Have you reviewed your fertility clinic?

If you’ve had fertility treatment recently or are currently having treatment at a UK clinic, did you know that you can give a review of your clinic’s services on the HFEA website? Your reviews are used to create a patient rating for the clinic which other people can then see on the website along with the outcomes from treatment there and a ranking from the HFEA inspectors.

It’s good to do this if you have a spare moment – and it really won’t take long – as it helps to build up a picture of the clinic for others who may be considering having treatment there.  You will be asked a series of questions about the clinic such as

  • How likely are you to recommend this clinic to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?
  • To what extent did you feel you understood everything that was happening throughout your treatment?
  • To what extent did you feel you were treated with privacy and dignity?
  • What was the level of empathy and understanding shown towards you by the clinic team?

You will also be asked about cost for those who had to pay for treatment and you will be able to say whether it was more, less or about the same as you’d been anticipating. Finally, you are able to add any further comments about your experiences which will be seen by the regulator but will not appear on the website.

Choosing a fertility clinic is not easy, particularly if you live in London and the South East where there are so many clinics to choose from, and the views of other people who’ve been to a clinic can be useful.

Infertility etiquette

We’ve all been there, the “helpful” comments and suggestions from friends and family – the detailed story about the friend of a friend of a friend who had five children after she forgot all about her fertility problems and decided to “just adopt” instead, or the information from a newspaper article they’ve half read about a new treatment, which when you dash off to read it yourself you find has actually only been tried out on mice in Brazil. You know the kind of thing…

They are trying to be kind and supportive, but knowing how best to help a friend or family member who is having fertility problems is hard unless you’ve been there yourself. It isn’t always easy to know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes people avoid the subject altogether because they are worried about getting it wrong, but others turn into fonts of wisdom offering advice and tips on every aspect of fertility which can be difficult to swallow  when you know they don’t really have a clue what they’re talking about. Pamela Tsigdinos, the author who has published widely on childlessness and infertility, has written this excellent blog post about infertility etiquette which you may want to pass on to your friends and family – she says exactly what you want to say, but may not always feel able to.

Why you might not want to bother with that fertility “MOT”…

eggFertility clinics have been promoting “fertility MOT” tests for some time as a way of checking your future fertility by testing the stock of potential eggs in your ovaries, known as your ovarian reserve, to see how “fertile” you are. New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that these MOT tests may have no value in predicting how likely you are to get pregnant.

Ovarian reserve tests do have a use for people who are having fertility treatment as they can give some idea of how your ovaries might respond to the drugs used in the course of the treatment, but this study shows that the tests have no value in predicting your chances of getting pregnant naturally.

The researchers looked at a large group of women who had been trying to get pregnant for less than three months, and following them up for a year found that the results of the tests had no relation to the chances of the women getting pregnant.

The cost of these “fertility tests” can vary hugely. The articles covering the story suggested that they might cost around £100, but a quick google reveals that some clinics are charging more than £400 for MOT tests. The researchers were quite clear that their findings “do not support the use” of these tests to assess natural fertility – so be warned before you decide to part with any money. If you are concerned about your fertility, your first port of call should be your GP rather than a clinic charging for tests.

Baby Loss Awareness Week

Baby Loss Awareness Week starts today with a series of events across the country to give an opportunity for parents, families and friends to commemorate and to create an opportunity to raise awareness and talk more openly about miscarriage, stillbirth and loss.

On October 15 at 7pm, you can join in the wave of light by lighting a candle to remember all the babies that have died too soon. There is more information on the Baby Loss Awareness website and there will be remembrance events held across the country. Details are posted below, but you should double check times and locations on the website.

Aldershot – St Michael and St George Church, Queen’s Avenue, Aldershot. Thursday 12 October 7 pm.

Aldershot – Aldershot Baby Garden, The Park Crematorium Guildford Road, Aldershot. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:45 pm.

Ashford – Ashford Memorial Gardens, Ashford. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:45 pm.

Banbury – St Mary’s Church, Banbury. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Barking – Town Hall. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Belfast – Malone House, Barnett Demesne, Belfast. Balloon release Sunday 15 October 2 – 4 pm.

Boroughbridge – St James’ Church, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. Monday 9 October 7 pm.

Bristol – City Hall, College Green, Bristol. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 5 pm – 6 pm. Email Bristol Sands with queries.

Canvey Island – St Nicholas Church. Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Cardiff – Wenallt Chapel at Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6.45 – 7.15 pm. Email Cardiff and Newport Sands with queries.

Carshalton – St Helier Hospital. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 7 – 10 pm.

Chesterfield – Brimington Crematorium. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:45 – 8 pm.

Coventry – Coventry Cathedral. A Service of Remembrance Sunday 15 October 2 pm.

Cramlington – Northumberlandia. Wave of Light Candle Walk Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm. Please note booking required call 07531 206784.

Devizes – St.James Church, Devizes. A Service of Remembrance Sunday 15 October 4:30 pm.

Edinburgh – The Sanctuary, St Catherine’s Argyle, Edinburgh. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:15 pm

Glasgow – The Memorial Chapel, Main Building, Gilmorehill Campus, University of Glasgow, Chapel Corridor (South), West Quadrangle, Glasgow. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:15 pm.

Gosport – St. John the Evangelist, Forton Road, PO12 4TQ. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Greenhithe – Bluewater. Wave of Light Lantern Walk Sunday 15 October 6:45 – 8 pm.

Guernsey – Guernsey Sands Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Walk Sunday 15 October 10 am.

Guildford – Halfpenny Lane, Guildford. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 5:30 – 8 pm.

Harrogate – St Mary’s Chapel, St Peter’s Church, Harrogate Tuesday 10 October 10 am – 12:30 pm.

Isle of Man – Douglas Promenade. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Leeds – Church of the Epiphany, 227 Beech Lane, Gipton, Leeds. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:45 pm.

Liverpool – Isla Gladstone Conservatory, Stanley Park, L4 0TD. A Service of Remembrance Wednesday 11 October registration of babies names from 5 pm and service at 6:30 pm.

London – Haringay Parkland. Candlelit Walk Sunday 15 October meet at Finsbury Park Station entrance to Finsbury Park at 4:30 pm to walk from 4:45 pm. Email North and East London Sands

London – Trafalgar Square, London. Walk Of Baby Loss Remembrance Saturday 14 October 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

Ludlow – St. Laurence’s Church, Ludlow. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Mansfield – Pilgrim Centre, Mansfield Community Hospital. Making memories workshop Sunday 15 October 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm. Email Maxine

Middlesborough – St. Hilda of Whitby, Grangetown. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 7 pm.

Newburgh – Newburgh Parish Church, Fife. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Norwich – City Hall, Norwich. Sunday 15 October.

Nottingham – Memory Walk, Wollaton Hall and Deer Park, Nottingham. Saturday 14 October 11 am.

Oban – The Rockfield Centre, 53A Rockfield Road, Oban. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Oldbury – Warley Baptist Church, Castle Road East, Oldbury. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Plymouth – Little Haven Memorial Garden, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. Service with candle lighting Monday 9 October 6:60 pm.

Plympton – Safe Haven, Harewood House, Plympton. Screening Still Loved documentary Tuesday 10 October 6 pm.

Portadown – St. Mark’s Church, Portadown. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:45 pm.

Portsmouth – Spinnaker Tower. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm

Reading – Reading Minster, Reading. Sunday 15 October 3 pm.

Rochester – Rochester Cathedral prayers at the Family Service 10:30am

Rochester – Baby Memorial Garden, Borstal Road, Rochester. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:45 pm.

Rudgwick – King George V Playing Fields car park and the Village Hall, Rudgwick RH12 3JJ. Information and awareness event hosted by Dandelion Farewells Monday 9 October 10:30 am – 2:30 pm.

Shetland – Toll Clock Shopping Centre, Lerwick. Saturday 14 October 9 am – 4 pm.

Swindon – Kingsdown Crematorium. Sunday 15 October 2 pm. Email Swindon Sands with queries

Thatcham – London Road Cemetery, Thatcham. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Thurso – Thurso Baptist Church, 5 Millbank Road, Thurso (Caithness). Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Truro – Truro Methodist Church. Sunday 15 October 2 pm.

Whitburn – Souter Lighthouse. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:15 pm.

Woking – St. Mary Of Bethany Church, Woking. Wave of Light Sunday 15 October 6:30 pm.

Wrexham – St Mary’s Cathedral, Wrexham. Baby Remembrance Service Sunday 8 October 3:30 pm.

York – Upstairs Lounge, The Gateway Centre, Acomb, York Wednesday 11 October 11:30 am – 1:30 pm.

Freeze-all cycles

There has been growing interest in the idea of “freeze-all” cycles, where rather than having a fresh embryo transfer after eggs have been fertilised in IVF, all embryos are frozen to be transferred at a later date. The logic behind the theory is that the woman’s body has time to readjust after the hormones used to stimulate the ovaries, and that this may help the womb lining and improve the chances of implantation and a successful pregnancy.

It isn’t clear yet whether this theory holds water, but there is a national research study underway to look at this. Those taking part can be in their first, second or third treatment cycle and although the study doesn’t cover the cost of the treatment itself, it does allow for freezing with no additional cost. A number of centres across the UK are taking part in the study, known as E-Freeze, and if you would like to find out more, you can find the website here 

Thanks to The Eve Appeal

Last night I went to an amazing event organised by the Eve Appeal, a gynaecological cancer research charity, as part of their gynaecological cancer awareness month. The subject was Talking Taboos and the evening aimed to discuss the things we don’t usually discuss, which can be a barrier to seeking advice about symptoms which lead to gynaecological cancers.

There was a panel of speakers including Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Paula Sheriff MP, BBC Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey, Dr Ellie Cannon, Dr Christian Jessen and FGM campaigner Nimco Ali. The panel took questions from the audience and covered a huge range of taboo subjects from pubic hair to menstrual bleeding and you can see the discussion on the Eve Appeal’s Facebook Page.

It made me think about how many taboos there are about fertility and treatment, and all the things we find difficult to discuss. It is so hard to break down those barriers when you are feeling sad and isolated, but you are really not alone. One in seven of the population experiences problems when they are trying to get pregnant and there are 3.5 million people in the UK who are currently trying unsuccessfully to conceive. Next time you feel alone, remember how many of us there are out there – and how much we can help one another.

World Childless Week

Thanks to Stephanie Phillips for starting the first World Childless Week which runs from 11-17 September and aims to raise awareness of the many millions of people around the world who are childless-not-by-choice.

When Stephanie realised that she was not going to be able to have children, she gradually started to link up with others in similar situations through an online group and gradually realised that the peer support she received was making a huge difference to how she felt about her life.

She realised that there was no focus for people who were childless in the Fertility Awareness Weeks in the UK and USA, and needed something that didn’t focus on happy endings after fertility problems but on life without children. That’s why she decided to start World Childless Week. Her aim may have been to help a few people know that they are not alone, but it has done far more than that already and has really helped to raise awareness over the last few days. You can find her website at http://www.worldchildlessweek.com

You may have already seen quite a bit about the week on social media, but I hope that Stephanie’s brilliant awareness-raising idea continues to be a huge success and starts to increase understanding and empathy for those who are childless-not-by-choice. Thank you Stephanie!

Other sources of support for those who are childless-not-by-choice include Jody Day’s Gateway Women and Kelly Da Silva’s the Dovecot

Pregnant after fertility problems?

If you are pregnant after fertility problems, there is a brand new closed Facebook group that you can join. It is a closed space to talk to one another, to share experiences and to find news and information about pregnancy, birth and early parenting.

The group is for anyone who is pregnant or a new parent and we look forward to welcoming you. You can find the link for the page here https://www.facebook.com/groups/Pregnancyafterinfertility/

Instagram for miscarriage support

Miscarriage is devastating, and often women find it hard to talk about so the idea of an Instagram account for women to come together to discuss their experiences may sound slightly bizarre – but in fact, many women have found the I Had a Miscarriage Instagram pages very helpful. It was started by a psychologist, Jessica Zucker, in 2015 and already has more than 17 thousand followers. The account has become a space for women to connect, to share their feelings and to read about the experiences of others.

Losing a baby is particularly difficult if you have been through fertility problems and treatment first, and if you have personal experience of this it is always worth getting in touch with the Miscarriage Association who can provide lots of information and support. The Miscarriage Association is currently running the brilliant Simply Say campaign to help other people understand more about what to say when a friend, colleague or family member has experienced a miscarriage.

Egg freezing in China

eggI’ve just watched this really interesting feature about women from China travelling overseas to freeze their eggs. Apparently, unmarried women are not allowed to access any form of fertility treatment in China, including egg freezing. In fact, women who are married are far less likely to want to freeze eggs anyway, but the restrictions have seen growing numbers of women travelling overseas in order to freeze their eggs.

What’s quite sad about this is that many of the women clearly believe that they have bought themselves time, or some kind of insurance, by freezing their eggs when – as anyone who has been through fertility issues knows only too well – having frozen eggs is no guarantee of anything in the future.

You can see the feature and read the accompanying article here