Egg freezing allows women to save their eggs for when they are ready to start a family, making the most of their fertility when it is at its peak.

From RHG – IVF Life we want to ensure every woman has the opportunity to start a family at whatever point in her life that she feels most comfortable and prepared at.

But not only that, egg freezing also allows patients diagnosed with cancer to preserve their fertility, before starting cancer treatment, in order to be able to seek pregnancy once the disease has been overcome.

Why is it important for women to know about fertility preservation?

The time at which many women seek pregnancy is increasingly delayed by the search for work and economic stability, and even by the absence of a partner.

Unfortunately, the search for personal stability does not always coincide with the time when a woman is most fertile. As age advances, the chances of achieving pregnancy naturally become less and less, as the quantity and quality of eggs begins to decrease with age.

Women should be aware that their fertility begins to decline from the age of 35 onwards, with the decline being more marked from the age of 37 onwards and leaving very few options for achieving a natural pregnancy from the age of 40 onwards.

For this reason, the option of freezing your eggs to preserve your fertility and have the peace of mind of being able to decide the best time to face motherhood is becoming increasingly important.

How is egg freezing performed?

Egg vitrification is a simple technique that allows the freezing and storage of eggs until the patient decides that the right time has come to become pregnant without the eggs losing their quality. For this reason, it is advisable to have it done before the age of 35, when the quality begins to decline.

To do this, the eggs are frozen using cryoprotective means in liquid nitrogen at -196ºC.

Previously, the patient must undergo a small ovarian stimulation to obtain a greater number of eggs than she produces in each natural cycle. In this way, there are more options to extract quality eggs and increase the chances of pregnancy when she decides that her time has come.

Fertility preservation for oncological reasons

Today, thanks to early detection of the disease, cancer patients have a high recovery rate.

However, these treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can unfortunately have a negative effect on their reproductive health. But with our fertility preservation treatment, we give you the option of preserving your eggs or sperm prior to receiving cancer treatment, patients will be able to use their eggs/sperm to conceive once they have fully recovered and feel ready to do so.

When couples have to start an assisted reproduction treatment, many doubts and uncertainties arise. A new world of terms and information appears before them that is often not easy to understand.

We must understand that Reproductive Medicine is an unknown science for most people. Until they suspect that there may be a problem related to their reproductive health, most patients are almost completely unaware of what assisted reproduction consists of and the different techniques and treatments that exist to achieve pregnancy.

Through our blog, we would like to explain some terms that may generate some questions related to the main assisted reproduction treatments.

What are the differences between In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) are two of the most common treatments performed in assisted reproduction clinics today.

Although they can sometimes be confused, the truth is that there are many differences between the two. From the treatment itself or even its results to the type of patient suitable for the treatment.

  • IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is an extremely common fertility treatment, where your eggs and sperm (or donor eggs / donor sperm) are mixed together and fertilisation takes place outside of the body. Embryos are then allowed to develop in our embryology lab, with the best embryo being selected for transfer back into the womb to grow naturally. Our aim for IVF is the same as yours: to create a healthy embryo that marks the start of your pregnancy journey.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is one of the many fertility processes that we offer our patients. IUI aims to make achieving pregnancy easier by cutting out the need for sperm to enter through the cervix. This greatly improves the chances of it successfully reaching the egg.

For what kind of patient is each treatment indicated?

Not every treatment is suitable for the same type of patient.

In order to decide on the most appropriate treatment, it is necessary to carry out a reproductive health diagnosis to analyse what the problem is that is preventing pregnancy.

Based on these results, the specialists will decide which treatment is best for each specific case.

The IUI procedure is suitable for almost everyone.

We can usually help anyone suffering from sex-related problems, achieve their goal by using IUI as a method of fertility treatment. This is because problems such as premature ejaculation or difficult intercourse are simply a matter of the sperm being unable to reach the egg – something which is easily overcome by intrauterine insemination.

Women in same-sex relationships, or single women who are trying to conceive can also use IUI paired with donor sperm to conceive.

On the other hand, IVF is chosen by people who are struggling to  conceive naturally . Just a handful of reasons include:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Unexplained infertility
  • People with a risk of carrying genetic diseases
  • Poor sperm quality / quantity
  • Low ovarian reserve
  • Endometriosis

Why RHG-IVF Life?

At RHG-IVF Life we pride ourselves on not only our passion for what we do, but our expertise in the field.

Our Daresbury location, the Centre for Reproductive Health, is the UK’s first fully integrated fertility hospital.

Every detail of the centre was specially designed by our consultants and embryologists. This means that the clinic is planned not only for ease of access, but suited to give our patients the highest possible level of care.

Our specialised facility uses the very latest technology, in a state of the art environment, delivered by highly skilled fertility professionals.

According to World Health Organization, infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

Infertility affects millions of people of reproductive age worldwide – and has an impact on their families and communities. Estimates suggest that between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals live with infertility globally.

Factors that can affect women and men vary greatly.

Undoubtedly, one of the factors that most affects fertility and hinders pregnancy is the age at which women seek pregnancy.

We know that society is constantly changing and that there are factors such as the search for job or economic stability that influence this decision to be delayed more and more.

It is important for women to know that the older they get, the more difficult it will be to achieve a natural pregnancy.

Unfortunately, a woman’s biological clock does not keep pace with her age. It is likely that when a woman is in her personal prime, it is more difficult to achieve pregnancy.

Scientific studies show that the older a woman gets, the lower the quality and quantity of eggs she produces. From around the age of 35 onwards, this decrease starts to be noticeable, and it becomes worrying from the age of 37 onwards. From the age of 40 onwards, the chances of a natural pregnancy are greatly reduced.

What are the main factors that influence fertility?

Nowadays, infertility problems are very evenly distributed between men and women. Between 30 and 40% of the cases we treat in our clinic are due to infertility problems in men, the percentage being exactly the same in women.

In the case of women, as we have said, age is a determining factor in achieving pregnancy, but not the only one.

In addition to their age, the main problems we encounter are:

  • Ovulation problems caused by:
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • thyroid problems
  • premature ovarian failure
  • Scarring from surgery
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Cervical surgery
  • Cervical mucus problems
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Sterilisation
  • Medicines and drugs

For men, the main problems are related both to the production and the quality of their semen:

  • Abnormal semen:
  • Lack of sperm
  • Sperm that are not moving properly
  • Testicles: If they’re damaged, it can seriously affect the quality of your semen. Main causes are:
  • Infection of testicles
  • Testicular cancer
  • Testicular surgery
  • Congenital defects
  • Ejaculation disorders
  • Hypogonadism
  • Medicines and drugs

Egg freezing, an option to search for pregnancy at the most desired moment

Egg freezing allows women to save their eggs for when they are ready to start a family, making the most of their fertility when it is at its peak.

Eggs can be frozen for 10 years, but if you’re ready to start your journey to motherhood earlier, they can be ready when you are.

Once you decide you’re in the right place to start your journey to motherhood, we put together a treatment plan unique for you.

Within our onsite embryology lab, we will thaw  your eggs ready for fertilisation. With the sperm of either your partner or a donor, those eggs are then fertilised to create embryos.

When the time is right we  will create a plan for you to prepare for embryo transfer at the optimum time. Your  embryos are then transferred to your uterus. Once in your uterus one will hopefully implant and  you will  be advised on when to take a pregnancy test.

Getting confirmation of your fertility treatment first visit consultation is an exciting and big step on your IVF journey.

Maybe it’s your first appointment? Or maybe you have had treatment elsewhere?  Maybe you’ve had successful treatment already and are planning to try for another baby? Or maybe you’re not yet ready to start a family, but want to freeze your eggs for possible future use?

Whatever the reason for you needing fertility treatment, these are some of the key questions you should ask at your first visit consultation.  Coming away with the answers will make you feel more in control of your journey.

How does the clinic decide which treatment is right for me?

We tailor all treatment plans to each patient.  Key to this are the results of the initial tests you will have at your first visit consultation.  It’s also important for us to learn more about your lifestyle, and your medical and fertility histories.  Combined with the test results, this gives the clinical and laboratory teams the detailed information needed to give you options for the very best chance of having a baby.  The results of these tests allow us to recommend the best treatment for you, as well as the medications you will need for the best outcome.

What tests will I need to have?

Our comprehensive first visit consultation packages include all the tests needed for any single woman, lesbian couple, or male/female couple. These include:

  • Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) testing
  • ultrasound scan
  • semen analysis (for any male partner)
  • trial embryo transfer (if appropriate)
  • any other tests specific to you

Depending on which tests are required, most of  the test results will be available on the day of consultation. Any additional tests results will be shared with you during the doctor consultation.

I’ve already had tests, so can you use these results?

Some of these results may be useful to us, depending on how recently they were done. But we prefer to work from the results of tests we have carried out so we know the accuracy of the results, and that they are current.  The clinic staff will advise you depending on your available results.

What treatments are available?

RHG-IVF Life offers tailored IVF and ICSI treatments.  These may include use of donor sperm, eggs, or embryos, if needed.  And our skilled scientists in the laboratory can carry out preimplantation genetic testing (PGT-A).  This helps identify the best quality embryos to improve pregnancy success rates.  We also offer fertility preservation – that is freezing sperm or eggs for men and women who want to postpone parenthood for either medical or elective reasons.

What success rates does the clinic have?

Before you start out, you want to know that you have chosen a clinic that has high success rates helping people to achieve their goal of a successful pregnancy.  At your first visit consultation, the doctor can give you more details of YOUR chances of success based on the reason for your infertility and your age.

View RHG’s latest success rates here.

How will I stay in control of the costs of my treatment?

RHG-IVF Life is committed to complete transparency regarding patients’ fees. It is very important to us that all our patients understand how much their treatment will cost, and what that treatment will include.

Our treatment costs are outlined in our prices section. However, all patients receive detailed individualised confirmation of costs before starting any treatment with us. This will help you to plan for your treatment and feel confident and more relaxed about how your treatment will progress.

Costs for our fertility packages cover all the usual stages of:

  • investigations – including initial consultation, ultrasound scan and pre-treatment tests as appropriate
  • treatments – including scans, counselling sessions, consultant appointments, procedure, pregnancy test, pregnancy first scan, and review appointment
  • counselling with a specialist fertility counsellor to ensure you receive all the emotional support needed throughout your treatment

The costs of any additional treatment needs would be discussed with you in detail before being progressed and before any additional invoice is issued.

Will I have a main contact throughout my treatment, someone who ‘knows’ me?

We understand that starting fertility treatment can be a very exciting but also a daunting experience. There may be a lot of new information to consider and dates to remember throughout your treatment journey. So we assign a dedicated Patient Care Co-ordinator (PCC) to help and support each patient having treatment at RHG-IVF Life.

As soon as you contact the clinic you will connect with your PCC who will be your main point of contact for any questions and to help to co-ordinate your treatment. It is also important that you fully understand the costs involved and when payment is expected. We encourage you to ask as many questions as you need to throughout the journey.

Your PCC will explain the process, personally welcome you to the clinic, and organise the necessary appointments and tests to ensure your treatment runs smoothly.

If your assigned PCC is not be available, another member of the patient care team will always be able to answer your questions.

What happens if treatment isn’t successful?

Unfortunately, having a baby cannot be guaranteed by any clinic.  But the medical and laboratory experts at RHG-IVF Life will work hard to give you the very best chance of success.  If a cycle is not successful, the team, including our counsellors, is here to support you through your options.  If you decide to try again, be reassured that IVF can be diagnostic even if it doesn’t result in a livebirth. In this case our doctors and scientists can learn from your treatment to make changes to any further cycles you have to improve the outcome.

In addition, RHG is now part of IVF Life Group, a group of clinics across Europe.  This gives us all the advantages of major scientific, medical, and research resources for the benefit of all our patients right here in Cheshire, and throughout the North West.

When will I be able to start treatment?

Investment, restructuring and recruitment means we currently have no waiting lists at RHG-IVF Life.  This means you can start your treatment as soon as YOU want. And as waiting for treatment can sometimes have an impact on its chance of success, why wait? Make an appointment today.

 

On 25 July we will mark the 43rd birthday of Louise Brown – the world’s first ‘test-tube baby’.  Throughout July we will commemorate her birth in 1978 with our Reasons to Celebrate IVF’.

Some of the reasons and facts will have global significance, and others will be closer to home or very personal.  But all of them will have been created by the amazing efforts of physiologist Sir Robert Edwards, gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, and nurse/embryologist Jean Purdy.

Their combined brilliance led directly to the births of Louise, and her sister Natalie four years later. It also led to the creation of millions of families around the world ever since.

Louise’s parents Lesley and John Brown had been trying to conceive for more than nine years, but blocked fallopian tubes prevented Lesley being able to get pregnant.  When her condition was first diagnosed, Lesley was distraught at the thought of not being able to have a baby.

Hope in Oldham

But she was referred by her doctor in Bristol to Mr Steptoe at Kershaw’s Cottage Hospital in Oldham, where he was pioneering IVF with Edwards and Purdy.  She was told it was her best (only!) chance of getting pregnant. Although she was also warned that the treatment was like ‘science fiction’ and the chance of success was ‘a million to one’.

Undaunted, in November 1977 Lesley and John underwent egg collection and her eggs and his sperm were mixed in a petri dish (not in a test-tube as the tabloids described!).  Nurse Jean Purdy was the first to see the dividing cells of the embryo that would become Louise.

Following this they had their embryo transfer – after 63 other transfers for the many other women involved in the trial since 1971.  Only one had resulted in a pregnancy – but sadly no live birth.

Then a couple weeks later Lesley and John received a letter from Professor Edwards. This contained the news they’d been hoping for for more than 10 years:

“Just a short note to let you know that the early results on your blood and urine are very encouraging and indicate that you might be in early pregnancy. So please take things quietly – no skiing, climbing or anything too strenuous including Xmas shopping!”

A ‘miracle’ birth

Nine months later, on 25 July 1978, Louise Joy arrived – and the world’s media descended on Oldham and then to the Brown’s home in Bristol.  She was the first livebirth created outside of the human body and so was big news around the world.

In fact , before she was six months old her parents had flown almost 30,000 miles on  a world tour to share their story with international media – and to provide hope to millions of people that maybe they too could have a baby after years of involuntary childlessness.

The legacy continues at RHG

How far has IVF come in those years! Which brings us to today in Cheshire, here at RHG-IVF Life.  The clinic and our services opened in 2014 with a vision to offer easily accessible, comprehensive fertility investigations and treatment options individually tailored to patient needs, using the latest treatments and scientific expertise, in a purpose-built luxury clinic with state-of-the-art laboratories in comfortable surroundings.

And now we are also part of the IVF Life Group, a group of clinics across Europe.  This gives us all the advantages of major scientific, medical, and research resources for the benefit of all our patients right here in Cheshire, and throughout the North West. But all this is because of that original team of three pioneers, plus Mr & Mrs Brown, and of course, Louise!

Now your fertility journey may include IVF, ICSI, or reciprocal IVF/shared motherhood. Or it might include treatments which include donor eggs, or donor sperm, or genetic testing, to improve your chance of success.  And all these results from the work that led to the birth of Louise Brown.

Celebrating the family

One of the greatest motivations for Robert Edwards to develop IVF was his belief that ‘the most important thing in life is having a child’. And that’s what we celebrate this month – the hope that everyone who wants to have a family gets the chance to do so.

Reasons to Celebrate (1 to 6)

1.  worldwide, more than 9 million babies have been born following IVF treatment – which is more than the population of London

2. more than a quarter of a million IVF babies had been born in the UK by 2016

ICSI Treatment3. ICSI was discovered (almost by accident) in 1994. It revolutionised the chance of sub-fertile men becoming genetic fathers. Only one healthy sperm is needed for each collected egg. The embryologist selects the best single sperm for each egg, and under ultra-magnification, injects it into the egg. When successful fertilisation occurs, an embryo may develop – just as in a natural fertilisation, or in IVF

4.

5. Louise Brown and her husband naturally conceived their sons – although her sister Natalie was the first IVF baby to have a baby, when her first son was born in 2001

6. the world’s first frozen embryo baby was born in March 1984 in Australia. Baby Zoe followed her parents’ IVF treatment, and the freezing of some of their embryos for two months, before being thawed and transferred to her mother’s uterus. Embryo freezing gives patients more than one chance to conceive from a single IVF treatment cycle, either following a negative pregnancy test, or even after a live birth

Reasons to Celebrate (7 to 12)

Egg Freezing for Fertility preservation7. worldwide, ICSI accounts for three quarters of all treatment cycles, with just 25% being ‘standard’ IVF

8. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) literally means ‘fertilisation in glass’. Instead of sperm fertilising an egg within the body (in vivo), fertilisation takes place in a sterile dish (in vitro) in a laboratory – but NOT in a test-tube! Carefully prepared motile sperm are mixed with eggs – if one of the sperm penetrates the egg and fertilisation occurs an embryo may develop

9. embryos are stored at an extremely low temperature (-196˚C) to halt their development. Once frozen they can remain in liquid nitrogen for many years. After this, they may be thawed and used in treatment

Eggs on ice10. vitrification is a method of flash-freezing eggs and embryos which increases survival rates during the thaw process. Nowadays most UK clinics use vitrification instead of the slow-freeze method for freezing eggs and embryos

11. IVF has made female fertility preservation possible. Sperm freezing has been an option for men to preserve their fertility for decades. In the early 2000s egg freezing became available to women to preserve their possible future motherhood without creating embryos. Egg freezing gives young women diagnosed with cancer who need chemotherapy or radiotherapy which may damage their fertility, the possible chance of future motherhood. It also gives women who are not in a relationship and who want to be a mum in the future, the chance to preserve their eggs for possible future creation of embryos. Finally, it offers an alternative to couples who need fertility treatment but who have ethical concerns about creating and freezing embryos

Geri Timelapse12. the GERI™ time-lapse system provides stable and undisturbed embryo culture for patients’ embryos and allows the embryologists to monitor embryo development by taking a photograph of each embryo every five minutes. The embryologists can therefore observe all the critical events during embryo development and analyse the timings of these events using software with AI technology which has been developed from the data collected from thousands of embryos worldwide. This allows the embryologists to select the best embryos for transfer and cryopreservation.

Reasons to Celebrate (13 to 18)

13. IVF has given more options to lesbian women to become mothers. Initial assisted conception involved just IUI with donor sperm, but where this is unsuccessful – maybe due to blocked fallopian tubes – IVF with donor sperm provided an alternative route to motherhood. And now recoprocal IVF/shared motherhood gives two women in a same sex relationship the chance to both have a part in the conception of their baby

Benefits of combining IVF & Pre-implantation Genetic Testing14. PGT-A is a laboratory process that can de-select embryos with the wrong chromosomal patterns to improve livebirth rates. PGT-A is recommended in IVF cycles for patients with three or more good quality blastocysts, who have had repeated implantation failures, or recurrent early miscarriages, or in women who are more than 35 years old.

Sperm Donation15. IVF can be used with donor sperm – either for lesbian patients, or single women, or for M/F couples where the man’s sperm quality is too poor even for ICSI, or where there is a risk of him passing on an hereditary condition using his own sperm in treatment. All these options give people the chance of parenthood who would have previously remained involuntarily childless.

16. In the early 1980s a cycle of IVF cost between £1,500-£3,000 depending which early-adopter clinic you went to. And this was when the average UK wage was just £6,000!

17. The world’s first frozen embryo baby was born in 1984. Freezing good quality embryos has many benefits: 1) embryos are available for transfer either after an unsuccessful embryo transfer, without the need for another full treatment cycle. 2) Embryos are available for use following successful treatment and a livebirth, to have a sibling, all from the original treatment cycle. 3) Age-associated risks of pregnancy are determined by the age of the woman when the embryos were created rather than her age during any pregnancy from a frozen embryo transfer

18. A member of the RHG-IVF Life team and her husband tried to conceive for seven years (through her 20s), before being advised they’d need fertility treatment. A single cycle of ICSI resulted in 17 eggs collected, two embryos, but just a single embryo of transfer or freezing quality. But now their daughter is six years old – so they became a family as a result of the ‘discovery’ of IVF.

Reasons to Celebrate (19 to 24)

19. IVF drugs have improved over the years to improve the chance of creating enough good quality eggs without the risks of ovarian hyper-stimulation. Protocols can also be varied and tailored for a woman’s specific hormone levels and other conditions. This can make a treatment cycle gentler for you. Options now also include ‘natural cycle IVF’ which involves no fertility drugs at all, or ‘mild stimulation IVF’ which includes lower doses of medications over shorter periods. However, both these give ‘significantly lower’ chances of a successful outcome.

Egg Donation20. The first child born from egg donation was reported in Australia in 1983, just five years after the birth of Louise Brown. Nowadays, each year, hundreds of women in the UK conceive with eggs donated by another woman. Reasons for this include:

  • a woman doesn’t produce any eggs because of a condition from birth – eg Turner Syndrome
  • a woman has previously had cancer treatment which has made her infertile
  • a woman has early menopause which has diminished the number and quality of her eggs
  • a woman risks passing on an hereditary condition using her own eggs to conceive
  • a woman is older and her own eggs will no longer create a pregnancy

IVF has made it possible for women with these conditions to carry a pregnancy and give birth.

21. For many decades donor sperm was originally used with IUI to help women become pregnant. But it soon became used in IVF cycles too. A woman or couple may need to use donor sperm if:
– a man’s testes many never have produced sperm because of a genetic condition
– surgery or drugs to treat cancer many have left a man infertile
– a man may produce sperm, but too few or poor quality to create a pregnancy
– a woman is single or in a same-sex relationship

22. For couples who need both donor eggs AND donor sperm, receiving donor embryos gives them the chance of parenthood. Some couples who have been lucky enough to create more embryos than they need to create their families, generously donate their viable embryos to other women or couples who cannot conceive with their own eggs and sperm. Although the baby is not biologically related to the birth parents, the mother gets to carry the pregnancy and give birth to the baby. From the start, the baby is legally recognised as the birth parents’ own – rather than as if they had adopted a baby. Embryo donation is an amazing gift and gives couples with complex fertility conditions the chance to become parents.

Fertility Counselling23. RHG-IVF Life offers counselling support services to help you through your fertility treatment, pregnancy, and beyond. Our counselling services are in accordance with the guidance and recommendations of the HFEA. This requires all licensed clinics to offer patients the chance to talk to a counsellor before you start treatment. RHG-IVF Life counsellors are registered with the British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA) and access to their care is included in our treatment packages, to ensure you are supported emotionally throughout your fertility journey.

24. In the UK, IVF is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). This organisation was set-up to ensure that ‘everyone who steps into a fertility clinic, and everyone born as a result of treatment, receives high quality care’. It was created by legislation to work independently on behalf of the government – all as a result of the birth of Louise Brown.

25. Our final reason to celebrate and one of the most important is the acceptance of infertility, the normalisation of IVF treatments, eliminating barriers and the stigma towards infertility.

 

At the start of World Wellbeing Week, RHG-IVF Life fertility counselling partner Jamie Forster gives us a ‘head’ start on the effect of our emotional health on our fertility. Whether you’re at the start of your IVF journey, or beginning another ICSI cycle, considering your wellbeing is vital to your treatment success.

Stress is something that affects us all from time to time. There has been so much focus in the media about how it can appear physically, emotionally, and in the way we think and behave. From headaches, poor mood or sleep quality, to high blood pressure and panic attacks, managing excessive stress in our busy lives is something we all must think about. Except sometimes it is simply not possible to avoid the stress in our lives. This is particularly true for people undergoing fertility treatment which can be an exceptionally tense experience.  So how do we improve our fertility emotional health?

Calming the rollercoaster

Balancing everyday life and the demands of treatment, while managing the rollercoaster of emotion associated with treatment can be very challenging. This is why it is so important to pay close attention to your own personal wellbeing, both emotionally and physically.

The great news is there are many things you can do to boost fertility wellbeing and build strength during fertility treatment. The key is to apply good self-care routines and practices. Having a strong self-care plan is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself in life, in or out of treatment.

What is self-care?

The World Health Organization defines self-care as ‘the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider’.

By this, self-care not only promotes positive health, but helps build the strength necessary to manage stress and live a longer and happier life!

So why is it, when we find ourselves in a difficult or stressful situation, are we so quick to criticise ourselves? Why is our self-talk so negatively? Why are we so quick to ignore the physical and emotional needs of our bodies? Why do we continue to punish ourselves?

Imagine

Please take a moment to imagine the person you love the most in life sitting in front of you, suffering in some way that is familiar to you. Think about how you would care for and soothe them. You might lower your tone, speak softly, telling them that it is going to be ok. Perhaps you would make them a cup of tea and give them all the reasons why they are amazing and going to get through this difficult time. Maybe you would run them a bath, make them a nice meal, or just sit quietly next to them holding their hand, giving them time and space to process these difficult emotions.

Now, imagine yourself experiencing the same suffering. Think about using the same comforting techniques you used above, to soothe and reassure yourself. What if your self-talk was soft, comforting, and encouraging? How good could it feel to respond to your own needs as lovingly as you would someone you love dearly?

How much easier could difficult times be if you allowed yourself to take a break and feel all the feelings, rather than ignore or deny them?

This is self-care.

Self-care in practice

Self-care is about listening to your body, tuning into your feelings, and giving yourself permission to respond to your own needs. It is about taking responsibility for your own wellbeing with respect and compassion for the emotional changes that are a natural part of treatment.  This is your fertility wellbeing.

Often, we hear people say, ‘I have no time for self-care’, or ‘I’m just too busy’. But the truth is that self-care is not just bubble baths, holidays, and longs weekends away. It is as easy as pausing during your busy day, to focus on breathing for two minutes.

Self-care is the act of doing something that contributes to your emotional, psychological, and physical health, creating a sense of balance and overall wellbeing.

Let us have a look at examples of each.

Emotional self-care

Very simply, emotions are the physiological response to internal or external influences. We often think that emotions are processed in the brain, by thinking or talking, but the truth is, emotions are processed in the whole body.

So emotional self-care is anything that you can do to quiet the noise in your head and stop overthinking and overstimulating yourself.

Techniques for healthy emotional management might look like…

  • give yourself permission to say no to things that cause you stress. It is ok to say no to an invitation to a party or event that is going to cause you distress
  • allow yourself to take breaks or pause throughout the day is going to help you stay clearheaded. We wear busy like a badge of honour, but this constant ‘going’ can have a negative affect on your ability to self-regulate your emotions
  • take a break or limit your use of social media can help you stay in control of the external forces that contribute to your overall mood
  • limit how much news you consume can help you feel grounded, in control, and will help maintain a positive outlook on life in general
  • have realistic expectations of your time and emotional capacity (you can do it all just not at the same time!)

Psychological self-care

Mental wellbeing is all about connection, self-belief, purpose and building resilience. Good mental health is what allows us to cope with the stress of life. It is particularly important during treatment. We sometimes hear patients talking about feelings of loneliness, disconnectedness, or frustration. So, anything that you can do to help build yourself up from the inside out is going to help you get through IVF treatment well.

Cultivating healthy mental habits is something that gathers over time and is necessary to create and maintain a positive outlook on life.

By this definition, self-care for mental wellbeing is going to be something that can be included in daily life, whether you are feeling strong or fragile.  This can only be good for your fertility wellbeing.

Some techniques for promoting strong mental health might look like…

  • mindfulness or meditation which helps you become aware of the present moment. It helps integrate thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations
  • ‘gratitude journaling’ helps you focus in on the good things in life, which is particularly positive at a time when you are feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  •  journaling is an excellent tool to help release ruminating or intrusive thoughts, and keeps things from building up and getting on top of you
  • practicing kindness (with self and others) is choosing to go a bit ‘out of your way’ to do something good for yourself or others. Research shows a clear link between showing kindness and reduction in stress and improvement in overall wellbeing
  • spending time in nature is vital for promoting mental and physical wellbeing. Walk, garden, or spend time near water or green spaces – they’re all hugely beneficial for mental health

Physical self-care

Physical wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is about lifestyle and behavioural choices that help maintain an overall sense of balance which drastically affects wellbeing. Being active, eating a healthy diet, and staying hydrated will significantly improve your quality of life, both mentally and physically.

In fact, fertility treatment is a very physical and emotional experience, so anything that can be done to ensure your body has what it needs to get through treatment well, is essential.

The most important things you can do to manage your physical health are…

  • eat a well-balanced diet to provide you with energy and give you all the nutrients necessary for protection and repair
  • stay well hydrated to improve mental function, provide energy, and help flush toxins from your body
  • exercise improves sleep, helps alleviate anxiety, reduces the risk of depression, and helps you feel better about yourself
  • rest is vital to restoration and healing for your body and mind
  • mindful living is also a wonderful way to take care of physical health. It is as easy as stepping away from your desk to eat lunch or taking regular screen breaks throughout the day

Wellbeing and fertility treatment

The truth is that fertility treatment is an exciting experience, full of ups downs, twists and turns.  Organisations such as the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), British Fertility Society (BFS), and the British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA) work tirelessly to ensure that the emotional and physical wellbeing of patients is vital to safe and effective treatment.  They all agree that treatment can be a complicated process for patients and that clinics have a responsibility to patients to ensure they get through it well.

At RHG-IVF Life, we take the emotional health and wellbeing of our patients very seriously.  As part of our responsibility towards our patients we offer free counselling sessions during treatment. In addition, our staff are always available to answer patients’ questions or offer support.  Your wellbeing before, during, and after treatment is very important us and we are here to support individuals and couples at every stage of your fertility journey.

To make an appointment with Jamie while you are in treatment at RHG-IVF Life, email the clinic’s patient care team.  For more information on Jamie’s counselling services, visit her website.

 

With more options available for same sex couples or single women than ever before, starting a family is possible, with a little help from the experts. This blog considers the fertility treatments for lesbians that we offer at RHG-IVF Life.

RHG-IVF Life welcomes single women and lesbian couples to our Daresbury clinic. We offer a comprehensive range of fertility investigations and treatments to help you have your family, including shared motherhood IVF  Our dedicated and expert team will support you on your incredible journey to create your family.

So, what are your available options for fertility treatments for lesbians?

IUI with donor sperm (D-IUI)

An initial consideration for lesbian single women or couples is intrauterine insemination (IUI) using donor sperm.

How does it work?

You can choose the sperm donor from a list of available donors. We use established UK and overseas sperm banks, and transfer the donor sperm you buy to our laboratory at Daresbury ready for your treatment.

The donor sperm is then used for intrauterine insemination. During this procedure, the sperm is placed directly into the uterus via a small catheter that passes through the cervix.

IVF with donor sperm (D-IVF)

In vitro fertilisation or IVF with donor sperm may be needed or chosen as part of your treatment for you and/or any partner.

How does it work?

You or your partner will go through an ovarian stimulation cycle to encourage the follicles on your ovaries to grow and mature. When the follicles are the right size, an egg collection takes place.  In the lab, an embryologist then mixes the eggs with the donor sperm  using the IVF technique to create embryos.

A few days later, you have an embryo transfer using the best quality embryo with the highest potential for pregnancy. Following this two weeks later you do a pregnancy test.

More than one embryo may be created so you will have the option of storing any good quality embryos for possible future use.

Reciprocal IVF/Shared Motherhood

Shared motherhood is a fertility treatment for lesbian couples which includes both partners in the treatment process. Also known as reciprocal IVF, it gives you both a biological or birth link to your child or children. You will both be the legal parents of your child or children when going through shared motherhood.

If you are considering shared motherhood, then you will both need to have routine screening and investigations. We can also recommend a family law firm with which you can discuss any legal parenthood questions you may have.

How does it work?

One partner will be the egg provider and the other will be the egg recipient. The egg provider will go through a drugs cycle to stimulate her ovaries for the follicles to grow and mature. When the follicles are the right size, you will have an egg collection. The embryologist mixes the eggs with donor sperm using the IVF technique to create embryos.

A few days later, the egg recipient partner undergoes the embryo transfer. This can be done either in a natural cycle or with some medication to ensure the lining of her uterus is at its best for implantation to take place. The transfer can be carried out using fresh or frozen embryos.

IVF treatment with donor eggs and sperm

Occasionally some same sex couples or single women need ‘double donors’ and plan to conceive using both a sperm and an egg donor.

This may be the case for an older woman who wants to try for a baby, or for underlying fertility issues such as early onset menopause. Or maybe a woman’s ovaries have been removed for a medical reason. In these cases an egg donor may provide a better chance of successful pregnancy.

Choosing your sperm and/or egg donors

Whenever choosing a sperm donor for IVF, you may wish for the donor to have specific physical traits. Our dedicated clinical team supports you through the process of selecting the most appropriate donor. You can have peace of mind knowing that the requirements for donating sperm have all been safely met. These include completing specific health and screening checks during and after the donation process.

If you need IVF with donor eggs you can have the confidence that all of our donor eggs are from young, healthy donors. They have been fully screened and counselled, and their eggs are of suitable quality. Donors provide a full family medical history to safeguard you and/or your baby from any potential hereditary and/or medical conditions. Many women like their egg donor to resemble them and can specify some of the donor’s characteristics including ethnicity and general appearance.

Fertility counselling for lesbian couples

Considering fertility treatment can be difficult for any couple and the whole team supports our patients through their treatment But all couples or single women who have treatment with donor sperm, also need ‘implications counselling’ before treatment begins.  This considers, for example, the impact of the outcome of treatment on the woman, or couple, and any existing children. It also considers the availability of support from your wider family, or other issues you would find useful to work through.

Two counselling sessions are included in the fertility treatment packages at RHG-IVF Life. This way you know you are completely emotionally prepared for your journey.

Get started today

We have no waiting list for consultations with our fertility specialists. So if you are a lesbian single woman, or a lesbian couple looking for fertility treatment, contact our patient care team and begin your fertility journey today.

Patient story

Watch former patient Jen talk about the ‘care factor’ that she and her wife Karen experienced during their treatment at RHG-IVF Life, that led to the birth of their two children. She also explains her reasons for constantly recommending us to her friends.

During Nutrition & Hydration Week, our nutritional therapy partner, Samantha Brown, serves up a blog of sound advice about the link between our diet and our fertility. Read on to learn more about an ‘IVF diet’.

The decision to have a baby can be emotionally and financially daunting so, often, nutritional status is overlooked. Fertility is definitely influenced by foods and type of nutrition including hydration. But making healthier choices is easier than first anticipated and can give your fertility a real boost!

Infertility in men and women

There are many reasons why female fertility can be affected – from hormone dysregulation such as PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis, immune system, energy intake imbalances like obesity, eating disorders and excessive exercise. Less obvious ones include detoxification, digestion, malabsorption, and stress.  And environmental disruptors include smoking, work environment, and artificial light.

In men the reasons are similar – sex hormone imbalance, energy intake imbalance, immune system, detoxification, digestion and absorption of nutrients, stress and environmental disruptors, such as pesticides.

One major nutritional cause for infertility in men is oxidative stress. This term is used to describe an imbalance between free radicals (the bad guys) and antioxidants (the good guys). Antioxidants neutralise the free radicals so they can not cause damage to other cells.

In women when antioxidant levels are low the quality of the follicle is affected. This may also be connected to poor pregnancy outcomes whether natural or assisted. In men, the quality, structure and function of the sperm is affected.

Chemistry, stress, and fertility

Another nutritional problem shared by men and women is methylation. Methylation has many roles from regulating stress, brain chemistry, immune function, expression and activity of genes (including in a foetus), and our ability to detoxify the body.

Poor methylation affects quality and quantity of sperm, unfavourable pregnancy outcomes, pre-eclampsia, and gestational hypertension.

Healthy methylation requires a balance of things that disrupt and nutrients that support. It’s no surprise that high sugar, pre-packed convenience/junk food, stress, and unhappy gut bacteria are all disrupters. The good news though is that a rainbow of colours in your vegetables, high quality protein, with lots of fibre, and slow burning carbohydrates, help to tip the balance in the right direction.

Although stress is not strictly nutrition, the effect on the body pushes bad food choices and promotes weight gain. Cortisol, one of our stress hormones, can reduce sex hormone levels. Studies show that women having fewer negative life events had had more successful IVF outcomes. Meditation, walking and yoga never looked so appealing!

Since I have mentioned weight gain I must quickly talk about the links it has to both male and female infertility. The decline in sperm quality is linked with increased weight issues. And in women, a BMI of over 30 has shown to affect fertility and success of fertility treatment. All the more reason to follow an IVF diet.

Getting those Zzzzzzzs

Sleep, like stress doesn’t really seem to be a nutritional problem. But when our sleep is disrupted it pushes a stress response in the body and poor food choices. The body starts to favour high sugar foods and becomes a slave to the sugar rollercoaster. Looking back to the methylation disrupters, high sugar is one of them. Being stressed and lacking in sleep depletes nutrients. The organs that keep us alive are prioritised, like the heart and lungs, but digestion and reproduction are left lacking.

Without good sleep, oxidative stress is increased, hormones are altered and even a woman’s cycle can be totally disrupted. But the good news is a sleep routine is very easy to adopt and can make you feel like a new person!

Hydration and fertility

We all know that it is good to stay hydrated but how does that connect to achieving and maintaining fertility? The body is approximately 60% water, this water is essential for many chemical reactions within the body and keeps all your organs and cells functioning properly. Staying hydrated while starting your fertility journey is vital, both sperm and egg health depend on it. Being dehydrated affects the mucus in the woman’s vagina and cervix, which the sperm relies on when traveling to the fallopian tubes. The lining of the uterus needs water to become thick and cushioning for the embryo, to be able to transport nutrients and flush out toxins. Water is the primary mover in all these functions.

How much water you should drink is roughly two litres for a woman and two and a half litres for a man. Where you live, how active you are and if you eat water-rich food such as water melon, will vary the amount.

The colour of your urine is a great indicator – a pale straw like colour is perfect. Your urine in the morning will always be darker as it is concentrated, and if it goes too pale you may be drinking too much.

A therapeutic window

In my opinion you can’t start making healthier choices too early. But if you do find yourself in a position where time is not on your side, even the most simple changes to your IVF diet and lifestyle can have a profound affect.

With sperm however, the process of creating new sperm takes about 86 days,. So ideally preconceptual care should begin three months before attempting to conceive or starting fertility treatment.

A regular menstrual cycle may be disrupted either from hormone imbalance or post birth control. This can take some time to address as nutrients needed for fertility are depleted from the contraceptive pill. This is an additional load on methylation capacity. When your cycle returns though, it feels extremely satisfying to know that your body is starting to respond.

Changing is easier than you think

So many people try to change everything all at once and this can lead to confusion. It also creates frustration at not seeing results straight away, sugar crashes, and eventually falling off the wagon with a huge amount of guilt.

You actually achieve results faster by taking one to three changes per week and creating new habits. Once you have comfortably adopted that new change you then a add another one to three the next week.

Before I go into my favourite (what I call) pillars of health, there are couple of things to mention that are specific to fertility.

Alcohol

For both men and women alcohol affects fertility. Sperm and testosterone are negatively affected but heavy drinking can raise oestrogen in men which will reduce sperm production. In women, alcohol can change your hormone levels and interrupt ovulation.

What is heavy drinking though? Less than you think! Fifteen drinks for men and eight for women per week. A Saturday night out could take care of that for some!

Switching out to a non-alcoholic beer or a Kombucha in a wine glass with lots of ice can help keep that feeling of socialising and occasion.

Caffeine

If you are a big coffee drinker or love energy drinks, caffeine has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Limiting caffeine to 200mg per day or taking it out completely is advised. There are some great mushroom and dandelion coffee alternatives out there if you just need to sit with that cup of warm something.

Multi-nutrient supplements

Taking a multi-vitamin is advised but make sure that men don’t start taking the pregnancy multi (you may laugh but it happens). Men need their own as the iron in the pregnancy supplements can be harmful, especially to sperm!

My ‘Four Pillars’

Sleep

Building a regular sleep hygiene routine is basic to all other improvements. It helps your perception of stress and reduces your high sugar cravings, not to mention driving the production of reproductive hormones.

Omega 3:6 balance and healthy fats

We need these healthy fats for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, K and E. They actually improve our digestion, stop sugar cravings, and increase mental alertness. Swapping unhealthy trans and large amounts of saturated fat for mono and poly unsaturated is great for reproductive health.

Gut function and detoxification

Everything is connected to the gut, it’s true! What we detoxify has to be eliminated, so increasing those super colourful vegetables to make you go to the loo every day will eliminate used hormones. Re-absorption can contribute to oestrogen dominance issues.

And don’t forget that water! People who are constipated are often dehydrated and the stool has become too hard to move easily down the digestive tract. A healthy variety of protein foods are important here too for the detox phases.

Increasing friendly bacteria

These guys really are your best friend. They produce nutrients for us and look after our immune system but are associated with a healthy pregnancy. In more recent studies they also show a positive connection with IVF , ICSI, and other fertility treatments. This is the first bacteria that the baby comes into contact with so it’s a vital part of the process. Try some delicious fermented food and prebiotics such as garlic, onions, artichokes, oats, bananas.

 

You deserve the best out of your fertility journey. Nutritious food really isn’t difficult, it’s just the fear of the unknown of how to fit it into your life. But once you start implementing a couple of changes at a time you will never look back.

If you would like to learn more about nutrition go to my website where you will find links to my programmes, social media and YouTube.

Be well – Sam

At the start of Men’s Health Week, we’re looking at how healthy sperm can increase your chance of your plans to have a baby, either through natural conception, or with fertility treatment. Male infertility is the reason for around a third of couples who need fertility treatment. And when you factor in ‘unexplained infertility’, about half of all fertility treatment for male/female couples is because of male factor infertility.

If a male/female couple is planning to get pregnant, the woman may already be watching her weight, improving her diet, and taking folic acid as part of the preparation. But the male partner may be asking: ‘What can I do to improve our chance of success?’.  Here are some ideas about how a man can improve the quality of his sperm and ensure he is doing everything possible to optimise the chance of a positive outcome.

Reach and maintain a healthy weight

Body fat is closely associated with the production of male reproductive hormones.  Too much or too little body fat can cause an imbalance in testosterone and oestrogen levels. Any change in a man’s hormones can affect his sperm and its production.  Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated as weight divided by height then squared, and should be below 35 and ideally between 20 and 25.  But BMI isn’t the only factor a healthcare professional may consider about your weight.  For example, as muscle weighs more than fat, some body-builders or athletes may have a higher than ‘ideal’ BMI and so it is only one indication of a healthy weight.

Exercise – but don’t over-do it

Exercise, especially if it involves movement of the legs, improves pelvic blood flow, which in turn helps keep the scrotum cool, and so improves how your testicles function.

Moderate exercise is good for both partners, but exercising to any extreme is not recommended as it can compromise both male and female fertility.

Strive to be emotionally balanced

Stress increases the production of cortisol in the body which leads to changes in male hormones.  Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone and works with parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear. Any way of reducing levels of stress will improve your overall wellbeing and in turn may help you to conceive.  Therapies such as yoga, hypnotic relaxation or massage can help relieve stress – and massage also has the added benefit of increasing blood circulation.  But walking is also good for this.

Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated

A sensible, healthy diet that includes more fresh, raw, vegetables and fruit and less red meat can help improve sperm counts and motility.

Also drink at least two litres of water a day.

Decrease the dairy

A study[1] examined the impact of dairy intake on sperm and found that as dairy intake increased, semen quality declined. The relationship was even stronger as more full-fat dairy products were consumed.  Increased consumption of full fat dairy products was associated with fewer sperm and poorer movement of each sperm.

Up the protein and lower the carbs

A study[2] of young men examined the relationship of carbohydrate consumption and semen quality and concluded that a higher concentration of carbohydrates in the diet was associated with a decline in sperm concentration in young men.  Carbohydrates are:

  • complex carbohydrate starches – eg cereals, bread, and pasta
  • simple carbohydrates – eg sugar (found in sweets, jams and desserts)

There is also evidence that patients eating more proteins and fewer carbohydrates had higher rates of fertilised eggs developing to blastocyst stage and so lower pregnancy rates.  Meat, eggs, and fish are sources of complete protein, as well as cereals and pulses, and milk/milk-derived foods (but see information above about too much full fat dairy).

Supplements and vitamins

Antioxidants can prevent cell damage in our bodies.  Folate (naturally occurring soluble vitamin B), vitamin C, vitamin E, along with selenium and zinc, may help to increase the quality of sperm and are found in:

  • fresh fruit (especially citrus fruit)
  • vegetables (especially peppers and spinach)
  • wholegrains, nuts, seeds (especially sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • legumes/pulses (eg alfalfa, peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts)

Any man trying to conceive may benefit from supplementing his diet with a multi-vitamin containing the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants required for quality sperm production, including:

  • vitamins E and C
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • arginine
  • carnitine
  • vitamin B12

But do not exceed the recommended dose – too much will upset the balance!

Environmental factors

Certain environmental factors have been reported as having a harmful effect on sperm production.  Exposure to pesticides, heavy metals and adhesives should all be avoided or kept to a minimum.  Sensible precautions such as washing fruit and vegetables and wearing protective face masks when working with toxic substances will all help.

Injury and illness

Injury or surgery to the genital region may interfere with normal sperm production and may even stop it completely.  Infections, even the common ‘flu virus, can dampen the ability to produce sperm.  Some illnesses, such as mumps, can lead to sperm problems, and sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia can cause blockages within the sperm-carrying tubes.

Prevent overheating testicles

Any increase in the temperature of a man’s scrotum can dramatically decrease the sperm count so he should avoid:

  • wearing tight fitting underwear
  • hot baths or saunas
  • any activity which involves sitting for prolonged periods of time (ie driving on heated seats!)
  • using lap-top or tablet directly on his groin

Heat around the groin can be an issue for men who are chefs, truck-drivers, or firefighters, when they are trying for a pregnancy.

Avoid anabolic steroids, testosterone-based supplements, and anti-androgen drugs

Anabolic steroids such as those used by body builders have an extremely detrimental effect on sperm production[3].

The most common anti-androgen drugs are those to treat prostate enlargement, prostate cancer, and male pattern baldness.

Avoid tobacco, marijuana and alcohol

‘Recreational’ drugs have been linked[4] to low sperm counts and may also cause sperm abnormalities.  Alcohol affects the liver and its function which alters the hormone levels that affect sperm production.  As little as two alcoholic drinks each day can have long term adverse effects on sperm production.

Several studies have compared the semen of men who smoke cigarettes to that of men who do not smoke, to determine any negative effects.

This research revealed a decrease in the number of sperm present and this has been attributed to the presence of Cadmium within the blood stream and the seminal fluid, which has been passed from the cigarettes.  The chromosomes packed within the head of the sperm also seem to be at an increased risk of damage.

The damage to the chromosomes may not only lead to fertility problems but may also increase the chances of fathering children with chromosomal disorders.

Other medications

If you’re taking any prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, ask a pharmacist about their potential impact on your sperm, check with your GP before stopping the medication. For example, even some OTC indigestion remedies can adversely affect sperm count[5].

Avoid large amounts of caffeine

Coffee, tea, cola-based drinks, and chocolate can decrease sperm motility.

How can RHG-IVF Life help?

Before a couple begins treatment at RHG-IVF Life, we offer a fertility assessment as part of our first visit consultation. As well as an ultrasound scan for the female partner and hormone blood tests, the assessment includes a semen analysis and consideration of his medical history, for the man. To arrange a first visit consultation, contact our patient care team. And if a man needs fertility treatment to help him conceive, RHG-IVF Life offers ICSI treatment, a variation of IVF which has enabled men with poor quality sperm to become a genetic parent.

[1] Dairy intake and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic

[2] Dr. Jorge Chavarro and research fellow Myriam Afeiche, both with the Harvard School of Public Health

[3] Anabolic steroid abuse and male infertility

[4] Smoke, alcohol, and drug addiction and male fertility

[5] Effect of cimetidine on gonadal function in men

When it seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant or having babies, but you are not, it is important to remember that you are not alone and infertility can be a heartbreaking journey for many couples.

Infertility is such a complicated issue and can often feel like a roller coaster of emotions, that lead you to seek answers or to search the internet to find solutions.

There are lots of old wives’ tales about getting pregnant the internet is full of inaccuracies, and even well-meaning friends and other mums can contribute to misinformation. Following on from our recent blog on the most common reasons for infertility, here are 10 common myths about infertility, and what you really need to know:

1. Myth: Just Relax and You Will get Pregnant Straight Away

Often couples trying to get pregnant hear the words ‘just relax and it’ll happen’, but this simply isn’t true. Infertility can be caused by a disease or condition, or under-performance of either the male or female reproductive system, so may be a physical problem not a psychological one. Relaxing may help you with the overall quality of life, but the deep emotions you feel, and the stress, are the results of infertility, not the cause of it.

2. Myth: It is Easy for Most Women to get Pregnant

It is true that many women do conceive without difficulty, but there are certain health conditions and factors, such as age, that can affect a woman’s ability to conceive. To put it into context, a healthy 30-year old woman has about a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month, but by the time she is 40, this chance drops to about 5% a month. However, it is important to remember that infertility can affect women of any age, and from any background. Remember that one in six couples will need help to conceive.

3. Myth: Fertility is Always Related to Women

Infertility affects both men and women, and it often surprises people to learn that it is a female problem in 35% of all cases of infertility, and male factor also in 35% cases. 20% of the time both partners are part of the issue and in the remaining 10% of cases, the cause is unexplained.

4. Myth: Being on Birth Control for Too Long Leads to Infertility

Some women think that being on the pill for too long will lead to long-term infertility. However, most women ovulate within weeks of coming off birth control. How soon your cycle returns to normal depends on many factors, but 80% of women who want to get pregnant within a year of stopping birth control are able to do so. But if you are age 36 or under, and are trying to get pregnant and don’t conceive after a year of regular, unprotected sex, ask your GP for tests for you and your partner.

5. Myth: Women in their 40s can easily get pregnant

Yes, women in their 40s can conceive and go on to have babies. But a baby girl is born with all the eggs she will ever have, and these lose quality over the years.  Egg number and quality decrease significantly when a woman is in her late 30s, although 80% of women aged 35 to 39 get pregnant in the first year of trying – which is only slightly lower than 85% of women younger than 35.  However, over the age of 40 egg quality deteriorates, reducing the chance of conception, while the incidence of miscarriage increases, reducing the chance of a livebirth to around 5% in a woman aged 45.

6. Myth: The Best Way to get Pregnant is to Have Sex Every day

You certainly can have sex every day, if you want to. But there is no evidence to suggest it will help you get pregnant faster. It is much more likely to lead to burn out and frustration, especially if (or when) you don’t get pregnant. Daily sex isn’t recommended for any man wanting to conceive because, over time, it reduces the number of good sperm, which may prevent conception. If having sex every day isn’t possible – or enjoyable – have sex every two to three days per week starting soon after the end of your period. This can help ensure you have sex when you are both most fertile.

7. Myth: Irregular Cycles are a sign of Infertility

Irregular cycles are actually quite common. Lots of factors influence the hormonal balance that regulate your menstrual cycle. Sleep disruption, stress or changes to your exercise routine can affect the timing of your period but that doesn’t mean your fertility is affected.

8. Myth: Miscarriages Run in Families

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that miscarriages run in families. Miscarriage is more common than most people realise. Many miscarriages occur before people even know they are pregnant, and for people who do know they’re pregnant, an estimated one in eight pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many couples who experience miscarriage will go on to conceive again and deliver a healthy baby.

However, some women experience multiple and recurrent miscarriages, often after their pregnancies are confirmed. Tests may reveal causes such as blood-clotting disorders, or thyroid problems, or auto-immune conditions, but which may be treatable and so enable the woman to carry a pregnancy to full-term.

9. Myth: Fertility Treatments Lead to Triplets, Quadruplets or More

Here at RHG, like the majority of reproductive specialists, our goal is to help patients achieve a singleton pregnancy – which is healthier and safer for both the woman and the baby. Our treatment philosophy is to increase the chances of achieving a pregnancy while reducing the risk of multiples.

10. Myth: Adopt a Baby, and You Will get Pregnant

This is one of the most senseless myths for a couple to hear. Firstly, it diminishes the effort and commitment to becoming an adopting parent. Secondly, it is simply not true. Studies reveal that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adopting is the same for those who do not adopt. If the cause of the infertility is a physical condition, adoption will not resolve this.

Do you have concerns about your own fertility, or have a question you’d like to put to an expert? Why not sign up for our free Fertility & IVF Webinar on Thursday 15th April to not only learn more about RHG and what we offer, but to ask any questions you have during our live Q&A session with members of our clinical, patient services, and nursing teams. You will also qualify for a free online consultation to discuss your case in more detail. You can register online here.

If you would like to arrange a consultation to discuss your own fertility journey, or arrange a fertility assessment, please get in touch and our patient services team will look after you every step of the way. Our team can help to create tailored, individual fertility plans that will fit your unique situation. You can call us on 01925 202180 or contact us here to get started.