Raising awareness of endometriosis

Yesterday in London while a million people joined the People’s March, there was another smaller march going on to raise awareness of endometriosis.

The aim of EndoMarch 2019 was to help to publicise tthe need for faster diagnosis, greater education and more funds for research into better treatments and an eventual cure. Marches in other cities and across the world will be taking place next weekend.

There are around 1.5 million women living with endometriosis in the UK, and it can cause painful or heavy periods, exhaustion and bladder and bowel problems. Endometriosis doesn’t always affect fertility, but around half of women with endometriosis experience difficulty conceiving and it is a common cause of fertility problems. It’s a condition where cells which are similar to the womb lining are found in other parts of the body.

Women with endometriosis are not always getting a diagnosis when they visit a doctor with symptoms, and research suggests that it takes on average seven to eight years to be diagnosed. During this time, women are often suffering in silence, uncertain of the cause of their problems.

Endometriosis one of the subjects up for discussion at the Fertility Forum in London on March 30. Ertan Saridogan is a fertility expert with a special interest in endometriosis and he will be explaining how endometriosis affects your fertility. He will cover all the options for treatment and how to choose between them.

The Fertility Forum is a non-commercial evidence-based day which has been organised by patients and all the professional bodies in the field working together, and aims to help those who have been trying to make sense of the overwhelming mass of information on offer. It takes place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is open to anyone who wants to know more about their fertility.

Tickets for the Fertility Forum are on sale here – and you can see more details of the day including a full programme here.

Are you confused by fertility nutrition advice?

The chances are you won’t have been through fertility treatment without hearing some nutritional advice about what you should, and shouldn’t be eating. Some of it is very helpful, about following a balanced healthy eating plan, but some of it can start to become quite complicated – and potentially confusing. Should you be eating one piece of pineapple every day for three days after embryo transfer? Or should you be shaving the flesh off, slicing the core into five slices and eating one a day for five days? Should you be drinking one pint of  pure pineapple juice a day? Or are you meant to be avoiding the juice entirely and just consuming the core? And what about the Brazil nuts? Are you meant to eat seven a day? Or three? Or four? Or five? Should you be drinking half a litre of full-fat organic milk every day? Or should you be avoiding all dairy products especially milk and yoghurt as it builds up mucus which interferes with implantation? Then there’s the question of supplements? Should you be taking special fertility supplements, or a range of different individual supplements? Or should you not need any supplements at all if you’re following a healthy eating plan?

If you’ve ever felt confused by fertility eating and lifestyle advice, you may want to get some evidence-based information from an expert in the field. Reproductive biologist and nutrition scientist Grace Dugdale will be at the Fertility Forum in London on March 30, where she will give evidence-based information about health, diet and lifestyle in relation to male  and female fertility. She will talk about what can impact on your fertility, and about preparing your body for pregnancy.

The Fertility Forum is a non-commercial evidence-based day which has been organised by patients and all the professional bodies in the field working together, and aims to help those who have been trying to make sense of the overwhelming mass of information on offer. It takes place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is open to anyone who wants to know more about their fertility.

Tickets for the Fertility Forum are on sale here – and you can see more details of the day including a full programme 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

 

 

Could you be a lay examiner?

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) exams department is recruiting a new pool of Lay Examiners. The Membership Exam (MRCOG), for hospital doctors wishing to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology, consists of a Part 1 written examination, Part 2 written examination, and Part 3 examination which is a role-play style Clinical Assessment involving multiple tasks. The new pool of examiners will build the capacity the College has to examine Part 3 as there is a growing number of doctors applying for the exam.

Part 3 aims to assess candidates’ ability to apply core clinical and communication skills in the context of the skills, knowledge, attitudes and competencies as defined in the MRCOG curriculum. For this, candidates are examined by Clinical Examiners alongside Lay Examiners. How doctors effectively communicate with and support their patients to understand their health and the choices they have is a crucial part of their role and the care they provide. Lay Examiners are responsible for assessing these skills.

Exams take place several times a year in London. This is a paid opportunity, remunerated at a fee of £125 per day of examining, excluding training days and the briefing session held the day before the examination. Travel is organised and paid for by the College and accommodation is provided for Lay Examiners who cannot travel to and from the College daily, on the days of examinations.

This is the second time the RCOG has recruited Lay Examiners. The College did so two years ago when Lay Examiners were first introduced into the Part 3, and they have since been successfully examining.

You can read the full role description, requirements and application process on web page below.

The closing date for applications is Wednesday 5th September, with a selection and training day scheduled for 25th September.

https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/about-us/get-involved-with-our-work/rcog-roles/part-3-mrcog-lay-examiners/

What do you think about egg freezing?

There has been quite a debate about egg freezing after a call for the NHS to offer egg freezing for women of 30 to 35 as an insurance policy for their future fertility – you can read more about it here. Although the suggestion was supported by the patient charity Fertility Network UK, others didn’t agree, and Lord Winston warned that he felt women risked being exploited by the suggestion. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also called for caution where social egg freezing is concerned. It’s an interesting debate.

Perhaps freezing eggs might for some women save future heartache, but it’s still far from guaranteed that taking this option will result in a baby in the future. As anyone who has experience of IVF knows, having a good stock of eggs doesn’t bring any certainties, and women might need to go through a number of cycles of freezing to have eggs for the future. But could investing in egg freezing save the NHS money in the long run? An egg freezing cycle is essentially the same as an IVF cycle but split into different stages – so you are still harvesting eggs, fertilising them in the laboratory and then replacing them into the womb at a later date. So might you actually end up paying for IVF for women who might not ever need it? The reality is that the majority of people pay for their fertility treatment themselves, and perhaps sorting out the postcode lottery of funding for IVF in England would be a better first move as this is a medical treatment for people who have fertility issues, rather than a medical treatment for people who are trying to insure against having difficulties in the future.  What do you think?

Join the Women’s Network

If you haven’t yet put in your application, you have until Monday 7 May to apply to join the brilliant Women’s Network at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The RCOG Women’s Network is a dynamic committee which lies at the heart of the College’s work to improve the health of people who use obstetric and gynaecological services. The lay women on the Network ensure the views of the public impact meaningfully on women’s  experience of healthcare services and their treatment outcomes.

As a member of the Network you will work collaboratively with other Network members, doctors and RCOG staff to inform the College’s activities from the public perspective. Membership is a voluntary opportunity which requires significant time and commitment, however brings rewarding benefits and the chance to influence care and services in the areas of fertility, pregnancy and birth, menopause and gynaecological conditions.

You can find out more about the role here, but if you’re enthusiastic with a keen interest in women’s health and if you are dedicated to making a difference, come and join us!

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

Vacancies

If you are interested in a role in the world of women’s health, there are some fabulous opportunities open at the moment. For anyone looking to volunteer, the Women’s Network  which I chair at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has some spaces. It’s a fantastic group of dynamic women committed to improving women’s health experiences, and members must be able to commit at least two full days at the College (in central London) every three months when meetings take place. New members of the Network will be expected to become involved in the work of a committees relating to RCOG’s work too, and to have regular email contact. It is a big ask, but it’s an extremely rewarding and interesting role and a chance to make a real difference. There are more details here

There are also two jobs at the charity Fertility Network UK. One is a short-term cover role for a co-ordinator for the charity for the whole of England, which is an amazing job. The other is for a co-ordinator for More to Life, the part of the charity which works for people who are childless, after stopping treatment or deciding not to have it – a really important role.There are some fabulous people working for the charity and you will have great colleagues. If you are interested, you can find out more 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.

Are you interested in equality and diversity?

If the promotion of equality and diversity is something you feel passionate about, you may be interested in the opportunity to join the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Equality and Diversity Committee. The RCOG is looking for doctors and lay members to join the committee which was set up in 2014 to monitor the way the College works.

This is a voluntary role and involves joining four two hour meetings a year which are held by video conference and take place on weekday afternoons. If it’s something you think may be of interest to you, you can find more details here about the Committee and what is involved