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?

How late you can leave it – again…

So, the debate about when women should get pregnant goes on… When fertility specialist Geeta Nargund called for fertility education, it soon turned into a heated discussion about whether doctors should be telling people when to get pregnant (which, if you read what she actually said, Geeta Nargund hadn’t).

Not long afterwards, Lord Winston, still one of the country’s best-known fertility experts, said that he thought that delaying motherhood was a good thing, and that there were many advantages to waiting to start a family. Now the Chair of the British Fertility Society, Adam Balen, has added his voice to the debate, pointing out that it is important that women are aware of the risks of trying to get pregnant later – you can read his remarks, and a reply from Lord Winston here. The “row” may be largely manufactured by the Daily Mail, but it continues to raise important points about the biological clock and women’s awareness of their fertility.

Whatever your views on the subject, it doesn’t alter the fact that proper fertility education can only ever be a good thing. There are all kinds of reasons why women delay having children – often more to do with circumstance than choice – but being well-informed about the lifestyle factors that can influence your fertility can be hugely beneficial whatever age you may be,

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

Lord Winston calls for better provision of NHS fertility treatment

Thanks to Lord Winston, for using the occasion of receiving an honorary degree from Birmingham City University to call for better provision of IVF from the NHS. This comes at a time when we’ve seen a number of high-profile cases where commissioners are clearly showing how little commitment they have to helping fertility patients – from Vale of York where the CCG did a bizarre U-turn having promised to start funding IVF and then changing their minds just a few weeks later to Mid-Essex where they have come up with the extraordinary idea of only offering fertility treatment to people who don’t actually have fertility problems…

Lord Winston also talked about alternatives to IVF – as he feels it is often offered as the only treatment where others may be just as good if not better. You can read more about what he said here 

Free fertility advice

I wrote an article in The Guardian at the weekend about a new free fertility advice service Professor Lord Winston is setting up.  It’s due to be launched at the end of the week, and you will be able to send in any questions about fertility and treatment to Lord Winston for his response.  The service is completely free of charge, but you can offer a donation to the Genesis Research Trust, a charity which carries out women’s health research projects.

It’s a service which is bound to prove hugely popular as Lord Winston is one of our best-known fertility specialists due to his television appearances – and the prospect of free advice from a knowledgeable expert is going to be attractive to fertility patients in a world where so many people are making money from their distress.

Lord Winston has spoken out repeatedly about the commercialisation of the fertility industry which hasn’t made him flavour of the month with many other specialists in the field who will often tell you that he very sceptical about IVF in the early days.  This is entirely true, but doesn’t detract from the fact that he is seen by many patients as the trustworthy friendly face of fertility specialists.

If you want to send Lord Winston a question, the service should be up and running at www.genesisresearchtrust.com by the end of the month.

Would you ask strangers for money to pay for IVF?

It may sound incredible, but apparently people are having to come up with ever more inventive ways to fund their fertility treatment in the current economic situation.  With many couples already living on overdrafts, cutting back on holidays or other luxuries will not free up the ready cash needed, and getting loans or using already overloaded credit cards is becoming increasingly difficult. So, in the States at least, some couples have apparently turned to the internet using websites or Facebook to ask strangers for money to fund their treatment – see this article.  Could you consider this? Should you have to?

Here in the UK, the postcode lottery for treatment continues to cause distress to many couples who find they can’t access IVF despite being eligible according to the national guidelines because in their local area the primary care trust has decided not to fund treatment – or to ration it.  It can be very difficult to find the money for private treatment which will cost more than the NHS would pay.  Lord Winston campaigned on this some time ago – saying that many clinics were hugely overcharging for fertility treatment and that it could be far cheaper.

Asking strangers for money may seem extreme, but does perhaps illustrate how difficult it can be to live with involuntary childlessness…