What Is Intrauterine Insemination?

So, you’ve made that big decision and you’ve decided to begin your fertility journey. But you are finding it difficult to conceive. You may have looked at a few options and discovered Intrauterine insemination.

So, what is IUI?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is when sperm is prepared and inserted directly into a woman’s uterus during her ovulation.

If IUI fertility is something you’re interested in, you and your partner can attend one of our specialist clinics, where you will be invited to take some simple tests. Once these have been successfully carried out, you’ll be ready to go through with the IUI procedure.

What is the process of IUI treatment?

This is where the sperm is inserted directly into the uterus with a catheter. This means that the sperm no longer has to enter through the cervix, which heightens the chance of it reaching the ovulating egg successfully.

A women’s fallopian tubes will be checked to ensure they are open and clear, as the sperm will still have to swim through them to meet the egg. She may also need to have some blood tests to check her hormone levels.

Who could benefit from IUI fertility treatment?

Who could benefit from IUI fertility treatment?

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IUI is suitable for nearly everyone, and can be used by people who require the treatment for various reasons.

Couples who have been trying to have a baby for around two years and have not yet managed a pregnancy may want to consider the process of IUI treatment at our specialist clinics.

Those who have sex-related problems such as premature ejaculation or vaginismus, can often achieve the goal they want with our help, by using IUI as a method of fertility treatment. Single women and women in same-sex relationships can also use IUI with donor sperm to conceive.

Women with mild endometriosis, may benefit from our help with IUI as it will give the sperm cells that extra push to get to the eggs.

And as the process is usually extremely quick and painless, there is not usually much call for aftercare. Most women who undergo IUI process are able to leave the clinic right away and continue their usual routine, although some rest and relaxation is always recommended.

Success Rates

Intrauterine Insemination Success Rates

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The success rates of an IUI fertility procedure depends on several different things which will vary with every individual, however our results are incredibly positive.

One of these factors is age, as a younger woman is more fertile and therefore may need less assistance.

Another point which will affect the chances of an IUI conception, is the original cause of infertility. Fertility issues that are slightly deeper rooted may need to incorporate other fertility treatments into the process to achieve conception, which we will be happy to discuss with you.

If you feel as though IUI treatment is the right step for you during your fertility journey, then take a look at our website for more information.

Alternatively, you can contact our team of fertility specialists who will be happy to provide you with advice on the best move to make to start your fertility journey and help to figure out if IUI is right for you.

Why Do Cancer Patients Preserve Their Fertility?

Receiving the news that you’ve got cancer is devastating. And you may be worried about whether your fertility could be affected if you’ve been planning to start a family.

If you have been advised to undergo chemotherapy or another form of cancer treatment, our specialist team are here to help. It is known that there can be some negative effects on fertility, however, this does not mean that your hopes of pregnancy are over. We offer a dedicated service to help those affected, on the road to parenthood.

While men can regain their sperm production after chemotherapy, unfortunately, sometimes women becoming infertile after cancer treatment can happen. However, there are IVF (in vitro fertilization) options available which can help you, if you worry you may have become infertile due to cancer treatment.

As cancer survival rates are growing, it is important that you are aware of your options to preserve fertility and use IVF to conceive once treatment has finished. Read on to discover more about breast cancer and infertility, as well as the chances of successful IVF after chemotherapy:

What options are there?

Fertility Preservation Options

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For men, the procedure for preserving fertility is quite simple as it does not differ from the usual sperm freezing process. A sample is given to a sperm bank and preserved, then stored for later use. This option is available to any male who has reached puberty and is the most common method of fertility preservation for men.

It is also important to know that when undergoing cancer treatment, and for about a week after, it is recommended that you use contraception during intercourse and do not attempt to become pregnant. This is because there’s a possibility that the drugs used for cancer treatment, may harm the baby.

For females, the options for preserving fertility are more complicated. They include going through the egg collection process, whereby eggs are frozen for use them at a later date.

Another option is to fertilise the collected eggs with a sperm and create an embryo, which would then also be frozen and preserved for use after treatment.

Some treatments for breast cancer can cause temporary infertility or make it a little complicated for you to get pregnant after treatment ends. Both of the methods we mentioned above, can be used to aid this situation.

Why may fertility preservation be needed?

If you are having or need cancer treatment but want to start a family, fertility preservation is a good idea for many reasons.

Examples of these can be the link between a cancer patient’s chemotherapy and menstrual cycle. Cancer treatment has been known to cause both irregular menstrual cycles or to cause amenorrhea (one or more missed periods.)

Unfortunately, ovaries may be damaged during cancer treatment, which could cause early onset menopause or its various symptoms. These effects can occur at any point during the cancer treatment and can even be delayed.

However, this, among other reasons, is why IVF and cancer treatment should be discussed together, as it will ensure that people get the earliest possible opportunity to preserve their fertility for later use.

What are the chances of success?

Fertility Preservation Success Rates
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While the chances of success will vary for each individual case, there are a few factors which may directly affect the chances of a pregnancy occurring, but our specialist team is on hand to help you every step of the way, regardless of your circumstances.

A younger woman will be more likely to successfully preserve their fertility as the ability to conceive lessens with age. However, we have a team dedicated to help ladies of any age who are considering IVF treatment.

For more information on how preserving fertility can benefit cancer patients or if you need any advice about IVF after breast cancer, you can contact our team who will be able to advise you on the best step forward.

5 top health tips to boost fertility

As part of our support for National Fertility Awareness Week 2017, our Nutritional Therapist and Care Co-ordinator, Celia Cooper has provided her 5 top tips when it comes to nutrition, health and lifestyle.

A Healthy Weight

Try to aim to be a healthy weight, as being overweight or underweight isn’t helpful for optimum fertility. It is best to lose weight gradually and not to skip meals. Balancing your blood sugar levels is a great way to help avoid cravings and maintain a healthy weight. Include quality proteins with meals and snacks. Avoiding the peaks and troughs in your blood sugar also avoids putting any unnecessary stress on the body.

Healthy Fats

Include some healthy fats in your diet – don’t go fat free. Your body needs essential fats. Include oily fish twice a week, some nuts, seeds and olive oil. Coconut oil is great for cooking with as it is stable under high temperatures. Use all fats in moderation along with a balanced diet.

Hydration

Drink plenty of water and some herbal teas and avoid too many fruit juices or artificially sweetened cordials. Caffeine and alcohol is best avoided or at least limited, or it can create additional stresses to the body and can also negatively affect your blood sugar balance.

Supplements

It can be hard getting all the right nutrients from your diet so supplementing with a fertility multivitamin including folic acid is a good idea. If your BMI is over 30 check with your GP if you need additional folic acid. Safe exposure to sunlight can help increase levels of vitamin D naturally and include a little oily fish and eggs. It may be helpful to get your vitamin D levels tested to see if you need to supplement.

Managing Stress

Making ourselves more resilient to stress can only be helpful for fertility. Try to manage stress levels as best you can with moderate exercise, meditation and relaxation. Finding something that you enjoy doing will increase the chances of sticking to it. Learning techniques that can help avoid negative thinking patterns can also be very helpful in reducing anxiety. Seeing a counsellor can be helpful if you are finding it difficult to manage your stress levels.

If you would like to speak to use about how nutrition, health and lifestyle can help with your fertility, please contact us.

What is a fertility MOT?

Couples that are trying to get pregnant without any success may understandably have worries about their ability to conceive.

While it’s important to remember that it takes some couples longer to conceive than others, the lack of success can put pressure on you.

This is why many people are guided in the direction of a fertility MOT – a test that can determine the likelihood of whether you can conceive.

In this guide, discover just what a fertility MOT is and why it’s now becoming such a popular option of fertility testing.

What exactly does it test?

For women, this kind of fertility check tests your level of Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), which is produced by the ovary, and is usually a good indicator of the number of eggs you’re producing. This allows specialist consultants to see what your chances of conceiving are.

For men, our embryologists will carry out a semen analysis as part of our fertility health check.

As a patient, it’s important to remember that these tests, while not 100% accurate, are excellent guides on your ability to conceive.

Who are the prime candidates for a Fertility MOT?

Who are the prime candidates for a Fertility MOT?

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A Fertility MOT is suitable for any man or woman who is struggling to conceive.

There is no particular age range for which the test is required, due to it being a forecasted analysis. However, for those over the age of 35, the fertility levels are lower, so it’s important to consider your circumstances before your test.

Some people may consider a Fertility MOT due to their lifestyle choices. Couples who are overweight, smoke, or drink heavily may have a lower chance of conception and therefore, are understandably anxious about whether they will be able to have a baby.

Is it reliable?

Whether you are concerned about your fertility health, you are having difficulty in conceiving or you simply want some reassurance so that you can try for a baby without fear of the unknown, a fertility assessment is a great option.

For both men and women, using this test gives doctors and yourselves a fairly accurate idea as to your chances of conception and whether to consider IVF treatment.

Some refer to this form as ‘one indicator of fertility’, as it leaves out certain things, such as information on the quality of your eggs, whether you’re ovulating or the health of your fallopian tubes.

What issues can arise?

Fertility MOT

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The couple Fertility MOT is £250 whereas the cost for the female MOT is £150. If you require a pelvic ultrasound scan this can be done to check the ovaries and uterus. The cost for this is £225.

If you’re anxious about a Fertility MOT, try to remain calm. By receiving a consultation from a fertility clinic like Reproductive Health Group, you will be given a good idea of whether you are likely to conceive.

Can Infertility be Hereditary?

When it comes to conceiving a child, many adults all over the world feel frustration and sadness when they don’t get a positive result. But, struggling to conceive doesn’t mean that there’s something “wrong” with your body! In fact, it’s estimated that over 3.5 million adults in the UK are infertile, so it may be a more commonly-experienced condition than you think.

However, you may be surprised to learn that infertility can run in families. This means that your success rates of conceiving naturally can be similar to that of your parents or siblings.

We understand that infertility can seem like the end of something, but through our patient and informative approach to treatments, we can show you that there are many options to help you with your journey to parenthood.

In this guide, we’ve shared the fertility tests that you can use to determine if your infertility is hereditary, and the possible reasons behind not being able to conceive naturally:

What is subfertility?

There is a slight difference between subfertility and infertility.

Subfertility is the failure to conceive after one year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility is when the cause for the failure to conceive has been diagnosed by a professional.

We know that both these situations can be frustrating things for anyone to experience, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll never be a parent.

There are many reasons why a man or woman may be subfertile or infertile. Some of the most common include conditions such as infections, sperm problems, blocked tubes, hormone imbalances or reactions to medicines, although chromosome abnormalities are a leading cause of hereditary infertility.

So, is infertility hereditary? Not always. This is because there are hundreds of potential reasons behind why a person may be infertile – including secondary unexplained infertility, whereby you are struggling to have a brother or sister for your child. It tends to be difficult to explicitly say whether the ability to conceive is passed from parents to their children.

Is infertility hereditary

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How is hereditary infertility diagnosed?

As a woman, if you suspect that you may be infertile or are struggling to conceive naturally, one of our fertility specialists will be able to conduct a thorough investigation of your ovaries and womb to put your mind at ease.

In a male fertility test, sperm analysis and an investigation of the sperm tubes will be completed. If there are no issues present in either of these fertility tests, your specialist may suggest looking into your family history to see if any patterns could have repeated.

Reasons for hereditary infertility

It’s important to remember that there is no infertility gene, and it cannot explicitly be said that every parent who is infertile passes the condition through their DNA.

In cases where infertility is passed from parents to children, certain conditions can be hereditary. These conditions may cause the sufferer to become infertile, which is one of the lead causes of hereditary infertility. Some of these include:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Certain studies have discovered that problems with a woman’s ovary can be inherited from her mother. This includes PCOS, a condition that affects how their ovaries work that could lead to irregular periods and lack of ovulation.

PCOS is one of the most common reasons behind women who are having difficulties with conceiving, but fertility treatments are able to help PCOS sufferers to become pregnant.

Endometriosis

A condition where the tissue lining the womb is present outside the womb. Endometriosis is another potential reason behind hereditary infertility. This is because the condition can be passed from mother to daughter, with a side effect being that the woman struggles to conceive.

Hereditary infertility

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Klinefelter’s syndrome

Another reason behind a genetic cause of male infertility is Klinefelter’s syndrome; a condition whereby men have an extra X chromosome that is passed from their father. It is one of the most common chromosomal disorder for men all over the world, and affects approximately one in 650 men.

Men who suffer with Klinefelter’s syndrome are more likely to struggle to conceive.

Which infertility problems do not run in families?

Whilst many hereditary conditions have infertility as a symptom, you should keep in mind that unfortunately, many adults struggle to conceive, even if their biological parents haven’t suffered with the issue themselves.

This is because infertility factors such as poor egg quality, blocked sperm tubes and damaged fallopian tubes can occur in any adult, meaning that you may struggle to conceive even if your parent didn’t.

If you’re struggling to conceive and suspect that you may be infertile, it’s best to discuss your options with a fertility specialist. A series of investigations for women and men can be arranged at our centre to assess the fertility potential and to diagnose fertility problems.

How does IVF work?

IVF is one of the most popular fertility treatments for couples who are trying to conceive. Standing for In Vitro Fertilisation, it’s one of the many techniques that we offer, and our patient approach and high success rates mean that you’re in good hands!

But, you may want to learn more about IVF before choosing this route to parenthood. According to fertility guidelines, IVF should be offered to women under the age of 43, who have been trying to get pregnant via sexual intercourse for at least two years.

However, the number of IVF treatment cycles you may have, varies by age and you may find that women under the age of 35 have the best success rates. Throughout the process, you could also discover that you’re able to carry a child, even if you previously thought otherwise.

IVF is one of the most popular fertility treatments, with approximately 30,000 couples every year in the UK using it to assist with pregnancy. It’s also a great process to enable same sex couples to become parents as they can use donor eggs or sperm to coincide with their IVF treatment.

Around 68% of women under the age of 35 end their IVF process with a happy and healthy baby, even if they initially though that it wasn’t possible.

To help you find out more, we’ve explained how IVF works:

How does IVF work?

How does IVF work?

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IVF happens when an egg is taken from the female’s ovaries and fertilised with the male’s sperm. This fertilisation process takes place in a specialist laboratory and once fertilisation is completed, the embryo is transferred back into the woman’s uterus for a pregnancy to develop.

If you wish to undergo this treatment, you (and your partner) will have to visit a fertility specialist clinic. In this appointment, our specialist will look at your ovaries and womb. Men may be asked to provide a sperm test in order to give an accurate success rate for your IVF treatment.

Your specialist will ask you about your fertility history, conduct blood tests and maybe even give an ultrasound or x-ray to ensure that there are no underlying issues that could delay your treatment.

The treatment for IVF comes in six stages.  For women, part of the treatment means that you could be given medicine to boost the number of eggs that your body creates. This is not always needed and is often given to older women with a lower egg count to give them the best chance of IVF success.

Once this is done, your eggs will be monitored as they mature. This stage will be completely pain-free and carried out by simply using an ultrasound to look into your ovaries. If everything is progressing well, your eggs will then be collected from your ovaries and the fertilisation process will begin.

How long does it take?

It typically takes four to six weeks to complete a cycle of IVF, but this may be much quicker, depending on how quickly the ovaries respond to treatment, your egg fertilises and your body reacts to the embryo. It’s not uncommon for women’s womb to naturally adapt to being a mother, so you could be pregnant much sooner than you may have expected.

Here’s a run-down of what you might expect when going through IVF:

  • Week 1: Your eggs will be given time to mature. You’ll also visit your specialist for personalised consultations to ensure that you’re prepared and fully informed of the process before getting started.
  • Weeks 2-3: Also known as the ‘preparation period’, this where your ovaries, sperm and womb will be investigated to give the best chance of success. This is also when you’ll begin taking birth control pills to support the treatment.
  • Week 4: As you come into the fourth week of treatment, you’ll also be given more fertility medications and undergo several monitoring visits to check that everything’s going well.
  • Week 5: Your eggs will be taken and combined with sperm in a lab. Once the egg has fertilised, the embryo will be put back into your uterus.
  • Weeks 6-7: It’s time to get your results.

How successful is IVF treatment?

How successful is IVF treatment?

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Even though IVF treatment carries a good chance for a struggling couple to have a child, it’s important to remember that there’s no guarantee and you may need to undergo a few cycles before you become pregnant.

The success rate of IVF varies by age group, and it can also be affected by your individual egg and sperm quality. However, your specialist will be able to give you an accurate, tailored success rate when you get the results of your ovary, womb and sperm investigations.

Women under the age of 35 have the best chance of success, but the success rate is still only around 32% percent. For women over the age of 44, the success rate is significantly lower. The success rate varies drastically for women between the ages of 35 and 44, despite the small nine-year age gap, but it’s not impossible.

The success of IVF treatments could also be influenced by your lifestyle choices as your body needs to be prepared to carry a child. Generally, it’s best to limit the amount of alcohol you drink, stop smoking, lose weight, and find methods to counteract any stress you’re feeling. Although struggling to get pregnant can be a stressful and emotional time, it’s important to stay positive and find ways to calm your body in preparation for pregnancy.

If you’re having difficulty trying to conceive, you’re not alone. Millions of people in the UK struggle with fertility-related issues but IVF treatment could be the best route to motherhood.

Here at Reproductive Health Group, we offer a full range of fertility treatments and services. There’s no need to suffer in silence if you are struggling to conceive.

We’d love to answer any of your questions and help you to achieve your dream of becoming a parent.

Why Does Infertility Increase with Age?

Understandably, experiencing a struggle to get pregnant at an older age can be an upsetting period, but you’re not alone. In fact, the chances of a woman conceiving declines from the age of 35. When a woman turns 40, she has a 20% chance of conceiving every month. This then falls to below 5% at the age of 45.

In addition to this, the risk of miscarriage, complications in pregnancy and the dangers of carrying a child increase with age. That being said, the majority of women who give birth in their 40’s are able to carry a healthy baby full-term.

In this guide, we’ve shared exactly why infertility increases with age, along with the fertility treatments that can support you when trying to conceive later in life:

How are age and fertility related?

The chances of naturally conceiving decline with age because of the biological changes that occur within your body.

As we can see in the graph below, a woman has the best per-month chance of conceiving between the ages of 22 and 24. After this, the likelihood reduces gradually until the age of 30, where you experience a greater struggle to conceive naturally.

Female Fertility Statistics

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Based on this, the optimal female fertility age is anywhere between the ages of 22 and 30 but whilst the chances of falling pregnant do reduce as you get older, it is possible to carry a healthy child beyond this age.

However, if you are struggling to conceive, try your best to remain positive. It’s not your fault if you are experiencing troubles, as many couples do, so you shouldn’t blame yourself. In fact, it can happen because:

Fewer eggs

In order to fall pregnant, your ovary needs to release eggs. But, as you get older, your body will begin to produce fewer eggs each month. This is because your body is no longer preparing itself to carry a child.

Lower quality of eggs

The quality of a woman’s eggs is also an influence on your likelihood to conceive a child naturally. Fewer quality eggs are produced and released in each cycle, meaning that the chances of an older woman falling pregnant are lower than a woman in her mid-20s.

Egg Donation

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It’s important to remember that it is not impossible to conceive once you pass the optimal age. It may just take a longer time to fall pregnant, but you shouldn’t feel disheartened by your decreased chances.

Fertility treatments for older women

Some women struggle with naturally conceiving once they reach an older age, but there’s no need to worry. We offer a range of fertility treatments that can assist older women to have a child, giving them a great chance of becoming a mother.

Egg donation is among the most common fertility treatments for older women. This is because egg donation helps you to use eggs that have been shown to be of good quality, which means that you can experience pregnancy – even with slightly decreased natural chances.

The egg donation process is available to women including those over the age of 40 or those who have low Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH), although many more women will find they can benefit from the process.

You’ll receive eggs from a donor who is in the optimum age range to conceive, and has no genetic or fertility conditions. Giving you a high chance of success, the donated eggs will then be combined with sperm and inserted inside your womb for the baby to grow full-term.

We offer our clients the highest quality of embryos possible, through full screening and by complying with all HFEA regulations. Our calming approach to patient support helps couples through any anxiety issues they are facing due to their struggles.

As you can see, although you may struggle to conceive naturally as you get older, there are a range of options that could help you fall pregnant and experience motherhood. If you’d like more advice on the egg donation process or you’re looking into another fertility treatment, contact us for further support.

Importance of Vitamin D in Pregnancy

THERE’S more than one reason to bemoan the damp UK summer – because the overcast weather might be harming your body’s natural vitamin D levels.

Here Reproductive Health Group’s nutritionist and care co-ordinator Celia Cooper explains why this so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ is so important for both pregnant women and those breastfeeding.

And if you haven’t yet booked your annual holiday, now might be the time….

Celia says:

“When you sit back on your sun lounger and soak up a few rays, you might be more focused on rest and relaxation.

But there’s actually a little miracle of science taking place on the surface of your skin, and you probably didn’t even realise it was even happening.

When UVB rays from the sun hit your warm flesh, it kickstarts a unique chemical reaction.

A cholesterol, called ‘7-dehydrocholesterol’, absorbs that radiation and converts it into something called a ‘previtamin’.

And when that previtamin travels through your bloodstream it eventually lands at your liver and kidneys, who work their magic by creating vitamin D, which your body can then use.

The vast majority – around 90 per cent – of the vitamin D we get comes from sunlight.

It’s not entirely clear as to how long, precisely, we should be exposing our skin – minus suncream – to the sun every day, as everyone’s skin types differ. But it’s thought that between 15 and 30 minutes is ample for most. It should go without saying that you should also avoid your skin turning red or burning.

Yet in the winter months, we rely on what reserves we’ve built up during the warmer periods of the year to get us through the dark days.

So what happens when the UK suffers a damp squib of a summer, as we are now?

First thing’s first, getting enough vitamin D is vitally important if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Vitamin D is needed to help the baby develop its bones and low levels can increase the risk of blood pressure problems and diabetes developing during the pregnancy.

Recent scientific study has backed-up this fact.

Last month researchers from the University of Surrey found that pregnant women who don’t get enough vitamin D are more likely to have children who ‘suffer from poor social development and motor skills before they reach school age’.

Those rather startling stats came from a study of 7,000 mother-and-child pairs and which analysed youngsters aged around 2½ years, watching how successful they were at kicking a ball, balancing and jumping and their usage of fine muscles, including holding a pencil and building a tower with bricks.

The same study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found Vitamin D insufficiency in pregnancy was also found to affect a child’s social development at age 3½ years.

At present, vitamin D is not measured routinely in pregnancy.

There also aren’t many foods containing vitamin D, but it is added to all infant formula milk, as well as some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives.

So, the bottom line is that those of us who don’t reach the required amount of vitamin D are advised to consider taking a supplement.

Other ways in which a mother-to-be can increase vitamin D intake is eating love for oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines – though be careful to eat no more than two portions of oily fish per week during pregnancy. Eggs, provided their thoroughly cooked, can also provide vitamin D.

You can also get vitamin supplements containing vitamin D free of charge if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and qualify for the NHS Healthy Start scheme.

The programme provides vouchers to pregnant women and families which can be used to buy milk and plain fresh and frozen vegetables at local shops.

Coupons can also be exchanged for free vitamins.

But whatever you do, don’t take too much – as Vitamin D can actually be toxic in very high doses, causing too much calcium to build up in the body and weakening the bones and damaging the kidneys and the heart.

NHS guidelines state all adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, need to supplement 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day (Around 400 IU, or ‘International Unit’)

Babies up to the age of one year need around 8.5-10mcg of vitamin D a day.

Children from the age of one year and adults need 10mcg of vitamin D a day.

Meanwhile from about late March/early April to the end of September, the majority of people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin without having to take a supplement.”

10 foods that contain vitamin D – The NHS says RDA is 10 mcg, which is 400 IU.

Foods rich in vitamin D

  • Mackerel (13.6 mcg in 85g)
  • Egg yolks (1 mcg per egg)
  • Canned sardines (6.75 mcg in 100g)
  • Shiitake mushrooms (0.7mcg in 100g)
  • Salmon (10 mcg in 300g)
  • Yogurt (2.5 mcg in 170g)
  • Almond milk (2.5 mcg in 230ml)
  • Orange juice (3.4 mcg in 1 cup)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (1.25 – 2.5 mcg in 0.75–1 cup)
  • Margarine (0.67 mcg IU in 1 teaspoon)
What pregnant women really need to know before going on holiday

NAUSEA in the cabin, dodging malaria hot-spots and skipping flights over four hours – experts have revealed what pregnant women REALLY need to know before jetting off on their summer holidays.

It’s thought more than 10 million Brits will be taking advantage of the school vacation to enjoy their annual break abroad.
But experts says there’s still much confusion when it comes to the dos and don’ts of flying when it comes to pregnancy.

Dr Clare Tower, consultant obstetrician with leading UK fertility clinic Reproductive Health Group, wants to help those expecting a child to make the right choices.

And she says: “It’s one of the most common questions we get asked in the clinic – ‘If I’m pregnant, am I safe to fly?’

“The thought of having to get on a plane while carrying a child can be a daunting one, particularly if you’ve had a bumpy journey to get to this point.

“But I want to reassure families that it can be perfectly safe to fly while pregnant, providing you follow all the relevant advice.

“And considering a good dose of sunshine can really improve health and wellbeing, it should be actively encouraged, rather than something to be feared.”

Here Dr Tower reveals what you need to know:

Count the weeks:

“If a pregnancy is straightforward, flying should not be harmful to either the woman or her baby. And in 2015 the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists actually issued new guidance to try and reassure those worried. The College now say that it’s safe to fly up to 37 weeks (three weeks before your due date), providing you’ve had no complications, are fit and well and only carrying one baby. If you’re carrying more than one baby, the safest time to fly is before 32 weeks.
And while everyone who flies is exposed to a slight increase in radiation, there is no evidence to suggest it causes miscarriage, early labour or a woman’s waters to break. They’re all just common myths that need busting.”

Check your paperwork:

“An airline, quite rightly, will not want you going into labour during its flight. And so many of them ask that if you’re more than 28 weeks pregnant you need to supply medical notes and a GP’s letter confirming your due date, and that you’re in good health and enjoying a normal pregnancy. Make sure you check with your airline. Make sure that your insurance policy covers you for flying while pregnant – check that small print carefully. And pregnant women should also ensure that their insurance covers health related pregnancy issues whilst abroad, as well as for just the flight.”

Choose your destination wisely:

“Are you confident that the place you’re travelling to has a good healthcare infrastructure, should you encounter any problems while abroad? Do you trust that you’ll be properly looked after if hospitalised? If you’re not certain, think again.
You also need to assess the malaria risk. Exotic destinations like Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cape Verde and South Africa are becoming more and more popular with British travellers. But they carry a malarial threat, which can be extremely harmful for both the mother and baby. Meanwhile certain anti-malaria drugs, such as doxycycline, cannot be taken by pregnant women. Always discuss these things with your doctor or midwife.”

Deep Vein Thrombosis:

“When you’re pregnant, changes in hormone levels can affect blood composition and influence clotting. Meanwhile you might also experience reduced blood flow to the legs due to the weight of your baby pressing on veins. And all of this means that pregnant women are more susceptible to DVT. If your flight is longer than four hours, the risk of DVT increases. That’s worth bearing in mind, particularly as most flights from England to Tenerife are more than four hours – a destination not often considered ‘long haul’. Thankfully you can take steps to reduce the risk, such as staying hydrated, making sure you move around frequently and by wearing special flight socks. Some women have additional risks – for example if you are very overweight – and may need to be prescribed a blood thinning injection.”

Nausea:

“There’s no medical reason why you shouldn’t fly in the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. But there’s a reason why a lot of women choose to avoid it, and that’s to help with the nausea and tiredness that comes with that initial period. If you experience motion sickness, make sure you’ve got natural, energy-giving snacks such as fruit, nuts and crackers, to keep you going.”

Book smart:

“You don’t have to book business class to get extra leg room – by reserving your seat number in advance you should be able to request an aisle seat. And most airlines will allow pregnant women to sit in the emergency exit rows, which automatically come with more space, even though you must be able to perform certain duties in case of an emergency.”

Get active:

“If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t be sitting still on your flight. Get up as often as you can and make sure you perform calf exercises both in and out of your seat to ward off DVT.”

Private Maternity Care:

Did you know that at Reproductive Health Group we offer a comprehensive private maternity and obstetrics service, designed to help you have a healthy baby and a stress free pregnancy?

We not only offer help, support, scanning and all of the necessary tests, we also provide a unique, community based Midwifery package, designed to ensure you and your family have all the support you need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more about our private maternity care.

The anguish that comes with not being able to start a family is not exclusively female

And as more and more men across the world suffer infertility problems, it’s time we really addressed the issues so that fathers-to-be feel supported and reassured every step of the way in their journey to becoming a dad.

You might have seen the rather shocking new research this week, which lifted the lid on fertility in men in the western world.

A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that sperm counts have actually halved in the last 40 years, falling by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%.

The reasons as to why this is happening is still unproven by science, though some experts suggest that exposure to certain chemicals used in pesticides and plastics, obesity, smoking, stress, diet, and even watching too much TV could all potentially play a part.

What that means in the here and now is an increase in men struggling to achieve their dreams of becoming a parent.

At the Reproductive Health Group, there’s a pretty even split when it comes to the male and female factors that account for infertility – broken down as 33% male factors, 33% female and 33% a combination of both.

And unfortunately many men are keeping their feelings on the matter to themselves, bottling everything up inside, rather than seeking the help and guidance they clearly deserve.

In recent years, there’s been a real effort to get men to be more open and transparent about their health issues, and that includes mental health.

But when it comes to male infertility, for some reasons there’s still a perceived social stigma that could be preventing them from seeking proper treatment.

There’s this idea that fertility problems reflect poorly on a man’s masculinity, and that they have to stay stoic and strong for the sake of their relationship.

It can have a devastating effect.

Having IVF too can be an emotional experience.

At the clinic, we often speak to men who tell us, ‘I desperately want children too, but I don’t show it to my partner’.

Sometimes they struggle to even get time off work to seek treatment because they’re too embarrassed to tell their employer.

What I want to see is a more open dialogue. Let’s start educating men about what can be done to improve their situation – because there are solutions.

The majority of male fertility issues relate to sperm disorders, so the first step in any investigation is to do a comprehensive semen analysis to establish if the semen sample of the male partner is normal.

This looks at the volume of the sample, the number of sperm, the sperm’s movement, and what percentage of the sample has normal shape and size.

And then we may need to perform additional investigations, such as chromosome analysis or checking to see if the sperm is genetically abnormal.

By knowing exactly what we’re working with in terms of sperm quality, we can tailor any fertility plan to give a couple the best possible chance of conceiving, often selecting the strongest sperm for implantation through analysis using a high powered microscope.

Where there’s very few normal sperm, we can utilise a process called ICSI – aka ‘Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection’ – which is a modified version of IVF where a single sperm is injected into each mature egg.

And even when there’s an absence of sperm in a sample, we can use ‘Surgical Sperm Retrieval’, or SSR, to retrieve sperm that’s formed in the testes but unable to be ejaculated due a blockage.

All of this shows that there are proven methods of helping male fertility.

There’s always a degree of hope.

And what’s also encouraging is that other academics are also taking steps to really analyse the issues.

Last month, researchers in the Centre for Health Promotion Research at Leeds Beckett University launched a new study, asking men to share their experiences of fertility problems, and how they have been affected by infertility.

(If you’d like to take part, see here: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/news/0617-mens-experiences-of-infertility-sought-for-new-study/)

Lead scientist Dr Esmee Hanna, says many men are seeking solace and support on internet forums online because they’re often unsupported in their attempts to become parents.

Let’s not forget that infertility affects one in six couples within the UK.

Yet relatively little research on fertility issues focuses on men’s experiences.

As Dr Hanna points out, when men’s views of infertility have been sought, they have often been framed via, or complementary to, women’s perspectives.

And it’s hoped this new research will help us all to better understand just how men cope when faced with fertility issues.

One thing’s for sure, at the Reproductive Health Group, we’re taking positive steps to improve the situation.

We have a fully qualified and experienced fertility counsellor and also work with an independent genetic counsellor, ensuring we’re always here to listen.

And we’ll do all we can to make sure men are not pushed to the periphery.

For more information on our fertility investigations, assessments and treatments – for both men and women – see: