I have just booked my ticket for this year’s Fertility Show at London Olympia in November. It’s a bargain at £11 for the day and only £1 for each seminar you wish to get to. I’ve booked myself a full day of seminars with a bit of time to nosy around the stalls and chat to people in the world of fertility. The seminars that I’m interested in are about immunology and IVF, recurrent miscarriage, reduced ovarian reserve and new techniques in IVF. Leeds RMU consultant Adam Balen is talking about PCOS too.
Last year’s show was excellent. I met Geeta from CREATE fertility who convinced me of the merits of mild and natural IVF and learned about a host of great resources and services such as inofolic for women with PCOS.
If anyone is trying to get pregnant, naturally or with IVF, a few hours at this show can equip you with lots of knowledge.
We are really excited that we are starting to stock products from Neal’s Yard Organic in the clinic. Many of you will know them by their gorgeous and iconic dark blue glass bottles. We have always loved their products – their geranium and orange handwash has long been one of my favourite treats. Neal’s Yard Organics is based on ethical principles that we are keen to support. A family business, set up in 1981, they still grow many of their own plants and herbs on their farm in Dorset. All the products are organic and are recognised by The Soil Association. They have never tested on animals and they were the first health and beauty company to be awarded 100/100 for ethics in the Ethical Company Organisations’ Ethical Awards. Neal’s Yard believe that real beauty comes from the inside first, and as we believe that acupuncture helps to create balance and promotes well-being, we see a relationship with Neal’s Yard as a perfect fit.
We have a small choice of products in clinic that you are welcome to sniff and try out. We also have catalogues that you can flick through to choose how you may wish to treat yourself or your friend’s or family. You can place an order directly with Caitlin and have it delivered either straight to you or to us here in clinic for you to collect. Or if you would prefer to order online directly, please do so here.
And please do let us know what products you love. We will be building up our stock and want it to reflect what we think our patients will love best.
Many women we see have been told by their reproductive medicine consultants that they have ‘old eggs’. This seems to be a fairly standard conclusion once women have been through failed IVF, or for any woman over the age of 38. It’s an explanation that concerns me because it’s a simple conclusion to make based often on very little. We talk to the women we see instead about enhancing their ‘fertile environment’. We know that blood flow for instance, becomes more stagnant as we get older, and this can have an effect on the ripening or maturing of eggs in follicles. Acupuncture has a positive effect on blood flow and this is one of the key reasons we recommend women having fertility treatment receive acupuncture to support that procedure. We want to talk about quality and not quantity.
An interesting study has just been published, headed by Dr Wu, an embryologist in New York. She concludes from the research carried out on older women having IVF that it “is not the aging eggs themselves that are responsible for lower success rates among older women, but the aging of the eggs’ environment that is to blame”. The study suggests that what could happen in future is that eggs are collected at an earlier stage in IVF. Rather than aiming to get follicles which contain the eggs to the measurement of 19-21mm prior to egg collection, they could be collected when they measure just 16mm. Read more here.
Clinics such as CREATE, also take a different view and focus on blood flow and quality rather than quantity of eggs produced in IVF, favouring mild or natural IVF, in particular for older women.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ in IVF and we urge women and couples seeking treatment to find the best approach for them individually.
We have been suspicious of the use of some non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for some time in terms of their link with ovulation function. Zita West advises us that women who take high doses of NSAID’s such as ibuprofen may be compromising their ovulation. This can be an issue for women who have painful periods and rely on pain alleviating over the counter drugs to manage their pain (this includes brands of ibuprofen such as nurofen). When we work with this group of women, who wish to conceive, one of our aims is to reduce period pain so that they no longer need to take pain control medications.
A recent study has just reported their findings that taking other other NSAID’s such as diclofenic, naproxen and etoricoxib for just 10 days reduces the liklihood of ovulation that cycle by 73-94%! Diclofenic is commonly sold as Voltorol in the UK and naproxen can also be found in drugs such as Sudafed 12 hour pressure and pain tablets. These are commonly prescribed medications for pain such as back pain, frozen shoulder and rheumatoid arthritis. Read more here.
Acupuncture can help women who are trying to conceive by managing other symptoms of ill health. Acupuncture seeks to get to the root of the problem as well as reducing symptoms such as pain and we often see people who quickly can reduce or stop the pain medication that they are taking. At the same time we can work on the body’s hormones, prompting ovulation and ensuring that the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian function which controls ovulation is regulated and in balance.
Our advice for women trying to conceive who require pain relief is to talk to your GP and pharmacist and ensure you are being prescribed an ovulation and pregnancy friendly medication. This may mean that paracetemol is the only medication that is safe to use. Consider other helpful strategies such as heat (hot water bottles, wheatbags, heat patches), massage, stretching, and physical therapies such as acupuncture.
There is an account in the Guardian this weekend written by Rebecca Seal, of her fertility journey. She beautifully, and heartbreakingly, describes the rollercoaster ride of trying to get pregnant. Although it is some years since I was trying to conceive, her description bought back memories to me of the secretness and lonliness of that path. She points out that infertility is a deeply private issue, yet fertility is not. Women of childbearing age are repeatedly asked why they are not producing, and given unasked for tips for how to maximise their fertility.
When we see see couples or women alone who are trying to get pregnant, we ask them to share their fertility journey with us. Each of us has a different story and walks a seperate path, although many of us share the same route and recognise landmarks along the way. We don’t want the couples and women we see to feel isolated and alone. We encourage you to share your feelings in the safety of our treatment rooms. Struggling to conceive is hard enough. We don’t need the judgement and isolation that can go with it.
You will know someone who has or is struggling to get pregnant, even if you don’t know it. If they open up to you the best thing you can offer is to listen. Ask if there is anything that you can do to help. Offer to act as a ‘buffer’ in social or family groups. Let them know that you are there to listen if they want to talk but that you also will not pry or ask them every time you see them if there is ‘news’ or how they are with a knowing look in your eye. None of us want to be defined by our fertility or lack of it. Let’s reach out to each other and share our stories.