It was an honour to be at the House of Lords last night to help to celebrate 25 years of the Donor Conception Network – a fabulous organisation working to support would-be and current parents and their children. We heard about how the charity was started by a group of parents, and how the brilliant Olivia Montuschi and her husband Walter helped to steer it forwards. We heard from Professor Ken Daniels who had come all the way from New Zealand and who spoke about the worldwide reach and respect for the charity. We heard from Dr Marilyn Crawshaw from York about how vital the work of the Donor Conception Network is. There were moving talks from a parent about what the Network means to her and how vital it is, and from the wonderful Aled who talked about being donor-conceived. And finally we heard from Nina Barnsley, who runs the charity as Director and who takes it forward to another 25 years ahead.
If you are considering using donor eggs or sperm or a donated embryo, the Donor Conception Network should be your first port of call. They offer support on the phone and by email, and run workshops for people considering donor conception. They also arrange local meet ups and a range of events for would-be parents and for families. They also offer support for young people who are donor-conceived and have a range of story books and information about how to talk about donor conception. They are non-judgemental, supportive and a fantastic resource.
It’s next weekend and if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, there is still time. It’s true that the Fertility Show can feel a bit like some kind of Ideal Home Exhibition for fertility problems, but it’s well worth visiting for the amazing seminar programme alone where you can catch many of the country’s leading experts and benefit from their wisdom and advice.
Talks on Saturday include:
How To Get Pregnant (and to have the best possible pregnancy) with Zita West
Innovations in embryo selection. Do they really make a difference? with Rachel Cutting MBE, Chair 2010-2014 of the Association of Clinical Embryologists and Principal Embryologist at Jessop Fertility in Sheffield
Stress and its impact on fertility with Jacky Boivin, Professor of Health Psychology at Cardiff University and Lead Researcher at Cardiff Fertility Studies
Surrogacy in the UK with Sarah Templeman, Nurse Manager at Herts & Essex Fertility Centre and Helen Prosser from Brilliant Beginnings
Natural Cycle and Mild IVF – fertility treatment without the drugs? with Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director of CREATE Fertility
The Basics. What you need to know to get pregnant and how to prepare for pregnancy with George Christopoulos, Subspecialty Registrar in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at IVF Hammersmith
Next Generation IVF? with Professor Simon Fishel, CEO of CARE Fertility
Dealing with recurrent miscarriage with Dr Vidya Seshadri, Consultant Gynaecologist & Specialist in Reproductive Medicine at The Centre for Reproductive & Genetic Health
Reduced ovarian reserve: Is anyone too difficult to treat? with Sam Abdalla, Director of the Lister Fertility Clinic
Factors to consider when choosing a fertility clinic with me! (Kate Brian, journalist, broadcaster, author of bestselling The Complete Guide to IVF, mother of two IVF children, Lead of Women’s Voices at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and London Representative for Infertility Network UK)
Going abroad for treatment? Question time featuring 2 overseas clinics with Dr Bruce Shapiro of The Fertility Center of Las Vegas and Dr Natalia Szlarb from IVF Spain.
Counselling through infertility with Tracey Sainsbury, member of the British Infertility Counselling Association.
Boost fertility and prevent recurrent miscarriage with nutrition with Dr Marilyn Glenville
Immunology – potentially hazardous treatment or your best chance of success? with Mr Mohammed Mahmoud, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine of The Newlife Fertility Clinic and Siobhan Quenby, Professor of Obstetrics and Director of the Biomedical Research Unit in Reproductive Health at the University of Warwick.
Improving the odds of IVF working for you with Yacoub Khalaf, Consultant Gynaecologist and Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS
Coping Strategies with Wendy Martin, specialist fertility counsellor with Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine NHS
Testing your fertility and the value of your ovarian reserve with James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lister Fertility Clinic.
Freeing your mind to improve fertility with Russell Davis, Cognitive Hypnotherapist.
Dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) with Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Leeds NHS Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Chairman of the British Fertility Society.
Issues for families created with donors with DC Network founding member Olivia Montuschi.
What men need to know about their fertility – testing it, boosting it, treating it with Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield and former Chairman of the British Fertility Society.
Complementary Therapies – can they boost your fertility? with Dr Gillian Lockwood, Medical Director of Midland Fertility Services and ethics spokesperson for the British Fertility Society, Andrew Loosely who practices herbal medicine and Barbara Scott, chair of the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists.
Fertility treatment for older women with Tarek El-Toukhy, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital.
How to keep costs down – do you really need those add-ons? with Dr, John Parsons, part of the team that established the first IVF pregnancy to deliver at the Hammersmith hospital.
Sperm and egg donors from the UK with Laura Witjens, egg donor and former CEO of the National Gamete Donation Trust, and Venessa Smith, Donor Services Co-ordinator from the London Women’s Clinic.
Can acupuncture improve fertility? with Michael Dooley, Medical Director of Poundbury Fertility and Emma Cannon, acupuncturist.
The arguments for travelling to the USA vs Portugal vs Norway with Dr Angeline Beltsos of Vios Fertility Institute, Dr Vladimiro of Ferticentro and Dr Jon Hausken from Norwegian Klinikk Hausken.
Steps to choosing the right adoption agency with First4Adoption’s Gemma Gordon-Johnson.
Travelling to the USA for egg donor treatment – the patient’s perspective and the clinic that treated them with Sarah Esdaile and her partner who had treatment in the USA and Dr Michael Levy, Director of the Donor egg programme at Shady Grove Clinic.
A patient’s experience of the fertility rollercoaster and what to expect with Jessica Hepburn, trustee at Infertility Network UK and author of The Pursuit of Motherhood.
Why should I give it another go? with Tim Child, Associate Professor and Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine, University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant Gynaecologist, John Radcliffe Hospital.
Planning Treatment abroad? The arguments for travelling to Greece vs Spain vs Russia with Dr. Dimitrios Dovas of The NewLife IVF Centre in Greece, Dr Ramon Aurell, IVF Unit Medical Director of Hospital Quirón Barcelona and Dr Yulia Gurtovaya, a consultant at West Middlesex University Hospital who speaks on behalf of Russian IVF clinic CRM MAMA.
Single women and lesbian couples – options for conceiving with Dr Raúl Olivares, Medical Director of Barcelona IVF.
An overview of the common causes of infertility and the main approaches to treatment with Kamal Ojha, Medical Director of Concept Fertility and Honorary Senior Lecturer at St George’s Hospital.
Fertility treatment for older women with Dimitrios Nikolaou, Consultant Gynaecologist, lead clinician at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Hospital’s Assisted Conception Unit and Medical Director of Fertility for Life.
Options for adoption with Jan Fishwick, CEO of PACT
Unknown donor vs known donor vs co-parenting with fertility lawyer Natalie Gamble and Erika Tranfield of Pride Angel.
What to think about before going abroad for treatment with Ben Saer, who with his wife Becky had successful fertility treatment in the Czech Republic, Dimitris Kavakas of Embryolab based in Thessaloniki and Dr Carlos Doscouto of Spanish IVF clinic Women’s Health Dexeus.
Dealing with and treating, endometriosis with Haitham Hamoda, Consultant Gynaecologist in reproductive medicine and surgery at King’s College Hospital.
Top Ten ways to cope with infertility with Anya Sizer, rregional organiser at Fertility Network UK.
Surrogacy arrangements with Helen Prosser from non-profit UK surrogacy agency Brilliant Beginnings and Natalie Gamble, campaigner and founder of leading fertility law firm Natalie Gamble Associates.
Single woman in your 30s or 40s? Thinking about having a baby on your own? with Caroline Spencer, trustee for the Donor Conception Network.
New technologies in IVF with Lucy Richardson, Senior Embryologist at the UK’s Herts & Essex Fertility Centre and Dr Elizabeth Barbieri from US-based Oregon Reproductive Medicine.
Getting your head around treatments, clinics and statistics with Juliet Tizzard, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at the HFEA
.Men Matter Too with fertility Counsellor Anthony Ryb.
Fertility treatment on the NHS? with Anil Gudi and Amit Shah, Consultant Gynaecologists who run the NHS fertility service at the Homerton Fertility Centre in East London.
Nutrition to help with PCOS, endometriosis and fibroids with Dr Marilyn Glenville.
How to deal with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility with Dr Jane Stewart, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine at the Newcastle Fertility Centre.
How to keep costs down – do you really need those add-ons? with Yacoub Khalaf, Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS.
Overseas egg donors. Who are they and how are they chosen? with Dr Israel Ortega of IVI Madrid in Spain and Nancy Block of Fertility Source Companies in the US explain.
As you can see, there is something here for everyone and having access to so many experts under one roof presents a unique opportunity to learn more about fertility and the treatments which may help. You can buy tickets from the website www.fertilityshow.co.uk
The Fertility Show is run in association with Infertility Network UK. Seminars cost just one pound each once you’ve paid for entrance, and are an excellent opportunity to get a really good overview as well as a detailed understanding of specific fertility problems and treatments. Tickets are now on sale here
You may be interested in a programme I’ve been working on for BBC Radio Four about our increasing use of Danish sperm donors which will be broadcast tomorrow morning at 11 am.
The New Viking Invasion considers the rapid increase in imports of donor sperm from Denmark in recent years, and looks at why this has happened. It’s partly down to the efficient system the Danes offer, but also due to our system in the UK where fertility clinics don’t always have the time or resources to recruit their own donors. Only one in every twenty men who turns up offering to donate will be suitable, and the process of screening donors can be lengthy and costly. In Denmark, they have dedicated sperm banks which don’t do anything else.
Of course, some UK clinics do have donors – but you may not discover that if you don’t happen to go to the right place. Clinics don’t necessarily to want to refer their patients to other clinics – suggesting using a Danish donor is often easier and it means they keep the patient. One couple who feature in the programme had been told they could face a ten year wait for a UK donor – in fact, they later found one without a wait at another UK clinic.
We visited European Sperm Bank in Copenhagen for the programme and spoke to staff and to donors to find out why their system works so well, and spoke to many leading experts in the UK to discuss their views and concerns about our increasing use of Danish donors. You can hear the thoughts of Dr Allan Pacey of the British Fertility Society, Laura Witjens of the National Gamete Donation Trust, Ruth Wilde of BICA, Olivia Montuschi of the Donor Conception Network and Juliet Tizzard of the HFEA along with consultants Jane Stewart from Newcastle and Mark Hamilton from Aberdeen in the programme – as well as Danish donors and UK recipients.
The Donor Conception Network is twenty years old, and I was delighted to be invited to join members and friends last night to celebrate. I’m a huge fan of the DC Network which does so much to help anyone considering using donor eggs, sperm or embryos and their families. The network produces some fantastic information, but more than anything provides support for parents and their offspring – the film they showed about their work last night left a tear in many eyes as it was clear how they have helped people to feel proud and confident about donor conception.
The anniversary was also the opportunity to launch two new booklets produced by the Network and written by founder Olivia Montuschi. The first deals with telling friends and family for people who are considering using donor gametes, and the second is written for the family and friends of anyone using donor gametes. They are part of a series of books the network has produced called Talking and Telling which come highly recommended.
It is amazing how much things have changed since the DC Network was set up twenty years ago. At the time, using donor sperm tended to be something families kept a secret, and the decision to end donor anonymity was also very controversial when it was made. The members of the Donor Conception Network have played a key role in changing the way we view donor treatment as a society, and Olivia and Walter who have worked so tirelessly to help others deserve a huge thank you. It’s also the dedicated volunteers, and all the members who speak out about having donor treatment who are continuing to make such a difference. Well done to you all – and happy 20th birthday!