Holistic Therapies and Fertility

When it comes to your reproductive health, treatment involves so much more than just the somatic aspect. While western medicine can do all sorts of wonderful things with IVF Treatment and medication to boost fertile windows and promote ovulation, the reproductive process can be helped in a number of additional ways to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. A whole body approach can be the best way for you to enhance your chances when it comes to achieving your conception.

As many as one third of women supplement their conventional fertility treatments with holistic therapy to help their chances of getting pregnant during their course of treatment. Working in conjunction with your fertility treatments, there are a range of complementary services which can sit alongside your treatment to calm, relax and help you on your fertility journey, reducing your stress and improving your overall health and wellbeing.

Acupuncture

Based on the Chinese idea that qi, or energy, flows along pathways through the body, acupuncture is used to stimulate specific points on the body to achieve balance. An ancient practice from 5000 years ago, its continuing popularity is boosted by recent research which has shown that  it may increase the chance of implantation of the embryo by increasing blood flow and relaxing muscle tissues around the uterus. In men, acupuncture may improve sperm health leading to a reduced risk of chromosomal abnormality.

Hypnotherapy

When you are struggling to get pregnant, couples often start to become stressed and emotional. After all, it is a trying time. One way that this can be improved is through the use of hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy can teach you to let go of the hurt that you may be carrying through relaxation and breathing techniques. These can help reduce the level of stress and rebalance the hormones which could be impacting on your reproductive health.

Reflexology

Reflexology is a health therapy which uses points on the head, hands, feet and lower leg that all are attuned with different parts of the body. Like other holistic therapies, it can be used alongside conventional medicine when trying to boost your fertility. It can help to regulate your menstrual cycle, improve circulation, balance your hormones, stimulate endorphins and get you to relax.

At the Reproductive Health Group, we know there’s so much more to your fertility than just the mechanics. We’re proud to offer a full range of treatments, from conventional through to complementary therapies to help you to reach your dream of creating your family.

Book appointment

You can request an appointment here or call our patient services team now on 01925 202180.

Genetic Screening

We are delighted to announce that pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos (PGS) is now available with IVF treatment at Reproductive Health Group.

Research has suggested that screening embryos for chromosomal abnormalities may help increase IVF success rates.

PGS is potentially suitable for anyone undergoing IVF treatment but may be particularly beneficial for women over 35, in cases where there have been several failed cycles of IVF already (recurrent implantation failure) or recurrent miscarriages, where there is a known family history of chromosomal problems or the male partner’s sperm has been identified as containing a high number of chromosomal abnormalities.

Learn more about Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) or contact us on 01925 22180 or at info@reproductivehealthgroup.co.uk.

360 Degree Fertility Care

We are proud to be able to offer our patients a complete pathway of care throughout their IVF journey, from pre-treatment diagnostics and investigations through to genetic screening of embryos cultured to day 5 of development to give the best possible chance of a successful pregnancy.

Our state of the art clinic, the Centre for Reproductive Health, was the first  fully integrated fertility hospital to open in the UK. With specialists in both male and female fertility amongst our dedicated team of consultants we are fully equipped to carry out diagnostic investigations and therapeutic procedures in our onsite theatre and laboratories.  Once treatment is underway we offer the very latest technologies and innovations to increase your chances of a successful pregnancy and healthy baby, including blastocyst culture and pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos. In addition to our clinicians, embryologists, nurses and counsellors our team also includes qualified practitioners in nutrition and acupuncture who can help you achieve a healthy lifestyle to support your treatment.  You can also continue to receive care and reassurance from us once your pregnancy is confirmed through our obstetrics service.

100% of patients surveyed in January 2016 said they would recommend the Centre for Reproductive Health to family or friends.

Right time to start a family

If you are in no hurry to become a parent, you are not alone – more and more women postpone having children, rightly assuming that a child will change their life dramatically. 

When is the right time to have a child?

You are in your early twenties and in a relationship? From the medical point of view, you are at your fertile peak – or at least should be. There are obviously other considerations, such as your financial position, your career, have you made the step onto the property ladder, all of which have a major impact on whether it is the right time.

The prospect of not owning your own home, not being financially secure, wanting to pursue a career forced the decision to delay having children for now. What next? You are thirty years old and emotionally ready for pregnancy and becoming a mum. Do you have a partner? Or maybe you are waiting for the right one…?

Whether you are twenty, thirty or forty years old – you may start to feel the maternal instinct at any age, also when it, objectively, is not the best time to become a mother. What then? Before your maternal instinct takes complete control, think about what is important to you:

  • financial stability?
  • happy relationship?
  • emotional maturity?

The decision on whether or not to have children is a personal decision of every woman. Therefore, before you decide to become pregnant, make sure that you really want to be a mother. Do not succumb to the pressure of your friends and family and ignore such comments as “Your biological clock is ticking!”. Remember that when you give birth to a child, it will be you that will have to get up every night to feed your baby when your “concerned” aunts and friends will be sleeping soundly.

Is it possible to plan having a child?

Theoretically, each of us may plan for “a child in 10 years”. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Why?

  • We cannot be certain that the future will be kind to us as far as all the issues that are important when deciding to have a child (relationship, finance, health, etc.) are concerned.
  • Fertility decreases with age. Women over the age of 40 may have serious difficulty becoming pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy.

You cannot plan for every eventuality, but you can protect your future fertility and decide to have eggs frozen and undergo IVF later on down the line. It will give you the chance to start a family when the time is right. You can learn more about egg freezing and storage here.

The freezing of oocytes, i.e. cells from which egg cells develop, is an increasingly popular method of preserving fertility, which is also available at Reproductive Health Group.

The time is right

Many women and couples find that when the right time finally arrives, they struggle to become pregnant. There are countless factors that can cause infertility from ovulation and ovarian reserve in a woman, to sperm or chromosome abnormalities in a man. Experiencing fertility issues can be a distressing and painful experience and it is something that millions of couples will experience. In approximately 1/3rd of fertility cases the issue is a female related one, a 1/3rd relate to the male and the remaining are either a combination of both or unexplained.

Thankfully, with prompt diagnosis, advice and our state of the art technologies, techniques and fertility treatments we can help women and couples achieve their dream.

We provide a full range of fertility investigations for both men and women and believe that every case is unique and that is why detailed assessments and investigations are required so a personalised care plan can be put together to fit your circumstances. In some instances, our investigations may reveal that changes to lifestyle, or a simple procedure may be all that is required to help achieve a successful pregnancy. In other cases, fertility treatments including IVF, ICSI, IMSI among others may be required to successfully conceive.

Whatever the circumstances, our aim is simple, to give our patients the best possible chance of having a baby, with the best care, treatment and ongoing support available.

Pregnancy after the age of 40 – it is possible!

It is possible for women to become pregnant after the age of 40. However, women of that age have a significantly lower chance of conceiving. Therefore, if you have been delaying having children, you may have difficulty becoming pregnant. The good news is that reduced fertility does not necessarily have to prevent you from starting a family. Even if you have already tried other treatment methods or suffer from premature ovarian failure, you still have a chance of becoming a mother.

If your test results show significantly reduced fertility, and you are not prepared for such an eventuality, you may wish to consider using egg cells donated by another woman.

Donated eggs can then be fertilised using sperm provided either by the recipient’s male partner, or by donated sperm and the embryo used in conventional IVF or ICSI procedures.

Ready or not, we can help

Regardless of what stage in life you are at, whether it is or isn’t the ‘right time’ for you to have a child, RHG can support you in achieving your dream of starting a family through our fertility preservation, egg donation and fertility treatment programmes. 

If you would like to talk to us about any of our services or treatments, you can contact us, organise a one-to-one consultation or attend one of our fortnightly information evenings.

Fertility Healthy Living

Lifestyle has a major impact on our general health, including our fertility. The things we eat and the way in which we cope with stressful situations have a long-term impact on our health. Therefore, trying to eat a healthy and balanced diet along with keeping active will be a positive step in improving fertility performance. At the Reproductive Health Group we believe that being healthy before starting fertility treatment helps to achieve a successful pregnancy outcome. Our consultants’ team works very closely with leading nutritional therapist and expert in stress management, Celia Cooper, who practises at the UK first integrated fertility hospital, Centre for Reproductive Health, Daresbury Park.

Our fertility is affected by many factors. We have no influence on some of them, including for instance on some diseases. Hormonal imbalance and autoimmune disorders, endometriosis or fallopian tube obstruction in women are barriers to conceiving a child, which have to be overcome with the help of fertility treatment. However, we have an influence on many other things. If you are planning to start a family, take to heart the following guidelines:

Keeping to a healthy weight

You will feel better and be healthier if you can achieve a healthy weight. Bear in mind that any deviations from normal weight may have a negative impact on fertility. Excessive dieting is also not beneficial to our health. Inappropriate body weight results in ovulatory disturbance and lower quality of semen, which impairs chances of pregnancy.

Choose foods that will nourish you

Make a list of the things that you eat during the entire week. Think about what might be helpful to cut out of your diet and what healthier meals and snacks you could eat instead. Choosing foods rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the egg and sperm from free radicals and healthy fats will be helpful. Taking a good quality fertility supplement containing vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, vitamin B and vitamin C is important too. Fertility vitamin products for women will contain folic acid, which prevents nervous system defects in the fetus.

A good night’s sleep

Try to have a good sleep routine and this will help you feel rested even during busy times. Sleep effectively regenerates your body and helps reduce stress. When you are tired it is also more tempting to reach for those sugary quick fixes or caffeinated drinks, sending our blood sugar levels up and down throughout the day.

Managing stress

High stress may make it more difficult to conceive a child. Finding the right techniques for you to help you unwind is important. It might be yoga, going for a walk, gardening or cooking. Whatever is right for you, try to make time to fit them into your diary.

Keeping active

Regular exercise not only makes you less prone to diseases but also improves performance and strengthens your immune system. It helps you maintain a healthy weight and can help reduce stress. Finding something you enjoy doing with a partner or friends, makes it more likely for you to commit to.

 Avoiding stimulants

Refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine are best kept to a minimum or cut out completely for optimum health. Cut down gradually and you will find that your habits have changed. Once you start to feel better for the changes they will be easier to stick to.

Women’s fertility decreases significantly after the age of 35. Women over the age of 40 have even smaller chances of getting pregnant. Men’s fertility also decreases with age, as their sperm cells age very much like the entire body. The older the reproductive cells, the smaller the chances of fertilisation. Even though you look and feel great, you may have difficulty conceiving.

Therefore, take care of yourself and try to make sure that your lifestyle does not prevent you from fulfilling your biggest dreams. If you are experiencing difficulties seek professional advice for the appropriate tests and treatment. You can organise an appointment with our experienced team by clicking here.

IVF Treatment Packages

To coincide with National Fertility Awareness Week, we are excited to announce a truly innovative approach to IVF & fertility treatment.

Reproductive Health Group recognises that embarking on fertility treatment is a very important decision in the lives of our patients. Uncertainty about the ultimate cost of that treatment can cause concern and be responsible for further delays. For that reason, we have developed a unique approach to fertility care and the packages available to all of our patients.

We recognise that all of our patients are different, so we begin with a detailed medical history and a series of tests that help our highly experienced consultants create a personalised care plan for them based on one of our 3 new IVF care packages. Once they have explained the approach we are recommending, we will guide them to the right fertility package to suit their specific needs, combining optimum care with the best value, available.

View our innovative new fertility packages.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) using donor eggs (ie, oocytes) from a known or unknown altruistic donor is becoming more accepted by couples and less of an ethical issue for society and the media. The desire that most couples have to have a child seems to be the springboard for overcoming the barriers, if any, of embarking on assisted conception treatment using donor eggs. Realistically, it is often the only option for infertile couples whose female partner has been diagnosed with poor or absent ovarian function as result of premature ovarian failure (also known as early menopuase), chronological age, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or smoking. Egg donation is also the avenue recommended to couples who have had repeated IVF failures with suboptimal ovarian response (less than 4 egg collected), low fertilisation rate and poor quality embryos in the context of normal sperm parameters and sperm DNA fragmentation test.

What is egg donation?

Egg donation entails the fertilisation in-vitro in the laboratory of eggs donated from a healthy third party with sperm from the male partner or a donor. The first egg donation cycle as a result of which a healthy child was born was carried out in Australia in 1983. Since then, egg donation programmes have become available in some fertility centres and in some countries. According to national statistics, approximately 9,500 in vitro fertilisation cycles using donor eggs were registered in the US in 2009, accounting for 9 per cent of all the cycles performed. According to data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), over 47,000 children were born in the United States thanks to egg donation. In 2006 a total of 11,892 in vitro fertilisation cycles using donor eggs were performed in 17 Member States of the European Union, as a result of which 4,862 children were born. Although the number of donors increases year on year, however in the UK it is not yet close enough to the number needed to satisfy the demand.

Donor eggs become available through egg sharing (eggs provided by young women who undergo IVF because of tubal damage or male factor infertility, who agree to donate half of their harvested eggs in return for subsidised treatment) or true egg donation (eggs provided by young women, known or unknown to the recipient, who decide voluntarily and altruistically to undergo ovarian stimulation with hormones to donate all their harvested eggs to help somebody else have a family).

What does the egg donation process entail?

Following meticulous screening, dedicated implications counselling and accurate matching of the donor with the recipient, egg donation treatment follows the same standard process as in most cycles of in vitro fertilisation when the ovaries are stimulated with hormones to induce the growth and maturation of follicles within which the eggs are contained. When the follicles have reached an appropriate stage of development, the eggs are collected under ultrasound guidance in the safe environment of an operating procedure room. The eggs are then used for fertilisation in-vitro using either conventional IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Mature eggs can also be frozen for future use.

At the Reproductive Health Group we offer a wide range of egg donation options to meet the demand and wishes of our patients. Although we have well established links with egg donation clinics overseas – Spain and Cyprus – we are amongst the very few UK-based licensed clinics to have donor eggs from altruistic anonymous donors with virtually no waiting times. The entire process is carried out under the supervision of our experienced fertility specialist team and coordinated by a dedicated nursing team.

Egg donors

In order to guarantee the maximum safety for the mother and protect the short- and long-term health of the child, each potential egg donor undergoes various examinations and tests. Only completely healthy women who meet the criteria below are eligible to donate their eggs:

  • no genetic disorders
  • no underlying medical problems
  • no mental illnesses
  • no transmissible diseases
  • 35 years of age or younger
  • satisfactory ovarian reserve (as confirmed by both AMH and antral follicle count)

By Luciano Nardo (Consultant Gynaecologist & Reproductive Surgeon at Reproductive Health Group)

Fertility Preservation

Ovarian function is not forever. Fertility naturally decreases with chronological age and it cannot be restored after the menopause and after some types of cancer treatment. Research shows that the 21st century is a time of significant population ageing and that women leave it too late before they decide to start a family. Both fertility physicians and scientists have given a great deal of attention to strategies to optimise fertility preservation methods in women, to ensure that preservation programmes are available, affordable and reliable. At the Reproductive Health Group we have the latest technologies and the multidisciplinary experties to assist you through the fertility preservation journey. Cancer patients can benefit for tailored support counselling and start treatment to freeze their eggs or sperm within days of the life-changing diagnosis.

What are the main causes of reduced fertility?

There are many factors affecting fertility. Age is one of them. The percentage of couples who are having children later in life is increasing. Demographic data indicate that the population is ageing. In the 1950s, couples had on average four children, whereas now, less than two. In 2050, more than 40 per cent of the world’s population will be over 65 years of age. On a global scale, the number of children is decreasing in countries in which the standard of living is increasing.

What causes a decrease in fertility?

Women want to get a degree, have a stable successful job and then start planning to have children for children. During these years women age and naturally fertility decreases. Out of the million egg cells which women are born with, they may use around 400 during ovulation between the age of 15 and 45. Every minute two egg cells die in a woman, and the older they are, the faster they die.

Apart from the natural fertility loss, there are also extenuating factors which may cause a radical decrease in fertility. For instance, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer may impair fertility, some kind of surgeries may affect the reproductive organs function. Whenever possible women should be warned about the risks of infertility and options to preserve fertility should be offered.

What fertility preservation methods are used?

Like men have the option of freezing the sperm to preserve their fertility, women can freeze their mature eggs and also ovarian tissue as a form of fertility preservation. Thanks to vitrification, a special fast freeze method, the stored eggs have great potential to be used for in vitro fertilisation. More recently, techniques to freeze ovarian tissue have been developed and optimised. The method is used in those patients who cannot undergo controlled ovarian stimulation with hormones before the treatment due to the risk that the cancer may progress to a more advanced stage.

Do all cancer treatments cause infertility?

Not all cancer treatments leave women infertile. However, it is important that patients are fully informed of the risks and have realistic expectations. Young women diagnosed with cancer think about their life with the disease and are often talked in to the available treatments, but very seldom are counselled regarding their fertility potential if and when they recover.

How does cancer treatment affect fertility?

Cancer treatment affects the reproductive function of female and male patients. The longer the treatment and the stronger the doses the higher the risk of damage to the pelvic organs. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy destroy the rapidly dividing cancer cells and normal cells alike. They may damage or completely destroy both eggs and sperm. The effect could also be the same if some treatments take place away from the pelvis. For example, irradiation of the pituitary gland or other regions in the brain that produce hormones which control the function of the ovaries or testicles may cause infertility. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants, which usually require large doses of chemotherapy are also associated with a risk of infertility. Surgery to treat cancer may affect fertility potential and pregnancy rates both in women and men.

Frozen Embryo Transfer

The technique of freezing embryos for storage is called cryopreservation and the first birth after freezing was recorded in the 1980s. Its contribution to IVF treatments has been increasing ever since.

Traditionally, in the practice of IVF, a handful of embryos are formed and the best is freshly replaced into the womb and the rest are frozen to be used at a later date, either if the first embryo does not result in a successful pregnancy, or if further pregnancies are desired. There is a pool of research accumulating suggesting freeze-thawed embryo transfer (FET), which involves freezing all of the embryos rather than replacing the best fresh embryo, may result in better pregnancy outcomes. The kind of beneficial outcome discussed include:

  • Avoiding low birth weight and prematurity which can lead to further problems as the child develops
  • Birth defects to do with the heart, digestive system, urinary and/or gynaecological system, and muscle and/or bone system, and also cerebral palsy
  • Fewer problems with bleeding prior to labour or placenta abnormalities
  • Decreasing risk and progression of late onset ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous complication of ovarian stimulation

How is Freeze-thaw Embryo Transfer (FET) different?

FET is a process to preserve embryos not replaced immediately after fertilisation, by freezing and storing them in liquid nitrogen. These embryos are now called cryopreserved embryos and can be replaced at later date. The embryos are cryopreserved using a method called vitrification, which the embryologists at the Reproductive Health Group at used for long time.

Once thawed, these embryos can be replaced into the womb, at an appropriate stage of the cycle, when there is a more natural environment available compared with a fresh transfer where the hormones from ovarian stimulation may have altered the favourable conditions. If you opt for a freeze all cycle, you can choose to transfer the embryo(s) at any time.

What do we do at the Reproductive Health Group

The consultants and embryologists at the Reproductive Health Group will discuss the available options with you and your partner, and recommend the best approach for your treatment cycle. Decisions to freeze all embryos are made case by case, depending on previous history, findings in the fresh cycle and availability of suitable embryos. One in two patients undergoing a FET cycle at the Reproductive Health Group achieve a clinical pregnancy.

Luciano Nardo

Following the recent conflicting publications on the Mail Online website regarding the best time to have a baby, RHG clinical director & UK IVF expert Luciano Nardo has voiced his opinion on the subject.

Women that leave until their late 30s to start trying to conceive can be a real risk to themselves and to the society. They should be made aware by healthcare professionals that postponing intentionally pregnancy and not making provisions for fertility preservationegg freezing” until the time when their reproductive potential physiologically decline is unreasonable and dangerous. Women who begin trying to conceive later in life are more likely to be faced with significantly reduced chances of success, to spend more money for their fertility treatment and indeed to require egg donation.

These comments followed today’s article from Lord Professor Winston claiming that “Waiting to have children is a ‘really good thing’“, which contradicted a recent piece covering NHS chief Professor Geeta Nargund’s letter to the education secretary published at the end of May, which warned “women not to wait until 30 to have baby as country faces a fertility timebomb“.