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.
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.
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
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) is recruiting new volunteer lay members to its Women’s Network. The RCOG works to improve health care for women everywhere by setting standards for clinical practice, providing doctors in the specialty with training and lifelong learning and advocating for women’s health.
The College’s Women’s Network is a lay group that advises on and guides the organisation’s involvement of women within its work. The Network meets quarterly as its own committee and leads project work. Members also bring their skills and experience across many of the RCOG’s core committees on work areas such as the curriculum and education of doctors; the development of guidelines and patient information; and patient safety. Membership of the Network is a challenging voluntary commitment but a rewarding opportunity to have real influence to ensure women’s views have a meaningful impact on women’s health outcomes and their experience of services.
The evening began with short talks from each of the speakers. Fertility specialist Dr Melanie Davies began with a neat summary of the biological facts, illustrating how fertility declines with age, how the rate of miscarriage increases and how IVF success rates follow that pattern. Infertility Network UK‘s Chief Executive Susan Seenan followed, talking about the charity’s Scottish education project which is funded by the government there. The project has exposed a lack of knowledge among students about basic fertility facts, and has shown how learning more can influence their choices going forwards. Helen Fraser, Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust sounded a note of caution about the realities for young women today, and discussed how going to University, having a career, finding the right person to have children with and a suitable home can all lead women to delay childbearing. Finally sex and relationships educator Justin Hancock who writes at bishuk.com spoke about what is wrong with today’s sex and relationships education and why all too often it doesn’t give young people the information they need.
The discussion which followed, chaired by Professor Adam Balen of the British Fertility Society was fascinating with many varied views – is it essential that everyone is properly informed about fertility or would fertility education just be placing adult problems on children? Does fertility education imply that lifestyle choices might be to blame for infertility? Is it time for a complete overhaul of the way we talk to young people about sex and relationships? The audience included a good number of young people who actively engaged in the discussion making interesting points and asking questions.
So would fertility education be a good thing? Should it be an essential part of every young person’s education to ensure they are properly informed? Or do we risk giving them yet another thing to worry about at a time when they have so much to deal with already? My own view is that we miss the point if we focus on teaching about “infertility” as what really matters here is fertility awareness – and I do believe young people should be taught about their own fertility in a way that my generation wasn’t. But what do you think? Would knowing more about your own fertility have made a difference to you?
Fabulous news that the brilliant Professor Allan Pacey, one of the UK’s leading experts on male fertility, has been awarded a very well-deserved MBE. Professor Pacey from Sheffield University’s Department of Oncology and Human Metabolism and Head of Andrology for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was recognised in the annual list for his services to reproductive medicine.
He joined the University of Sheffield in 1992 as a postdoctoral scientist and made a Professor of Andrology in 2014. During his career, he has written 137 papers on ground breaking research into many aspects of male fertility including how sperm function inside the human body, the impact of sexually transmitted infections, such as Chlamydia, on sperm, and fertility issues in men diagnosed with cancer (oncofertility).
In 2014, he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in recognition of his pioneering research into male fertility over the past 20 years.
Professor Pacey is well known in the media where his thoughts often provide a sensible and realistic view on stories which are sometimes either alarming or over-hyped. He has worked on a number of film and television programmes including: Britain’s Secret Code Breaker (2011), Donor Unknown (2011), The Great Sperm Race (2009) and Make me a Baby (2004).
Would you be interested in becoming a lay spokesperson on fertility issues for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists? The College wants to be able communicate women’s health issues effectively to the media – and is looking to recruit and train a volunteer lay spokesperson to represent the College in the media from a patient/public perspective. The College believes that it helps to hear people speak about their own personal experiences – and that lay spokespeople are good at communicating complex subjects in a clear, understandable way, which often helps the journalist to understand that subject and in turn their audiences.
Could you help represent patient views to specialists? Are you interested in a demanding but rewarding voluntary role? The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Women’s Network is currently recruiting two new lay members.
What is the Women’s Network?
The Network is a group of 14 lay volunteers (and three clinical representatives) whose experience of services as patients helps the College to better understand the needs of women.
Unlike the RCOG’s Women’s Voices Involvement Panel – which is a virtual group – the Women’s Network meets in person four times a year. Members also sit on other College committees and boards on areas such as; education and training of doctors; the development of clinical guidelines; and the implementation and monitoring of clinical audits. The Network also has its own body of work, leading on projects around particular areas it feels are important to women.
If you’ve been through fertility treatment, you’ll know only too well how important it is to get emotional support – and this has now been recognised in a review published by The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (the Journal of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which is the professional body for fertility specialists).
The review says that clinic staff should think about patients’ emotional needs as well as focusing on treatment options, and tresses that they should view infertility solely in biological or medical terms, overlooking the vital role that fertility counselling has to play.
We know that at present fertility patients don’t always find it easy to access counselling services when they are having treatment – there are sometimes long waits to see a counsellor and not all clinics promote counselling very well to patients. It is important that this changes in the future – and that there is more recognition of the emotional stress caused by fertility problems and treatment.