Fertility Fest – when art meets science

images-6It will be the first event of its kind in the UK taking place in London and Birmingham, and it’s called Fertility Fest. The event, devised by writer Jessica Hepburn and producer Gabby Vautier, will bring together some of the country’s leading writers, visual artists, theatre-makers, film-directors and composers alongside some of the country’s foremost fertility experts for a day of performance, discussion and debate. Topics under the artistic microscope include facing the diagnosis of infertility, IVF, donation, surrogacy, the male experience, egg freezing, involuntary childlessness and alternative routes to parenthood.The full day of events concludes with a performance of a new play from award-winning writer Gareth Farr called The Quiet House about one couple’s journey when they enter the world of IVF.

Fertility Fest is in London on Saturday June 11 at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park and in Birmingham on Saturday May 28 at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The artists involved in the days include Aaron Deemer, Amanda Gore, Amy Rosenthal, Fergus Davidson, Fiona Duffelen, Gabby Vautier, Gareth Farr, Jessica Hepburn, Jo Ind, Jody Day, Julia Copus, Jude Christian, Kazuko Hohki, Katie Barlow, Louise Ann Wilson, Matthew Dunster, Paula Knight, Peter Guttridge, Stander Chohan, Ronke Adekoluejo, Sarah Esdaile, Somalia Seaton, Steve Ball, Tabitha Moses, Tina Reid-Persin and Yann Seznec. The experts in the field joining them for the day will include Professor Allan, Pacey, Professor Geeta Nargund, Laura Witjens, Professor Jacky Boivin, Janine Elson, Juliet Tizzard, Kate Brian, Natalie Silverman, Sally Cheshire, Dr Sofia Gameiro, Dr Sue Avery, Professor Susan Bewley, Professor Susan Golombok, Tracey Sainsbury and Victoria MacDonald.

Tickets cost £25 a day which include all workshops, talks and a performance of The Quiet House – for more details and booking, visit the website www.fertilityfest.com

Advice on fertility from a range of therapists

Logo_oficThe magazine Fertility Road has produced a guide of tips for anyone who is trying unsuccessfully to conceive covering a range of different categories – complementary therapies, diet and nutrition, male fertility and vitamins and supplements. The tips come from a range of complementary therapists and other practitioners working in the field.

Some are more evidence-based than others when it comes to actually boosting your fertility, but there’s a lot to think about and some useful tips and suggestions for ways to help yourself to feel better apart from anything else. I particularly like author Jessica Hepburn’s thoughts about not stopping following all the other dreams you have for your life – as many of you will know, Jessica followed hers to swim the Channel and then climb Mount Kilimanjaro!

Why not take a look here, and see if you can find something that resonates with you.

Hooray for Jessica!

f69dfacf-fc0e-4f3b-b5a8-125a668ab203It’s not often that someone does something so incredible that you feel overwhelmed by admiration, but Jessica Hepburn has done that by swimming the Channel to raise funds for Infertility Network UK.

Jessica’s swim began at 1 am and just thinking about getting into an icy, dark English sea in the middle of the night makes me feel very unwell…  She swam all through the night, was stung by jellyfish, swept about by waves and the wash from container ships – and then carried on swimming all the next day. She was swimming while I slept warmly snuggled up under the duvet, was swimming when I got up and had a cup of coffee, swimming as I worked all morning, swimming when I stopped for lunch and was still swimming when I finished work. She finally reached the coast of France 17 hours and 44 minutes after setting off.

Just think of that cold water, those waves, those jellyfish – and keeping going for that long – and why not sponsor her to show how much you admire her amazing feat and to make it worth every moment in that icy water – https://www.justgiving.com/Jessica-Hepburn-INUK

Who will you find at this year’s Fertility Show?

logoIt’s here at last – the seminar details for this year’s Fertility Show are now available online for you to browse! Once again, there are a really great array of speakers covering pretty much everything you might want to find out about fertility problems, tests and treatments.

Starting with the basics, there are talks from Zita West, nutritionist Marilyn Glenville and IVF Hammersmith’s Stuart Lavery. There are talks on ovarian reserve (from  James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lister Fertility Clinic) and on the causes of infertility, and Infertility Network UK trustee Jessica Hepburn will be talking about the patient experience. Leading consultant Yacoub Khalaf will explain how to improve your chances of success, Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director of CREATE Fertility,will be looking at natural cycle and mild IVF, the HFEA’s Juliet Tizzard will discuss making sense of success rates and I will be talking about choosing a clinic.

There are some interesting debates on new techniques in IVF and on dealing with particular problems. Professor Lesley Regan will be covering recurrent miscarriage, Dimitrios Nikolaou, lead clinician at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Hospital, will talk about treatment for over 40s while Dr Melanie Davies, consultant in the Reproductive Medicine Unit at London’s NHS University College Hospital will talk about how to deal with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility. Sam Abdalla, Director of the Lister Fertility Clinic, will ask whether anyone is too difficult to treat with a low ovarian reserve, Professor Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society, will talk about PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and Tarek El-Toukhy will discuss treatment for older women.

There will also be some interesting discussions on donor treatment with Laura Witjens of the National Gamete Donation Trust and Kamal Ahuja of the London Women’s Clinic as well as a variety of talks on different aspects of fertility treatment overseas.  Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis and massage will be covered in  a number of seminars. There will be four sessions for single women and lesbian couples and separate sessions on surrogacy. Male fertility issues will be covered by Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, who will be talking on both the Saturday and Sunday so that no one needs to miss his sessions.

Fertility counsellors Jennie Hunt and Tracey Sainsbury will look at emotional issues and coping with treatment, along with Anya Sizer who is the support co-ordinator at London Women’s Clinic. The difficult issue of whether to try again after unsuccessful treatment will be covered by Tim Child who is Associate Professor and Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine at the University of Oxford and and Honorary Consultant Gynaecologist at John Radcliffe Hospital. Finally, there will also be three sessions over the weekend looking at different aspects of adoption.

This year’s Fertility Show will be on November 7 and 8 and London’s Olympia and you can find the full seminar list here 

 

 

Could you support an amazing challenge?

f69dfacf-fc0e-4f3b-b5a8-125a668ab203People do all kinds of unusual and challenging things to raise funds for charity, from bungee jumping to running marathons. Some are difficult, some are fun – but most are well-trodden paths which feel within the realms of possibility.

For Infertility Network UK trustee Jessica Hepburn, the challenge is something which most of us couldn’t – and wouldn’t – even begin to contemplate. Jessica has decided to swim the English Channel…

Jessica has been a great champion for fertility patients since she wrote her book, The Pursuit of Motherhood, about her own experiences of treatment – and she’s now also a columnist for Fertility Road magazine as well as a trustee of Infertility Network UK.  I’ve just been reading a bit about what she’s taken on – it’s at least 21 miles to swim from one side of the Channel to the other, but tides and currents mean that you usually swim further than that – and according to the Channel Swimming Association you may face waves higher than 2 meters, jellyfish, seaweed and planks of wood as well as very cold water. What’s more, you’re swimming in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with 600 tankers and 200 ferries going across daily!

It’s an incredible thing to do – and Jessica really does deserve your support. She’ll be setting out on her swim later this month. What I find most extraordinary about it is that she says she isn’t really a swimmer – she certainly will be after this…  If you’d like to help her to raise funds to support people affected by fertility problems by offering them advice, information and a friendly helping hand, do sponsor her via her Justgiving page – you don’t have to know her personally to help her raise much-needed funds and to support her challenge https://www.justgiving.com/Jessica-Hepburn-INUK/

WoW 2015

I’m really excited to be chairing a session at this year’s Women of the World Festival at the Festival Hall on London’s Southbank.  WoW is an amazing event, and this coming weekend you will find a huge range of talks, workshops and performances covering everything from immigration to the use of sexist language.

The session I’m chairing is on Fertility Myths, and there’s a really interesting panel including Gateway Women founder Jody Day, fertility lawyer Harjit Sarang, psychotherapist Carmel Dennehy, Consultant Gynaecologist Dr Ephia Yasmin and fertility author Jessica Hepburn.

If last year is anything to go by, this will be a fascinating hour or so – hope to see you there!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions…

At the recent Infertility Network UK information day in Cardiff, fertility author Jessica Hepburn gave an excellent talk about her experiences and suggested some tips for getting through fertility treatment. One of the things she mentioned was the way that we often lose confidence in ourselves when we are at the fertility clinic, worrying about being annoying and wanting staff to like us as if this might have an impact on the outcome of our treatment. I’ve spoken to a number of people talk about this recently, and sometimes usually confident people find themselves becoming oddly meek when they’re facing a fertility specialist.  People do leave the clinic without really understanding things, or don’t want to make a fuss even when there are clearly issues which need to be addressed.

Even today, there’s still a lingering stigma about fertility problems that can carry an element of shame and embarrassment – and it can be difficult to feel confident in the clinic when you may feel constantly close to tears. It is important to remember that it’s fine to ask questions or to say if there’s something you don’t understand or which is worrying you.  There’s nothing worse than walking out of an often long-awaited appointment feeling that you aren’t quite sure what is happening next or why a certain path is being recommended.

If you are worried about anything, don’t forget that Infertility Network UK has a trained nurse who you can call completely free of charge and who can point you in the right direction offering support and advice  – but when you are at the clinic, remember that asking questions and understanding is key to taking back some control.

 

Cardiff fertility information day speakers

The speakers have now been confirmed for the fertility information day in Cardiff on September 27, and there’s a brilliant range of talks covering everything from what to expect at your first appointment to counselling and complementary therapies.

Wales-Info-day-Lottery-logoYou can hear speakers from leading fertility clinics in Wales including Dr Hemlata Thackare and Louise Mitchell from London Women’s Clinic Wales and Paul Knaggs from Wales Fertility Institute – as well as Dimitrios Kafetzis from Newlife Clinic in Surrey. Specialist acupuncturist Jackie Brown who has a clinic at CGRW, fertility counsellor Wendy Martin and Ann Bell from Adoption UK. Finally, Infertility Network UK trustee and fertility author Jessica Hepburn will be there, talking about her personal experience.

I will be there chairing along with Infertility Network UK‘s Andrew Coutts.

You can book your tickets for the day now for just £10 to include lunch – http://www.infertilitynetworkuk.com/regional_network_2/

 

The WoW debate

For those who weren’t able to be there, Saturday’s discussion on Fertility Myths at the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre for International Women’s Day proved to be a fascinating debate.  I was chairing a panel with obstetrician Dr Susan Bewley who is known for her concerns about women leaving it later to conceive, Zita West who runs a very popular and successful fertility clinic in Central London, Jody Day founder of Gateway Women which supports those who are childless by circumstance and Jessica Hepburn who wrote a powerful memoir about her experiences of fertility treatment.

Each of the speakers began by giving their own brief introduction, and we then launched into a discussion about fertility myths. The key theme which we returned to time and time again during the discussion was age, and how so many women are still under the misapprehension that IVF offers a solution to age-related infertility. Susan Bewley spelled out some key facts about women’s fertility which many of the audience weren’t aware of – the alarming increase in the miscarriage rate once women are in their forties, and the fact that we stop being fertile up to ten years before the menopause itself.  She explained that although the age at which women’s periods start has got younger as we are stronger and healthier, the average age at menopause has remained firmly stuck at 51.

There were some really interesting questions and comments from the audience, and a lively discussion about why women were leaving it later to have children and how to address this.  As a generation encouraged to delay motherhood, to work hard and have careers, many women who are now in their late 30s and early 40s are finding that following a male career pattern of establishing your position before thinking about starting a family doesn’t fit with a female reproductive pattern – but how we begin to change this is a real challenge.  Why do so many women find it hard to meet the right partner to have children with? Do we think too much about potential obstacles before we have children? Are men enjoying the chance to delay fatherhood at the expense of women’s fertility? Is teenage pregnancy really such a bad thing? Are we guilty of glorifying motherhood?

Thanks to the brilliant panel and the audience too.  In conclusion, it’s clear we can’t change the female biological clock, and perhaps we need to start thinking about how we change society and our own attitudes – your thoughts or suggestions are welcome!

Fertility myths at WoW festival

If you’re in London this weekend, you may want to come along to the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre, where I’ll be chairing a session discussing fertility myths with a fascinating panel – there’s obstetrician Dr Susan Bewley who is known for her concerns about women leaving it later to conceive, there’s Zita West who runs a very popular and successful fertility clinic in Central London, there’s Jody Day founder of Gateway Women which supports those who are childless by circumstance and Jessica Hepburn who wrote a powerful memoir about her experiences of fertility treatment.

It promises to be a fascinating debate – and I hope you may be able to join us at lunchtime on Saturday – details here