Experiences of miscarriage

Earlier this week, I was honoured to chair a moving session at the arts festival Fertility Fest looking at miscarriage. The evening began with four artists with personal experience of miscarriage presenting their work. Julia Bueno, a psychotherapist, read a passage from her new book about miscarriage, The Brink of Being, which is published today. Visual artist Foz Foster talked about the wonderful 76 foot scroll he produced to celebrate the three children he lost through miscarriage. Finally, theatre company Open Sky, writer Lisle Turner and director Claire Coaché, showed a section of their powerful new show Cold about a couple who experience miscarriage.

After the artists had presented their work, we had a discussion session with the National Director of the Miscarriage Association, Ruth Bender Atik, and the Medical Director of Herts and Essex Fertility Clinic, David Ogutu. The discussion raised some fascinating issues, about the reality of experiencing a miscarriage which we so rarely acknowledge, about the taboos around pregnancy loss and the fact that we assume it is somehow a women’s issue. My only regret was that we ran out of time as there were so many more things we could have talked about, and we had a fabulous panel.

If you’ve been affected by miscarriage, I would recommend Julia’s new book – and if you are ever able to see Foz’s work or catch Claire and Lisle’s show, make sure you take the opportunity. Most importantly, do get in touch with the Miscarriage Association who offer both support and information. They have a factsheet written for anyone who has been through a miscarriage after fertility issues, which feel as if it is the cruellest blow. It is sometimes hard to reach out for support, but it really can make all the difference to talk to someone who understands the experience.

Are you coming to the Fertility Show this weekend?

header_510_graphicIt’s not too late to get tickets if you are interested in coming along to the Fertility Show this weekend at London’s Olympia – and if you register at Infertility Network UK, which is completely free, you can get a discount on your entrance.

It’s a huge event, and can be rather overwhelming, but what it does present is a unique opportunity to hear some of the country’s leading experts in the field talking about their subject – there’s Dr Allan Pacey on male fertility, Sam Abdalla of the Lister Fertility Clinic on treating women with reduced ovarian reserve and his colleage James Nicopoullos on fertility testing,  Yacoub Khalaf of Guy’s and St Thomas’ on improving the odds of IVF working for you and his colleague Tarek El-Touhky on treatment for older women, Professor Lesley Regan of St Mary’s Hospital will talk about dealing with recurrent miscarriage, Lord Winston will discuss how to deal with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, Stuart Lavery of IVF Hammersmith is talking about fertility basics and Zita West will cover nutrition and complementary therapies. If you want to find out about any aspect of fertility or treatment, you will find a seminar that will be useful in a schedule of more than fifty different talks from leading experts.

There are also the exhibition stands covering many different aspects of fertility. A number of UK clinics are represented – the Bourn Hall chain of clinics, the fourteen clinics in the CARE fertility chain which now cover many areas of the UK, City Fertility, Create, Guy’s Assisted Conception Unit, Herts and Essex Fertility Centre, Homerton, IVF Hammersmith, King’s College Hospital ACU, the Lister, London Fertility Centre, Newlife and Poundbury Fertility. There are also clinics from across the world, along with complementary therapists, charities and support organisations. This year for the first time the British Fertility Society will have a stand representing the professional bodies involved in fertility, and this is a very welcome development.

The Fertility Show is sometimes criticised for laying bare the commercialisation of the fertility industry, but I think it is most helpful to approach the two-day event understanding that there may well be things that aren’t for you and that you will need to sift out what is most helpful for your individual situation. Look at the list of exhibitors and think about which you might want to make time for.

One often overlooked aspect of the Fertility Show is the sheer numbers of people who come through the doors – there is something very positive to be gained from being with so many other people who are going through similar experiences and who understand how you are feeling. The fact that there are 3.5 million people at any given time in the UK experiencing fertility problems is something that it can be hard to believe if you are feeling isolated and lonely – but being in one place with so many other people who are struggling to conceive can feel unexpectedly empowering.