Around 3.5 million people in the UK have some difficulty conceiving. However many don’t know that a woman can only get pregnant on a few days each month and that if both partners lose weight and cut back on alcohol they can significantly improve their chances.
Dr Babbur Vijayalakshmi, Consultant at Bourn Hall Clinic, the world’s first IVF clinic, says that for some couples lifestyle changes can tip the balance: “The majority of healthy couples having regular intercourse will conceive within two years. If it is taking longer than this we would recommend seeking advice from a GP. There are many causes for infertility and often these are treatable by the GP or local hospital, IVF is only required for a very small minority of people.”
Bourn Hall fertility experts will be giving advice at a free fertility awareness event, held at Hitchin Priory on Thursday 30th June.
Dr Babbur says: “Fertility declines with age and to me the saddest situation is when someone has put off talking to a health professional about their fertility concerns only to find out when they do that they have left it too late. At Bourn Hall Clinic we have Fertility check (also known as Fertility MOT) which will establish as much as possible about their fertility and will assist them to make the right decision sooner than later.
“The idea behind the Fertility Awareness Event was to make this type of specialist advice more readily available and encourage people to seek advice earlier.”
Hitchin couple Felicity Manning and her husband Benjamin despaired of ever having a baby. She says: "It was really frustrating, especially as all my friends seemed to be getting pregnant at the drop of a hat."
The couple in their early thirties had been trying for a family for over three years before they went to their GP for advice. No reason was found for their infertility and they were referred for IVF treatment and chose Bourn Hall Clinic near Cambridge.
There are no waiting lists for NHS or self-funded patients, so the couple soon began treatment. Sadly the first cycle was unsuccessful and the couple took a break before returning later in the year for a second cycle of treatment.
This time Felicity became pregnant but tragically miscarried in the early stages of the pregnancy. The couple were shattered. Felicity remembers the pain: "After the delight of finally becoming pregnant it was devastating to learn I’d miscarried. It did put a strain on our relationship but we talked through it and came out stronger as a team."
Fertility treatment is tailored for the individual and for the Manning’s it was agreed that a frozen embryo from each of the two previous fresh cycles would be used for the next treatment.
"I was incredibly anxious after miscarrying, so a different approach gave us hope," says Felicity.
In addition, a relatively new procedure, called an endometrial scratch was used. This involves using a very fine catheter making a small scratch in the lining of the womb. It is thought that this procedure may help the womb to be more receptive to achieve successful implantation of embryos and increase the chances of pregnancy.
Seeking help proved the right answer for Felicity and Benjamin, as they are now the proud parents of baby Zachary, born on 18th January 2016.
At the Hitchin event Bourn Hall fertility experts will available to provide people with advice specific to their needs. The evening includes presentations about why there can be problems conceiving, the options available and access to funding. Followed by individual one-to-one mini-consultations. There is no charge for attending the awareness event or receiving the mini-consultation and it is open to anyone with a concern about their fertility.
For anyone thinking of starting IVF treatment Felicity reassures: "It does take an emotional and physical toll on you and your partner and it can be a long process – it took us three attempts to have success but now we have Zachary. We are delighted and so lucky to now be in our position with a family!"
To register for the Fertility Awareness Event at Hitchin Priory in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, on 30th June 6.30pm go to the Bourn Hall events page: