IVF is the most effective form of fertility treatment. The success rate for IVF is higher than for other types of fertility treatments, although of course this is not yet 100% and a successful outcome cannot be guaranteed. However the chances of success can be greatly increased by choosing the right IVF specialist to treat you.

Some of the key characteristics that are essential for a good IVF specialist are:

Honesty and Integrity: An IVF specialist must always be completely open and honest with his or her patients. When explaining the details of IVF to patients or allaying their fears, a good specialist will be articulate and realistic, explaining things clearly at all times. He or she will not withhold any vital information from patients or make any false promises. If the chances of success in a particular case are little or non-existent, the specialist must convey that to the patient in order to avoid potential emotional suffering.

Compassion: An IVF specialist must understand the mental and emotional state of his or her patients and show utmost compassion and care towards them at all times. Patients undergoing fertility treatment are often emotionally distressed and tense during their treatment, so extra care and compassion from their specialist will help the patients to feel as comfortable and reassured as possible throughout.

Experience and Skills: There is simply no substitute for skills and experience. An IVF specialist with proven skills and experience is more likely to conduct a successful IVF treatment than one with limited skills and experience.

How to Diagnose Unexplained Infertility

It can be very confusing for patients to be told by their IVF specialist that they have ‘unexplained infertility’. They find it hard to believe that infertility can still be unexplained in spite of all the medical and technological advances that exist today. Some may even start to doubt their specialist and think that perhaps he or she is not competent enough to diagnose their problem. They may even begin to think that if he or she cannot identify the nature and causes of their infertility, how would they be able to solve the problem anyway?.

The truth is however that despite cutting-edge medical technology, there are some things which still cannot be accurately determined or diagnosed. But the good news is that despite not knowing the exact nature and causes of infertility, it can still be overcome. In other words, unexplained infertility can be treated and couples can become parents. Sometimes, specialists may not know the full reasons behind a problem but are still able to offer a solution and this is certainly true of unexplained infertility.

In these situations it is essential for the IVF specialist to take the time to clearly explain the dynamics of unexplained infertility to their patients so that there is no room for misunderstanding or miscommunication between them. Only after conducting all the relevant investigations should they then tell the patients that they find the infertility to be unexplained and once this stage is reached it should not be necessary to conduct more and more investigations in order to try and find a definitive diagnosis.

IVF treatment is the most effective treatment for unexplained infertility and is usually the recommended course of action for these cases.

How acupuncture can support IVF

IVF and acupuncture – introduction

For childless couples dreaming of starting a family, undergoing fertility treatment can be an extremely stressful time.

So increasingly, many couples are turning to acupuncture as a way of helping them to cope with their IVF treatment programme as well as trying to improve their chances of success.

And as recent research suggests, acupuncture may help with IVF treatment.

For more about this research – which suggests couples who have acupuncture may be twice as likely to conceive than those who don’t – read on.

What is acupuncture?

Most people will think of needles when you mention acupuncture.

Well, let’s take a closer look at this ancient Chinese practice and shed some light on what it is and what the benefits may be.

Traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system that is based on ancient Chinese principles that are around 2,000 years old.

A way to restore your body’s balance

A practising acupuncturist sees pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance. The prime aim of an acupuncture treatment, therefore, is to restore the body’s equilibrium.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture’s underlying principle is that the body’s primary organs use qui (pronounced chi) and meridians.

Qi is energy, while meridians are pathways and the body’s organs use these in order to communicate with each other.

When the body is healthy, according to the principles of acupuncture, the energy flows freely. Thus, health is promoted and the body resists disease.

If, on the other hand, the energy is weakened or becomes blocked, it results in pain or illness.

Those needles

During an acupuncture treatment, very fine, single-use needles are inserted into points along specific channels or meridians on the body. This helps to strengthen or unblock the body’s energy.

Do the needles hurt?

The needles used in acupuncture are much finer than needles used for injections or blood tests. So it is highly unlikely you will experience discomfort – you are more likely to feel a tingling sensation or dull ache when the needle is inserted through the skin.

So how can acupuncture support couples undergoing IVF?

Evidence from ultrasounds has shown that acupuncture can improve uterine blood flow. This may create a more welcoming environment for implantation.

Many doctors and scientists feel acupuncture at the very least can have a calming effect on patients.

And when couples are undergoing the inevitable stress of fertility treatments, an increase in relaxation could be vital to a successful IVF treatment, particularly when you consider how stress hormones can inhibit fertility.

Acupuncture may double couples’ chances of fertility, says report

Last year (2016), national newspapers were full of headlines about a university hospital study into the use of acupuncture with IVF.

The Daily Mail said: Acupuncture ‘doubles the chances of getting pregnant through IVF’.

The Telegraph said: Acupuncture doubles chance of having a baby with IVF, study suggests.

The study by Homerton University Hospital, in London, found that rates of success were double among those couples who underwent acupuncture treatment than those who didn’t.

The study involved 160 couples who were having fertility problems. Half of them underwent acupuncture sessions during their IVF cycle.

When the scientists checked a year later, those couples who had acupuncture achieved pregnancy rates of 46.2 per cent. Meanwhile, those who did not have acupuncture had pregnancy rates of 21.7 per cent.

Impressive findings.

Want to know more?

Contact the Acupuncturist team at the Reproductive Health group to see how acupuncture can help you.

Written by: Mandy Laing, Care Coordinator/Acupuncturist

Stress & Fertility

Stress can be one of the major factors impacting on fertility. Here are a few simple activities which could be instrumental in enhancing your chances of conceiving by helping you to relax and feel less stressed.

1) Take a trip – Taking a trip to somewhere serene and secluded helps you to relax away from the chaos of daily life and you can feel at ease with yourself. Ideally choose a place where natural beauty is in abundance and there are some scenic spots to explore.

2) An orange a Day – Orange contains Norepinephrine which not only lifts up mood instantly but also boosts fertility.

3) Recalibrate your ‘do-to’ list – Focus on doing things which you enjoy. Eliminate as many as possible of those chores that you find cumbersome or insipid.

4) Take out time for sex – Sex can be a mood enhancer and fosters the bond between partners. It can also increase your fertility quotient.

5) Have some space for yourself – In today’s world when technology has become an integral part of our lives, it is not possible to discard all gadgets, but occasionally take time out away from technology such as mobiles and laptops. This can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It is actually a first step in moving forward from many problems in your life which could be holding you back from having a baby.

7) Body Massage – Body Massage is a potent tool to soothe your frayed nerves and give your immense pleasure. It is mentally relaxing and emotionally invigorating.

8) Indulge in Meditation – Indulging in meditation is conducive for mental & physical health as well as for fertility. When the body is relaxed and mind is phlegmatic, the chances of conceiving increase significantly. Stress is one of the major causes of infertility and meditation is an excellent antidote to it.

IVF Cuts in Cheshire

We are disappointed to learn that the NHS are proposing to reduce the number of IVF cycles being offered in our region to help plug a budget shortfall.

Currently, would-be parents are offered three cycles of IVF, which is in line with guidelines set out by the best practice body NICE. If the proposals are given the go-ahead, this will be slashed to either two cycles or one cycle for women between the ages of 23 and 39.

The plans could also see the use of donor eggs and sperm banned unless the patient has a genetic condition.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are also considering making couples try for three years before they are entitled to help, one year longer than at present.

RHG clinical director, Luciano Nardo, has voiced his opposition in the media this week, both on Radio Merseyside and in the Chester Chronicle.

You can hear the Radio Merseyside interview on the BBC website via the link below at around 7 minutes 35 seconds.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04lxbw4

In the Chester Chronicle, Mr Nardo commented, “One in seven couples will experience difficulty conceiving and embarking on fertility treatment is an important decision which will rarely be taken lightly.

“Couples who face restrictions with regard to what they are entitled to on the NHS face even more stress and uncertainty.

“Guidelines from NICE are clear, and are there for a reason. Ignoring these recommendations is not only short-sighted, but it is devastating for those couples desperate to achieve their dreams of having a child.

“We regularly see couples who have had one failed cycle on the NHS, only to conceive through fertility treatment with us, proving additional cycles are clinically effective.

“Using donor eggs and sperm can also be the only way in which some people can have a baby. Taking this option away on the NHS will be incredibly difficult for many to take.”

You can read the article in full here: http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/nhs-cuts-plan-hit-cheshire-12430578

Perfect Fertility Meal

Our very own nutritional therapist and care coordinator, Celia Cooper, was today featured in the Mail Online discussing how a healthy, balanced diet with all the right vitamins and minerals is essential when you’re trying to fall pregnant.

Celia has devised a carefully-selected three course dinner that could boost your chances of having a baby. The menu consists of a starter of butternut squash hummus, rich in zinc and folic acid, salmon that contains essential fats that benefit the reproductive system and natural yogurt for dessert to provide calcium, important for a healthy pregnancy.

Celia commented in the article, “For anyone who is thinking about conceiving it is worth taking a close look at your diet. Nutrition is vital and that’s why I’m often called in to help couples put together meal plans with the hope of filling their bodies with the right vitamins and minerals.”

Here is Celia’s suggest three course meal.

Starter – Butternut squash hummus

Butternut squash is a great source of beta-carotene and also contains some B vitamins including folic acid and vitamin C. Folic acid, as most people are aware, can help to prevent spina bifida but along with vitamin B12 it is also required in the production of DNA and RNA.

Ingredients

½ medium butternut squash, halved (approx 250g)
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tin organic chickpeas, drained
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ tbsp light tahini paste
100ml light stock
½ lemon, juice only
¼ tsp ground cumin
Pinch cayenne (or to taste)

Method

Preheat oven to Gas 5/190C

1. Rub one teaspoon of olive oil over the flesh of the squash and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Then bake face down for 30-40 minutes until soft. Scoop out the flesh and discard the skin.

2. Place in a small processor and add the remaining ingredients. Pulse until smooth (unless you like chunky dips!). More stock or tahini may be added if you wish.

Serving suggestion: Serve with half an avocado and a couple of finely milled oat crackers

Main Course – Salmon with quinoa salad

For the main course, Celia recommends salmon with quinoa salad sprinkled with lightly toasted pumpkin seeds.

She explains: “Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, which is one of the most widely studied nutrients for both men and women in relation to fertility. It is crucial for the proper development of sperm and plays a vital role in cell division.

“Salmon will provide a good source of protein and the Omega 3 fats EPA and DHA.

“Essential fats are crucial for the reproductive system and in healthy hormone functioning. It is from these healthy fats that prostaglandins are produced. Semen is rich in prostaglandins, which is produced from these fats.

“Salmon is also rich in selenium, a mineral which can help maximise sperm production and optimum testosterone production. It also acts as an antioxidant which can help disarm free radicals that can damage cell structure.

“Salmon is also a rich source of vitamin D. A recent study found that women with sufficient levels of vitamin D were almost twice as likely to conceive, compared with the women who exhibited insufficient levels of vitamin D.”

Ingredients

2 salmon fillets
1 tbsp olive oil
50g quinoa
150ml light stock
30g pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
2 large sun dried tomatoes, chopped
25g mangetout, very finely shredded
1/2 tbsp chives, finely snipped
1/2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
60g canned sweet corn (no added sugar or salt)
1/4 lemon, juice only

Method

1. Gently heat the oil in a medium sized pan. Toss in the quinoa and let it ‘toast’ for a few minutes, stirring briefly. Add the stock, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.

2. Transfer into a large bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Season well.

3. Place the salmon fillets on a large piece of aluminium foil in a glass baking dish.

4. Wrap the foil over the top of the fish and crimp along the sides to seal somewhat tightly.

5. Bake in an oven 180 C / Gas 4 for 15-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Serve with some extra green vegetables such as broccoli or a leafy salad.

Dessert – Granola, yoghurt and berry parfait

To finish, Celia recommends enjoying a granola, yoghurt and berry parfait with the ingredients helping to boost a healthy pregnancy.

She explains: “The natural yoghurt will provide calcium and protein, important for a healthy pregnancy. It also contains probiotics, which play a role in supporting good digestive function.”

Ingredients

2 cups plain natural yoghurt
2 cups granola muesli
2 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (hulled and sliced),
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Method

1. Line up four parfait, white wine, or other tall glasses.

2. Spoon two tablespoons of yoghurt into each glass and smooth surface

3. Spoon two tablespoons of granola over the top followed by two tablespoons of fruit layered over the granola

4. Repeat the process, adding a bit of honey to taste.

5. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and ground flax seeds

Interested in learning more?

If you are interested in learning more about how nutrition and diet can help boost your chances of having a baby, or would like to arrange an appointment with Celia, please call us on 01925 202180, or contact us here.

Midwife Helen Stanley

[fusion_text]In the latest of our series of ‘Meet the team’ blogs, we introduce Helen Stanley, who is a midwife and recently joined our maternity & obstetrics team.


How did you begin your career in obstetrics?

When I left school at 16 I did a childcare course at college with my mind set on becoming a nursery nurse. During the course we did a module on pregnancy and I was hooked! I knew then that I wanted to be a midwife and spent many months nagging the School of Midwifery to take me on!! When I qualified as a midwife in 1996 I was the youngest qualified midwife in the UK at the tender age of 21years and 3 days.

What are your main day to day responsibilities at RHG?

I currently work in a small team of midwives supporting the three Fetal Medicine Obstetric Consultants we have working at RHG. This team is unique in the private sector, as in the North of England private care is usually separated into Independent Midwifery, with a small number of obstetricians working alone in the private sector. At RHG we are in the unique position to combine both aspects of maternity care in one place. I provide antenatal care for all women who come to see us, supporting the obstetricians during the consultation, and allowing time after for the expectant parents to discuss any worries they have and ensure they have all the up to date information regarding labour and birth options and education for the early days with a new baby.

What aspect of your role is most rewarding?

Being a midwife is a very rewarding job. Knowing you are helping a couple become a family and supporting them during a very emotional and life changing time gives me enormous job satisfaction. At RHG I am getting to know the clients more at each appointment and seeing the same clients week by week is a joy and a privilege.

What has been your proudest moment as a midwife?

Without hesitation it has to be being a part of the birth of my best friend’s three boys. The first born was a forceps delivery but I supported my friend throughout her labour and delivery. The second one was born very quickly at home and I missed his arrival by two minutes!! But the third little man kindly waited for me and I was able to deliver him safely into my friend’s arms. I met my friend on the child care course so it seemed really fitting for me to be a part of her special deliveries, and we now have a very unique bond.

What services are you most looking forward to at RHG?

The midwives are new to the team at RHG. We have been made to feel incredibly welcome by staff and clients alike and I am looking forward to growing the private maternity service and meeting more parents-to-be and developing my own caseload. Seeing the same clients at each of their own appointments not only promotes safer maternity care and greater patient satisfaction, it also makes me a very happy midwife!

Genetic screening can prevent miscarriage

HALF of miscarriages in women over the age of 38 may be prevented using new screening technology, according to leading UK fertility experts.

Pre-implantation Genetic Screening, or PGS, is a powerful way of selecting embryos during IVF and has been proven to secure a high chance of pregnancy, continuing to live birth.

And lead embryologist Bert Stewart, from Cheshire-based Reproductive Health Group, says PGS should be more routinely used, preventing “wasted time, money and heartache” for older women looking to have children.

PGS allows fertility experts to look at a woman’s individual embryos, and the number of chromosomes within those embryos.

During traditional assessment, any abnormalities are invisible and routine exams do not reveal which embryos are ‘normal’.

Age is closely linked to abnormalities, with women aged 37 likely to have abnormalities in 50 per cent of their embryos. After 37, the rate continues to rise.

Mr Stewart says: “PGS gives a much more black or white result on each individual embryo.

“Essentially, the technique allows us to look at the number of chromosomes within the cells of the embryo. A normal human embryo should contain 46 chromosomes, neatly arranged in matching pairs.

“We know that in the final maturation process of many eggs, mistakes are made in the sorting out of which chromosomes are thrown out by the egg and which ones it will keep to pair up with those from the fertilising sperm.

“This can lead to eggs with missing or extra chromosomes.

“With very few exceptions, an embryo with the wrong number of chromosomes will not produce a baby.

“Most abnormal embryos either fail to implant in the uterus or miscarry during pregnancy.”

While embryos that stop developing very early during the IVF culture are easy to spot, many can still develop seemingly quite normally.

Mr Stewart continues: “Of course, if they do this we are likely to want to select them for embryo transfer or freeze them for future use. The problem is, most of these will at some point stop developing.

“This could lead to a positive pregnancy, even a viable fetus on early pregnancy scan, but a pregnancy that is most likely to end in heartbreaking miscarriage.”

PGS involves removing a few cells from blastocyst stage embryos and checking chromosome numbers.

Mr Stewart says PSG is the ‘way forward’ to potentially improve IVF success rates, and to cut the number of transfer that eventually lead to miscarriage for women in their late thirties and early forties.

He said: “The risk of having an embryo with the wrong number of chromosomes is greatly affected by the age of the mother. For women in their early thirties, about one quarter of their eggs and embryos will have the wrong number of chromosomes.

“For women in their forties, it is more likely that more than half of their embryos will be abnormal.

“So half of all miscarriages in that advanced age group may be prevented by screening.

“It saves wasted time, money and heartache, especially for women that have gone through miscarriage time and time again and have found that very hard to take.

“You can still do IVF without doing any of this. But, understandably, some people want to be more certain.

“Whilst it does not guarantee pregnancy, chromosomally normal embryos are more likely to implant than unscreened embryos, and more likely to go all the way to the most desirable outcome of any treatment, a healthy baby.”

PGS is tightly regulated by the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority.

Data from Reprogenetics suggests that results are accurate for over 95% of screened embryos and the risks of an IVF cycle using PGS are no different from those of a typical IVF cycle.

“The important thing to get across is that an embryo is what it is,” Mr Stewart says. “We are not changing it in any way. We are just checking it.”

At Reproductive Health, experts offer Next Generation Sequencing, which is highly accurate, efficient, and comes at a relatively low cost.

Mr Stewart says: “The technology is getting more and more effective, and more accurate. Each new generation tends to be able to do more for much less.

“I can see in the next few years PGS might become routine and this should become more accessible for all IVF patients.”

Learn more about PGS

You can learn more about PGS here, or alternatively please call us on 01925 202180 or contact us here.

10 out of 10 pregnant

All of the Reproductive Health Group team work incredibly hard to make our patients’ dreams come true. Over the last couple of weeks we have seen a stream of positive pregnancies as a result of treatment at our Cheshire based fertility clinic.

10 out of our last 10 pregnancy tests have resulted in positive outcomes.

The hard work is truly paying off.

Mandy Laing

In the latest of our series of ‘Meet the team’ blogs, we introduce Mandy Laing, who is a care coordinator and acupuncturist at Reproductive Health Group.


How did you begin your career in IVF?

I am relatively new to the world of IVF and the whole process fascinates me!

I came to it after I qualified as an acupuncturist following many years working as a human resources project manager at the Bank of America.

There is lots of evidence to show how effective acupuncture is supporting IVF treatment and that is why it is a popular complementary therapy used in tandem with fertility treatment.

I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to learn more about IVF here at the Reproductive Health Group and I have been very lucky to take my understanding to a whole new level.

I’m looking forward to learning even more about the process during my time working as a part-time care co-ordinator on my two days each week, Thursdays and Fridays, allowing me to be efficient and effective in my roles as acupuncturist and care co-ordinator.

What are your main day to day responsibilities at RHG?

As a care co-ordinator, I work closely with patients who have just or are about to embark on their IVF treatment.

It is my job to help to answer all types of queries. It is very important we offer the highest standard of care possible at all times.

It’s very important to me that each patient feels comfortable and confident at every step of the journey. If they have any burning questions, they are encouraged to call in. Their peace of mind is paramount to me.

What aspect of your role is the most rewarding?

I am always enthusiastic in what I do – be it as an acupuncturist or as a care co-ordinator.

I offer a very personal service – I respect the fact that everyone is an individual and acknowledge that IVF is not an easy thing to do.

Because of this I’m very conscious that patients receive the support they need, every step of the way, during this stressful time of their lives.

Helping people feels very natural to me – so I enjoy both of these satisfying roles for a variety of reasons.

What has been your proudest moment at RHG?

I enjoy very much seeing how much patients value the acupuncture treatment sessions I perform on the day they are about to have their embryos transferred, and how my sessions help to remove some of the stress of the procedure.

As I am still very new to my care co-ordinator role, I can’t think of a proudest moment as yet. I’m still finding my feet but I hope as time goes on I will collect a few.

Watch this space!

What new services and innovations are you most looking forward to?

I believe the new maternity service will nicely complement the hospital’s varied portfolio on offer.

We have just recruited some lovely new midwives to the team. So I think it’s fantastic that – if patients want to – we can offer care from the initial stage of thinking about starting a family, through starting the fertility journey, and culminating with pregnancy.