When IVF doesn’t work…

It’s something no one wants to think about when they are just starting out on fertility tests and treatment, but we know that IVF doesn’t always work. Even in the best case scenario, an individual treatment cycle is more likely to end with a negative pregnancy test than a positive one, although cumulative success rates are much more heartening. Perhaps if we didn’t shy away from the statistics, it would make unsuccessful IVF easier to cope with.

At fertility information events, there is often a reluctance to include any mention of IVF not working, and that doesn’t help fertility patients. We wanted to include a session on this, and on living without children at the Fertility Forum in London on March 30. We wanted to give an opportunity to hear some of the strong and powerful voices of women who are living without children, and how they have found peace and happiness. This session isn’t exclusively for people who are approaching the end of their treatment – it’s just as important for those who are still going through tests and fertility treatments to allow them to see that treatment not working doesn’t have to be the end of happiness.

In a session chaired by Fertility Fest founder Jessica Hepburn, we have four inspiring women who are helping others change the way we think about living without children. There’s Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, Yvonne John, author of Dreaming of a life unlived, Kelly Da Silva of the Dovecote and Lesley Pyne, author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness.

I’ve met all of them and they are a pretty fabulous bunch – don’t be afraid to come and hear what they have to say, no matter where you are on your fertility journey. Organised by patients and bodies representing all the professionals in the field, the Fertility Forum also includes talks on a huge range of other fertility-related topics with many of the UK’s leading experts. Come and join us in London on March 30 for a day of accurate, unbiased information in a non-commercial setting with no promotions or sales pitches. The Fertility Forum is all about evidence – and you can get tickets here.

Fertility Forum speakers

Next month’s Fertility Forum promises to be an informative event for anyone who wants to know more about their fertility, tests and treatment options. The wide range of speakers will be covering topics across the board to ensure there is something for everyone whether you are just starting to think about your future fertility or have already had treatment. The full list of topics and speakers is now finalised:

  • Fertility specialist Raj Mathur will look at what can affect your chances of conceiving naturally, when and how to seek advice and will run through the tests you should have.
  • Miscarriage expert Professor Lesley Regan will cover the causes of miscarriage and why do some women experience recurrent miscarriage. She will discuss investigations and what can be done to help.
  • Fertility specialist Ertan Saridogan will give the low down on endometriosis and how it can affect fertility. He will cover all the options for treatment and how to choose between them.
  • Leading male fertility specialist Professor Allan Pacey will explain male fertility and how sperm are made. He will talk about what affects the number and quality of sperm that a man make and the tests that are used to diagnose male fertility problems, as well as the solutions that can be offered.
  • Director of the Donor Conception Network Nina Barnsley will explain what you need to think about when considering donor treatment, how to decide whether it’s right for you and will discuss openness around donor treatment.
  • Chair of the Association of Clinical Embryologists Jason Kasraie will look at the latest new techniques and technologies in the fertility world and consider evidence is as to whether they work and discuss the factors that influence the chances of successful treatment.
  • Fertility counsellor and Chair of the British Infertility Counselling Association Angela Pericleous-Smith will discuss the pressures on yourself, your relationships and your friendships. She will explore coping strategies and explain how to manage anxieties.
  • Fertility specialist Ephia Yasmin will be explaining all you need to need to know about egg freezing including the chances of success, as well as looking forward to future developments in egg freezing.
  • Women’s Voices Lead at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Kate Brian explores why people chose to go overseas and looks at the risks and benefits. She will give some tips to consider when you are making a decision.
  • The HFEA’s Jo Triggs will explain what to look for when choosing a clinic, what statistics can and can’t tell you and will explore the other factors you should take into account.
  • Fertility Fest founder Jessica Hepburn will chair a session with Gateway Women’s Jody Day, authors Lesley Pyne and Yvonne John and the Dovecot’s Kelly Da Silva who have all helped to change the way we think about living without children. They will discuss how to find peace and happiness after unsuccessful treatment, and will talk about the societal attitudes to childlessness that need changing.
  • Professor Adam Balen is a leading specialist in PCOS and will discuss the causes of this common cause of fertility problems. He will discuss how PCOS should be investigated and treated and will also look at ways that you can help yourself.
  • If you want to know more about IVF, fertility specialist Jane Stewart will explain what assisted conception is and why it doesn’t always work. She will talk about the limitations of IVF and why it may not always be the right treatment.
  • One of the UK’s leading embryologists, Rachel Cutting will explain how embryos develop from fertilisation to blastocyst. She will look at how embryos are graded and selected, and will explore how time-lapse can help. She will also talk about embryo freezing.
  • Men often get overlooked when it comes to fertility support. Richard Clothier has been a leading voice for men’s experiences of fertility problems. He will focus on men and fertility, and the importance of talking as well as exploring tips for mitigating the grief.
  • Is your lifestyle having an impact on your fertility? Grace Dugdale is a reproductive biologist and nutrition scientist and will give evidence-based information about health, diet and lifestyle in relation to male and female fertility. She will talk about what can impact your fertility, and about preparing your body for pregnancy.
  • IVF treatment is usually more like a marathon than a sprint. Emotional and financial resilience are crucial to continuing the journey, and there can be pressure to pay for additional tests, drugs or interventions which may not increase the chances of success. Fertility specialist Professor Yacoub Khalaf will discuss what’s worth paying for and what isn’t.
  • Are you eligible for NHS funded fertility treatment? There are guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on who should qualify, but these are often ignored. Sarah Norcross from Fertility Fairness and Aileen Feeney from Fertility Network UK will explain the current funding situation and what you should be entitled to.
  • Psychology Professor Jacky Boivin explains stress, and what evidence there is about the impact it may have on fertility. She will also discuss strategies for coping with stress.
  • What is ovarian reserve testing and what does it mean? Fertility specialist Melanie Davies will look at ovarian testing and what it can and can’t tell you. She will explain the realities of having fertility treatment when you are older and what this means for the chances of success.
  • One of the UK’s leading fertility lawyers, Natalie Gamble,will discuss the legal situation regarding parenthood for sperm and egg donation. She will explain surrogacy law and practice, recent developments and law reform.

You can choose which of these amazing sessions to attend – tickets for the day are now available at £25 which covers the costs of putting on the day. You can find out more and book your tickets here – https://bit.ly/FertilityForum

 

 

Reproductive harassment

There’s an interesting article in the Daily Mail (yes, really…) about ‘reproductive harassment’ after actor Jennifer Aniston spoke out about being judged and repeatedly questioned about when and whether she is going to have a baby. As she is now 49, this seems a somewhat insensitive question, and yet the pressure on her to reproduce has been kept up by the media for many years. It’s bad enough feeling that pressure in your everyday life as a normal (non-celebrity) person, but imagine how it must feel to see your childlessness discussed by people who know nothing about your individual situation in the global media.

The article explains that this kind of questioning is most often aimed at the woman in a partnership or at single women, and yet people would rarely consider cross-examining a single man in his thirties about when he is going to get round to having a baby or suggesting that he ought not to leave it too late.

As Jennifer Aniston has pointed out, women without children are often judged and misunderstood. She has now hit back saying that maybe her purpose on this planet isn’t to procreate, and that maybe there are other things she is meant to do. Her words will resonate with many of those who have experienced involuntary childlessness, but who have gone on to have very happy and productive lives without children. Check out  Lesley Pyne or Jody Day if you are looking for inspiration.

Are you coming to Fertility Fest?

Fertility Fest is the world’s first arts festival dedicated to fertility, infertility, modern families and the science of making babies – and you really ought to be there!  It promises 150 artists and fertility experts in a week-long programme of events, entertainment, discussion, debate, support and solidarity.

It runs from 8 – 13 May at the Bush Theatre in London, and has the most amazing array of sessions. You will find Izzy Judd – wife of McFly’s Harry Judd and author of the bestselling memoir Dare to Dream – talking about their experiences of fertility treatment and trying to conceive. There’s a session on the often overlooked male experience of infertility with a screening of a film about a man whose relationship breaks down as a result of infertility and a documentary film about men’s experiences of infertility. You could listen to poet Julia Copus performing her poetry cycle which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award or  film-maker Katie Barlow sharing excerpts from her ongoing documentary film-project. In a session on pregnancy loss, award-winning visual artists Foz Foster and Tabitha Moses will explore their experiences with Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and one of the world’s leading voices on miscarriage. And on Wednesday 9th May, there’s a special event entitled ‘There’s More To Life Than Having Children’ hosted and chaired by Fertility Network UK’s Catherine Strawbridge.

One exciting series during the festival is the ‘Fertility Fight Club’ in which leading artists and fertility experts including Professor Geeta Nargund (from Create Fertility), Jody Day (Founder of Gateway Women the friendship and support network for childless women) and writer and theatre-maker Stella Duffy will give ten minute provocative talks about things they want to change about the world of fertility and infertility. These will be live streamed so that people can participate from their armchair at home and from anywhere around the world.

This is just a tiny taster of the huge range of different events during the week – have a look at the full programme on the Fertility Fest website www.fertilityfest.com and tickets (£10 – £35 plus a wide selection of FREE events) can be booked from the Bush’s box office https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk

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

National Portrait Gallery Exhibition

If you are in London, you may be interested in an exhibition of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery – the Taylor Wessing photographic Portrait Prize 2016.

Two of the photos were taken by Katie Barlow, a documentary film-maker who is currently working on a fantastic documentary about not having children which features author and Director of Fertility Fest, Jessica Hepburn, who many of you will be familiar with and Gateway Women’s Jody Day. Katie has spent the last year documenting the refugee crisis, and you can see two of her photos in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition. You can read what Katie wrote about this here  – and the exhibition is definitely worth a visit!

Have you booked for Fertility Fest?

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It’s just a week away, but there are still some tickets left for Fertility Fest which opens in Birmingham next Saturday. If you don’t know about this unique event, linking art and science in a day of performances and discussions, you can find out more by visiting the Fertility Fest website.

The Festival takes place in London too, but opens in Birmingham next weekend with leading experts in the field including Allan Pacey, Sue Avery, Geeta Nargund, HFEA Chair Sally Cheshire, fertility counsellor Tracey Sainsbury, the NGDT’s Laura Witjens, Gillian Lockwood and Jacky Boivin. Artists featured include Jude Christian, Milli Bhatia, Ronke Adekoluejo, Satinder Chohan, Somalia Seaton, Katie Barlow, Tina Reid-Peršin, Jo Ind, Tabitha Moses,  Amy Rosenthal, Kazuko Hohki, Sarah Esdaile,  Jody Day, Louise Ann Wilson,  Aaron Deemer, Fergus Davidson and Amanda Gore.

The day will conclude with a performance of award-winning playwright Gareth Farr’s latest production, The Quiet House, which addresses IVF and fertility. Fertility Fest has been organised by Jessica Hepburn and Gaby Vautier. It promises to be a really fascinating event, so if you are anywhere near Birmingham – book your tickets now!

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

Managing Mother’s Day

Carl_Strathmann_-_Bunch_of_Wild_Flowers_(13354976844)It’s one of the most difficult times of the year for anyone trying to conceive, and it’s here again. A day focused on celebrating motherhood is bound to be challenging for anyone who is longing for a family, but the time leading up to it can be the hardest part to deal with. It’s virtually impossible to escape Mother’s Day when every local shop has jumped on the commercial bandwagon and even the local supermarket seems to have decided to label anything you might possibly give to anyone else as a “Mother’s Day Gift”.

Mother’s Day can act as a horrible reinforcement of the sense of isolation and loneliness that you may feel as more and more of those around you seem to be pregnant or new parents. It can make you feel like an outsider whose life has become completely cut off form those around you.

 

If you know anyone else who is experiencing difficulties getting pregnant or who doesn’t have children, this can be the ideal time for meeting up with them. Getting together for a day out, a trip to the cinema or theatre or sharing a meal can be a good way of reminding yourself that you are not alone. This Thursday evening, March 3, there’s a get together for anyone experiencing fertility problems in Central London and if you’d like to come along and join us you’d be very welcome (for details, email katebrian@infertilitynetworkuk.com).  On Sunday March 6 itself, you may be interested to know that Gateway Women’s Jody Day will be giving a live talk on BBC Radio’s Mother’s Day Service – you can find details here 

 

However you decide to spend Sunday, remember that you are not alone. There are around 3.5 million people in the UK alone who are going through difficulties at any given time, and every one of them will be experiencing very similar feelings about Mother’s Day.

 

Great new book from Jody Day

51Abrnt3PzLI was fortunate to attend a book launch last week for Jody Day’s new book, Living the Life Unexpected. It’s an updated version of her first book, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is facing a future without children. Jody writes from her own personal experience and also includes the experiences of many others who are childless by circumstance. She has a lovely writing style and sets out a pathway towards what she describes as a meaningful and fulfilling future without children.

In just a few years, Jody has created a huge network of women who support one another. She runs workshops and retreats, and has given childless women a voice in the media. There is a stigma around childlessness and Jody addresses that head on – and shows that not having children doesn’t always have to be the worst option.

Gateway Women is for all women who are childless not by choice, however that came about – and if you you want to know more about Jody and the Gateway Women network, see her website here.