Thank you Fertility Fest!

I have spent the past few days at Fertility Fest at the Bush Theatre in London, and wanted to thank Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier for organising such a wonderful and inspiring event. It was a unique opportunity for people affected by fertility problems and treatment, for those working in the fertility sector, for those who have families not created in the traditional way, for academics and for the general public to come together and to learn and be inspired. It was absolutely fabulous!

I met amazing artists and so many inspiring and interesting people doing all kinds of different work to help and support others in different ways. It was a real honour to be involved. A special thank you to the lovely Saskia Boujo and everyone I shared a panel with – artist Gina Glover, Dr Kay Elder, Sally Cheshire, Dr Roy FarquharsonMaria Da Luz Ghoumrassi, Dr Shantel Ehrenberg, Barbara Scott, Jane Denton, Anna Furse, Nina Klaff, Drunken Sailor Theatre Company, Victoria Macdonald, Foz Foster, Tabitha Moses, Professor Lesley Regan, Professor Simon Fishel, Yvonne John, Sue Macmillan, Carmel Dennehy, Tracey Sainsbury, Fiona Duffelen – to Paula Knight who was unable to be with us but sent a video – and of course, to those wonderful women Jessica and Gabby who have created something really very special!

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

IVF funding situation is “shocking”

The latest figures released by Fertility Fairness earlier this week about funding for IVF treatment have been described as “shocking” by the President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Lesley Regan.

Commenting on the fact that so few clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are currently following national guidance and that the number which have completely removed NHS IVF has almost doubled in the last year, Professor Regan said “These figures are shocking and it’s very disappointing to see even fewer CCGs following NICE guidance and providing full access to NHS fertility treatment. Current access to treatment is a postcode lottery and these health inequalities people face are unacceptable. Infertility can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, causing distress, depression, and the breakdown of relationships. IVF treatment is cost-effective and should be available on the NHS. The RCOG is committed to working with UK commissioners and healthcare providers to support them in following NICE Fertility Guidelines.”

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.

Don’t forget – it’s the Fertility Show this weekend

logoIt’s not too late to get your tickets for the Fertility Show this weekend, and there are still some remaining spaces for many of the seminars. If you haven’t been before and can get to London’s Olympia this weekend, it’s well worth a visit no matter what stage you are at on your fertility journey. There are an amazing range of seminars with speakers covering all aspects of fertility and treatment, and exhibitors from clinics as well as Infertility Network UK, the HFEA, the Donor Conception Network and a stand with all the professionals working in the field run by the British Fertility Society.

When it comes to seminars, there are talks from Zita West, nutritionist Marilyn Glenville and IVF Hammersmith’s Stuart Lavery on the basics.  You’ll find James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lister Fertility Clinic, Yacoub Khalaf and Tarek El-Toukhy from Guys and St Thomas’, Professor Geeta Nargund, from CREATE Fertility, the HFEA’s Juliet Tizzard, Professor Lesley Regan, Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, Dimitrios Nikolaou from Chelsea and Westminster NHS Hospital, Dr Melanie Davies, consultant in the Reproductive Medicine Unit at London’s NHS University College Hospital, Sam Abdalla, Director of the Lister Fertility Clinic, Kamal Ahuja of the London Women’s ClinicM Professor Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society and Tim Child from Oxford Fertility among many others.

The seminars will also cover donor conception, complementary therapies, coping strategies, adoption and there’s even a yoga session – so, something for everyone.

Do come along and say hello – I’ll be at the Infertility Network UK stand throughout the weekend!

 

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 

 

 

Are you coming to the Fertility Show this weekend?

header_510_graphicIt’s not too late to get tickets if you are interested in coming along to the Fertility Show this weekend at London’s Olympia – and if you register at Infertility Network UK, which is completely free, you can get a discount on your entrance.

It’s a huge event, and can be rather overwhelming, but what it does present is a unique opportunity to hear some of the country’s leading experts in the field talking about their subject – there’s Dr Allan Pacey on male fertility, Sam Abdalla of the Lister Fertility Clinic on treating women with reduced ovarian reserve and his colleage James Nicopoullos on fertility testing,  Yacoub Khalaf of Guy’s and St Thomas’ on improving the odds of IVF working for you and his colleague Tarek El-Touhky on treatment for older women, Professor Lesley Regan of St Mary’s Hospital will talk about dealing with recurrent miscarriage, Lord Winston will discuss how to deal with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, Stuart Lavery of IVF Hammersmith is talking about fertility basics and Zita West will cover nutrition and complementary therapies. If you want to find out about any aspect of fertility or treatment, you will find a seminar that will be useful in a schedule of more than fifty different talks from leading experts.

There are also the exhibition stands covering many different aspects of fertility. A number of UK clinics are represented – the Bourn Hall chain of clinics, the fourteen clinics in the CARE fertility chain which now cover many areas of the UK, City Fertility, Create, Guy’s Assisted Conception Unit, Herts and Essex Fertility Centre, Homerton, IVF Hammersmith, King’s College Hospital ACU, the Lister, London Fertility Centre, Newlife and Poundbury Fertility. There are also clinics from across the world, along with complementary therapists, charities and support organisations. This year for the first time the British Fertility Society will have a stand representing the professional bodies involved in fertility, and this is a very welcome development.

The Fertility Show is sometimes criticised for laying bare the commercialisation of the fertility industry, but I think it is most helpful to approach the two-day event understanding that there may well be things that aren’t for you and that you will need to sift out what is most helpful for your individual situation. Look at the list of exhibitors and think about which you might want to make time for.

One often overlooked aspect of the Fertility Show is the sheer numbers of people who come through the doors – there is something very positive to be gained from being with so many other people who are going through similar experiences and who understand how you are feeling. The fact that there are 3.5 million people at any given time in the UK experiencing fertility problems is something that it can be hard to believe if you are feeling isolated and lonely – but being in one place with so many other people who are struggling to conceive can feel unexpectedly empowering.

This year’s Fertility Show

The programme is now published for this year’s Fertility Show, taking place at London’s Olympia on November 1 and 2. The range of seminars this year looks better than ever, with talks from many of the leading experts in the field; there’s Dr Allan Pacey from the University of Sheffield, chair of the British Fertility Society, on male problems, there’s Lord Robert Winston on unexplained infertility, Professor Lesley Regan on recurrent miscarriage, Zita West, Marilyn Glenville, Yacoub Khalaf and Tarek-El Toukhy from Guy’s, Sam Abdalla from the Lister, Dr Thomas Mathews from Bourn Hall, leading embryologist Rachel Cutting, Laura Witjens of the National Gamete Donation TrustGeetha Nargund from Create  and Olivia Montuschi of the Donor Conception Network and Geetha Nargund from Create  – oh, and me too!

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 header_510_graphic