Happy New Year

images-8Just to send you all my very best wishes for 2014 – and to remind you that if you’ve been having difficulty getting pregnant and are going into the new year hoping that this will be the year that things move on, you don’t need to feel lonely and isolated on your journey.  There are lots of organisations and charities offering support and advice which is honest, reliable and often completely free.

The charity Infertility Network UK is one of the best sources of general advice and support for anyone trying unsuccessfully to conceive – yes, I’m biased as I’m the charity’s regional organiser for London and the South East but I do the job because I think the charity has so much to offer to anyone experiencing fertility problems. There is online support, but also regional meetings and support groups, telephone support from peers and medical professionals and the charity also plays a key role in raising awareness of infertility and in campaigning for better NHS funding and for fair access to fertility treatment.

If you are thinking of using donor sperm and/or eggs, the Donor Conception Network should be your first port of call – a fantastic charity that offers so much help and support at every stage.  There are meetings, workshops, books and advice for all those who may consider using donor gametes for whatever reason, and the charity works with families who have used donor conception and adults who were donor conceived.

For those who have polycystic ovary syndrome, Verity-PCOS is fantastic source of information and advice – run by the dedication of a small band of volunteers it offers a highly professional service covering all aspects of PCOS.  The Daisy Network is another excellent organisation, offering help to those who have experienced an early menopause.

If you’re thinking of a future without children, there are two fabulous organisations that can offer help.  More to Life is for those who are involuntarily childless and offers a support network across the country with regional groups, meetings and a support line. Gateway Women is run by the dynamic Jody Day who runs a range of workshops, local groups and offers online support for those who are childless by circumstance.  For emotional support, you may also want to consider Lesley Pyne who offers support to childless women.

So don’t let yourself feel isolated – there are 3.5 million people out there who are having difficulty conceiving in the UK right now, and being in touch with others who understand just how you feel can make all the difference.  I hope that 2014 will bring happiness to you all.


Be careful what you pay for….

Many years ago I worked on a breakfast television news programme on Channel Four, and every morning we would have a succession of guest arriving at the studios to talk about the news stories of the day. As being a guest on our programme meant getting up very early in the morning for a fairly small audience, we didn’t always attract the big names and we had a running joke in the newsroom that you qualified as an “expert” if you’d appeared on three breakfast TV shows.

I was reminded of this recently when I was talking to some specialists in the fertility field about the number of people who are now setting themselves up as fertility coaches, consultants or holistic therapists. Some of these people may have a wealth of experience and lots to offer.  There are others, however, who know no more about fertility than anyone who has been through a treatment cycle  – but have realised that there is a market for “advice” which they are happy to exploit.

If you are going to pay anyone to give you advice, please think carefullly about what it is that they are going to be offering you that you can’t get elsewhere without paying anything at all.  Infertility Network UK offers excellent support and information which is all completely free, and the charities working in more specific areas of fertility such as the Donor Conception Network or Verity for PCOS can offer tailored information for your situation. Your local fertility unit, the HFEA, the BFS and the RCOG are all sources of accurate medical information, and BICA has qualified fertility counsellors who can offer specialist support.  These are all people with expertise in fertility who provide information you can trust.

Do be careful before parting with money to pay for fertility “support services” or consultations.  Check exactly what qualifications the “consultant” or “coach” has, and make sure that you aren’t paying for services that are offered free of charge and more  accurately, efficiently and honestly elsewhere.

afterword – The Fertility Show…

This weekend’s Fertility Show was very busy – more than 3,600 visitors over the weekend – and it was lovely to meet some of you and to find many old friends too.  The seminar programme this year was fantastic with really interesting topics addressed by some of the world’s leading experts in their fields and most of the talks appeared to be packed out.

There were quite a few clinics from the UK exhibiting at the Show, mainly from London and the South East, but they were rather outnumbered by their counterparts from overseas who have clearly realised that more and more people are considering travelling for fertility treatment.  There were fertility specialists from Spain, Russia, Latvia, Georgia, Italy, Barbados, the Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Sweden and across the USA from Florida to Chicago. I spoke to a number of people who were considering treatment overseas and they’d found it really helpful to have so many different clinics from around the world all gathered under one roof.  It can be very hard to distinguish between one and another when you’re only judging them on their websites and email communications, and the opportunity to meet staff face to face and get a feel for the clinics and what they can offer is quite unique.

For me, it was really good to see so many patient support organisations there too – Infertility Network UK, the Donor Conception Network, International Asherman’s Association, Klinefelter’s Syndrome Association, Fleur and the lovely team from Verity PCOS who must be congratulated on their purple theme which even went as far as a rather wonderful pair of handmade purple earings…

As it is National Adoption Week, it was heartening to see that a number of fostering and adoption agencies were represented too as this is an alternative route to parenthood that some may want to consider.

Everyone I spoke to who’d visited the Show had found it to be a beneficial experience.  I know some people do feel it is a rather commercial affair for a medical problem, but fertility treatment is a massive commercial industry. Personally, I think the opportunities a weekend at The Fertility Show can offer outweigh any such concerns.  If you’re not into fertility astrology or crystal therapy, you don’t need to spend time at the stands offering them. It’s a matter of picking and choosing the things that you want to know more about and making the most of the opportunities the weekend can afford.