The British Fertility Society represents the professional groups working in the field of fertility, and they’ve been joining forces to try to ensure everyone experiencing fertility problems is as well-informed as possible about the current situation regarding fertility clinics and treatment. It is going to be a difficult time for everyone, but the Chair of the British Fertility Society, Dr Jane Stewart, has made a short video explaining how the fertility sector is responding to the current Coronavirus Pandemic and what this might mean for you if you are a fertility patient.
I haven’t posted here for a while but I think at the moment it might be useful to have information about the current situation for fertility patients. Most fertility clinics will not be taking on new patients in the current situation – many will have staff who are needed in other areas and this is to ensure everyone’s safety. It is inevitably a very difficult time for fertility patients, particularly if you were hoping to start a cycle shortly.
You may be interested in this latest guidance about the care of fertility patients from the British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive Clinical Scientists. Although it is primarily aimed at clinics, it does contain a lot of useful information and may help to explain the current situation more clearly.
Don’t forget, support is available. If you want to talk to a counsellor, the British Infertility Counselling Association has a list of specialist fertility counsellors across the country and most are now offering Skype or telephone sessions. The patient charity Fertility Network UK also offers online support and a helpline, and they are encouraging some of their local groups to try online meetings too.
I know this is incredibly tough for anyone who is experiencing fertility problems, but do use the support services available – most clinics are still keeping their counselling services open even though they may not be offering treatment. Do use Fertility Network UK too – the charity is there just for you.
Take care, Kate xxx
We’re all very aware of the female biological clock, but what we don’t hear so so much about is the fact that male sperm counts decline and DNA damage in sperm cells may increase as men get over. The fact that some high-profile men have become fathers when they are pensioners perpetuates the myth that male fertility lasts forever.
In fact, evidence shows men do have a biological clock with a decline in natural male fertility and an increase in the miscarriage rate as men get older. New evidence at ESHRE from one London fertility clinic shows that IVF/ICSI is less likely to succeed if a male partner is over 51 too.
Dr Guy Morris from the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health (CRGH) in London presented results at the ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) conference of an analysis of more than 5000 IVF/ICSI cycles which found that although there was no difference in miscarriage rates, there was a significant reduction in the chances of success
The results showed that that clinical pregnancy rate declined as men got older – from 49.9% when men were under 35, to 42.5% for men aged 36-40, 35.2% for those aged 41-45, 32.8% for those aged 46-50, and 30.5% in the over 51s.
The researchers also noted that 80% of couples where the male partners were over 51 were treated with ICSI, a treatment developed for male infertility. Dr Morris said: ‘There may well be a public perception that male fertility is independent of age. Stories of celebrity men fathering children into their 60s may give a skewed perspective on the potential risks of delaying fatherhood. Indeed, in natural conception and pregnancy it is only recently that evidence of risks associated with later fatherhood has become available. These more recent studies contrast with decades of evidence of the impact that maternal age has on fertility outcomes. In the context of this emerging evidence for the deleterious effect of increasing paternal age, our data certainly support the importance of educating men about their fertility and the risks of delaying fatherhood.’
Researchers are looking at patient information currently available about fertility treatment and are keen to talk to anyone who either has had treatment in the past or is thinking about it as an option. The study is called the Empowering Patient Informed Choices (EPIC) study and it is about developing better patient-centred information. The research team wants to know what helps when it comes to making decisions, particularly related to additional treatments.
You can take part here – it takes about ten minutes to complete the survey https://lse.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bdAnfkKd2YGp5qd
You may have heard in the news recently about the latest statistics on IVF success for women in their forties, and seen that Sally Cheshire, Chair of the fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has spoken out about the need for fertility clinics to be more honest and open with patients about their chances of IVF success.
The latest figures show that the number of women in their forties having IVF has doubled since 2004, but only 75 women aged 42 and 43 will get pregnant using their own eggs, and once you reach the age of 44, just two women a year are successful. To put that into context, approaching 11,000 women who were over 40 had IVF in 2017.
Some clinicians say that women are entering into IVF with their eyes open, well aware of the chances of a successful outcome, but you don’t have to talk to many women who have had IVF to know that is often far from the case. When you are longing for a baby, you tend to hear the positives rather than the negatives, and when there’s a 5% chance of success, it’s the 5% you focus on rather than the 95% chance of your treatment not working.
It is difficult as sometimes women feel that although they may be 44 or 45 and know it is unlikely that treatment will work, they still want some kind of closure and need to know they’ve done everything they possibly could.
Sally Cheshire talks in her interview about being approached by clinics at the Fertility Show in Manchester and being given unrealistic suggestions of her chances of having successful IVF treatment. It is vital for clinics to be honest about this – and it doesn’t take much searching to find clinics publishing clinical pregnancy rates for women in their mid-forties which many will see as their chance of having a baby – when in fact, miscarriage rates are high for women of this age and these clinics know only too well that the live birth rate is very different from the clinical pregnancy rate.
You can read more about Sally Cheshire’s interview with the Telegraph here
It starts today at the Barbican Centre in London, and if you haven’t checked it out already, do have a look at what’s on offer. There’s a whole range of events spread over a couple of weeks covering all aspects of fertility starting with today’s session on The Queer Family. Many of the sessions are in the evening so if you’re in reach of London, you can choose to go along after work and then there’s an entire Festival Day on May 3.
I’m honoured to be chairing a few of the sessions and having done this at Fertility Fest in the past, I can guarantee that the sessions will be fabulous. It’s incredibly moving to explore the issues raised by fertility through art, and there are some amazing artists taking part this year, joined by experts in the field.
Come along if you can, you won’t regret it! Tickets can be booked through the Barbican here.
At last year’s Fertility Fest I was lucky to be in a session with mother and daughter, Anna Furse and Nina Klaff, who gave an amazing performance about their experiences of IVF as a parent and as someone born through IVF. It was incredibly moving, and I was delighted to hear that Anna and Nina will be back performing at this year’s Fertility Fest at the Barbican where they will be joined in discussion afterwards with Channel Four News Health and Social Care Correspondent, Victoria MacDonald and Ann Daniels, a polar explorer and mother of IVF triplets.
The performance takes place on Friday 26 April at 7pm and you can book tickets here
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.
When you’re thinking about having fertility treatment, it’s probably the Injections, drugs and egg collection which sound challenging, but if you ask people who’ve had IVF what makes it so hard, most will say it’s dealing with your emotions which is the really tough part. It’s often described as an “emotional rollercoaster” and although that’s become rather a cliche, it’s true that it’s the ups and downs of treatment that are so hard to handle. IVF can feel like a series of hurdles and no sooner are do you get past one, than you find yourself facing the next along the way.
All fertility clinics offering IVF have to provide people with the opportunity to see a counsellor but it doesn’t have to be included in the cost of treatment. Some people are keen to have counselling support from the start, but others may feel they don’t want or need to see a counsellor, and it’s worth bearing in mind that it is fine to change your mind if you feel you want to access support further down the line.
It may be that part of your concern about counselling is that you aren’t quite sure what it might involve and you may have visions of yourself lying on a couch talking about childhood traumas. If you want to know more about fertility counselling and how it might help, Angela Pericleous-Smith, chair of the British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA) will be speaking on the subject at the Fertility Forum in London on March 30. BICA trains the counsellors who work in the UK’s fertility clinics and offers a “find a counsellor” service to help you to ensure that you can access specialist support no matter where you live. Angela will be talking about the pressures on yourself, your relationships and your friendships. She will explore coping strategies and explain how to manage anxieties.
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’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.