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 

Fertility funding

The news of cuts to funding for fertility services has made depressing reading over recent days, with more and more areas cutting IVF in order to save money. As many people realise, cutting funds for IVF is a questionable way to save money in the longer term – you end up with dejected, unhappy people who are far more likely to need medical help for depression and related illnesses (we know from a Fertility Network UK survey that the majority of people with fertility problems have experienced depression and that more than 40% have had suicidal feelings as a result of their fertility problems).

People struggling to fund their own treatment often end up going overseas where IVF can appear cheaper, but where there are not always the same measures in place to reduce the numbers of multiple pregnancies, which is the biggest health risk from IVF.  It doesn’t need many sets of prematurely-born triplets conceived after multiple embryo transfers overseas to wipe out any savings from cutting IVF funding here in the UK.

What was more depressing was the reaction to the news about the cuts from some quarters – people with absolutely no understanding or knowledge about infertility who felt the need to try to grab centre stage by offering ill-informed opinions. We all know that not everyone agrees with the NHS funding IVF treatment, but most of those who think this way have the good grace to recognise that infertility is tough and that anyone experiencing it deserves some empathy. Not so one person writing in the Independent who suggested that fertility treatment “only serves to fulfil people’s whimsical obsession with baby-making”, that the NHS should not pay for people to become parents “if they fancy it” and that there is no justification for treatment “just because it will make some people feel more fulfilled in their life”. It was quite breath-taking to read such a glib and insensitive dismissal of a medical problem. Right back to biblical times, the huge impact of infertility has been understood with Rachel, who was unable to get pregnant, crying “Give me children, or else I die”. Infertility is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an illness, and NICE says that IVF is a clinically and cost-effective treatment.

I’m not adding a link to the article in the Independent, or addressing the poorly researched claims as to why we shouldn’t fund IVF one by one. Suffice to say that a few hours after the piece appeared, the person who wrote it tweeted “So I’m about to go on Newsnight. No big deal, right? RIGHT?!?!”… The tweet explained everything about the lack of empathy, understanding or any shred of human kindness in the piece. This article was never meant to be a thoughtful response to a social problem, but was all about trying to create the sort of stir that gets you noticed and on television. It’s just a shame that the media desire for controversy and debate means that ignorance often gets to masquerade as valid opinion.

The truth about “clean” eating

When you are trying to conceive, it’s inevitable that you want to do all you possibly can to maximise your chances of success and changing your diet seems a fairly easy way of doing something to help. More and more fertility patients are giving up all kinds of foods and focussing on “clean” eating in an attempt to improve outcomes of treatment or to boost their fertility. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is never going to be a bad thing and will, without any doubt, help your overall well-being and make you feel more positive. Giving up whole food groups in the pursuit of clean eating, however, may not have any merit.

This fascinating article by Bee Wilson in The Guardian picks apart the clean eating phenomenon and raises lots of interesting issues about why clean eating has become so popular – and why that probably isn’t such a good thing.

It seems that the answer is moderation and common sense – the story of the wellness blogger who began to lose her hair and whose periods stopped at the start of this piece is a clear enough message about the impact very restrictive diets can have on fertility.

I’ve met so many fertility patients who are on hugely restricted diets – and who are actually made quite miserable by their constant battles to keep on the straight and narrow with their eating plans. Fertility treatment is tough enough without making things even harder for yourself. You may end up feeling guilty if you break your own strict rules when in fact it really isn’t going to stop you getting pregnant if you eat something which doesn’t tick all your healthy eating boxes from time to time.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself during fertility tests and treatment – that doesn’t mean living on a diet of chocolate and red wine, but it does mean remembering what a balanced diet means and following a sensible eating plan rather than something which is going to make you feel unhappy and which may not be providing you with all the nutrients you need.

 

Pregnancy after fertility problems

Did you know that the charity Fertility Network UK now has a special online group meeting every month for those who are pregnant after fertility problems? The group is open to everyone and will have expert speakers from time to time who will can offer tips and advice and answer questions.

Many people feel anxious when they finally discover they are pregnant after some time trying to conceive, and it can be hard to relax and enjoy your pregnancy.  Talking to others who really understand how you feel can be hugely beneficial and the group is online so you can join from wherever you are based. Although it is run via Skype, it is just like a conference call rather than a video conference so you don’t need to worry about being seen. You can find the details and information about who to contact to join here 

For anyone who isn’t sure about joining a group but would still like some help, you can always call the Fertility Network UK support line and talk to the lovely Diane, or alternatively my book Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility may help