want some quick information on endometriosis, you may also find this helpful – an article about endometriosis with tips leading fertility specialist Anthony Rutherford.
If you are 25 or under and have endometriosis, would you be able to complete a quick survey for the charity Endometriosis UK? If you know anyone else who falls into this category, do share the link below. The team at Endometriosis UK are looking at the impact endometriosis has on younger women and would be very interested in your views –
If you want to know more about endometriosis and live in or near London, you may be interested in a seminar in London later this week organised by Wellbeing of Women. It costs £30 to attend but having been to one of their seminars recently, they are extremely well-organised and interesting. This seminar will include information on the latest updates on endometriosis research with medical information and practical dietary advice to help manage symptoms. Speakers include Professor Andrew Horne and nutritional therapist Rebecca Pilkington.
There is more information and you can book tickets here
I was delighted to be asked to join an Endometriosis UK support group last night to talk about fertility treatment and support. If you have endometriosis, I’d really recommended checking out Endometriosis UK and the excellent support they can offer.
The online group ran really smoothly and efficiently, and they also have support groups running across the country and an online community too. They have lots of incredibly useful information on their website, and do a lot of work to raise awareness of endometriosis, which often goes undiagnosed.
It was great to be able to talk to some of the members last night – inevitably our discussions came round to the postcode lottery of access to fertility treatment and we talked about the realities of going through IVF and getting support amongst many other things. Thank you to all at Endometriosis UK for asking me to join you!
Scottish researchers have found that women who have endometriosis have an increased risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, and a greater risk of complications later in pregnancy.
The team from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary led by Dr Lucky Saraswat carried out a nationwide study using data from hospitals, looking at more than 14,000 women. They believe the increased risk could be due to inflammation caused by endometriosis and changes it causes in the environment in the pelvis and womb.
What does it mean for me if I have endometriosis?
This doesn’t mean that everyone who has endometriosis will automatically have a problem when they get pregnant – just that there is an increased risk which it is good to be aware of. The researchers from Aberdeen have suggested that women with endometriosis should be monitored more carefully during early pregnancy, and advised about the risks of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy as well as complications.
Today millions of women around the world will be marching to try to raise awareness of endometriosis, giving all those who are affected by the condition an opportunity to get together and make their voices heard. It’s called the Million Women March, and in London it will be taking place between 12:00pm and 3:00pm in London’s Kensington Gardens.
You do need to be signed up to join in, but it’s never too late to do what you can to raise awareness of a condition which affects about 1.5 million women in the UK alone. Endometriosis can be painful and exhausting and can make it hard to conceive. You can find much more information about the march and about endometriosis at www.endometriosis-uk.org. Meanwhile to everyone taking part in the Million Women March, have a great day!