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The Fertility Show’s “Let’s All Talk” Webinar Series, The Story So Far. By Sophie Sulehria

Hello, I’m Sophie, one of the hosts of The Fertility Show’s “Let’s All Talk” webinar series.  As a fertility patient myself, living through the ups and down of a pandemic, not knowing what to do, who to turn to or where to get my information from, I was delighted to see the launch of The Fertility Show’s free webinar series at the start of January and I’m even more delighted to see it’s still going strong six months later.  If you haven’t already discovered it, here’s some background…

As we all know, it’s been a tough old year in the world of fertility, and events.  I have personally attended The Fertility Show every year since 2015, so was sad to hear it would not be running in its live form both in 2020 and 2021.  All that help and support unable to be accessed at a time when it’s most needed.  So, when Laura Biggs (MD of the show) told me she was putting together a free online platform of events, dedicated to providing great expert advice each week, and that it would be totally free for the viewer, I was thrilled for the community.  I was also proud to be asked to host such an important event.  Every month we’d talk to leading experts on a particular topic and give time to the audience to ask any questions they’d like answers to.  Roll on six months and we’re in full swing.  I therefore thought I’d share some of the things I have learnt over this time, in the hope it can help the readers here in Fertility Help Hub:

1) MEN - Did you know the second most common issue in fertility is male infertility?  Literally, nearly 50% of the issue?  No, neither did I until I started these talks.  But after speaking on Let’s all Talk to so many of our experts, including James Nicopoullos from The Lister Fertility Clinic and Professor Sheena Lewis from Examine Lab, I was enlightened.  Apparently, a diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’ can also mask the fact that, actually a lot of the time, the men need to be investigated far more thoroughly.  For so long it’s been the assumption that all fertility problems are likely down to the female.  So not so.  Always check the men too as you could be missing something very important.

2) SUCCESS RATES - As we all know, clinic success rates can feel like a minefield.  All clinics have their own take on the stats and how they are interpreted, so it’s always been a hard one to navigate.  The great news is that regulations have become much tougher.  New guidance for clinics issued by the Competition and Markets Authority has banned misleading information on prices, and the reporting of success rates, so patients can now make more informed and clear choices for the good of their health. Fertility clinics that embellish their statistics can now face legal action and have been warned they must be clearer with their patients from now on. 

3) EARLY KNOWLEDGE - When covering “Female Fertility” in March, the one thing all of our guests mentioned was the need for knowledge: women need to know more about their fertile health early on.  As early as possible in fact, even as early as 18 years old.  They need to know that sadly there is a very real biological clock, that we’ve been trained to ignore, but that sadly starts ticking away from as young as 28.  By 35 our eggs really start to decrease, and by 40+ the decline is rapid.  Our guests didn’t set out to scare with this information (although it is a scary truth) - their aim was to ensure women understand they have a time limit if they want to have a biological child.

4) ANDROLOGISTS FOR ALL - When discussing “Male Infertility” in February, a number of our speakers were keen for men to have easy access to an Andrologist when facing treatment.  In fact, Prof Lewis said she’d like to see an Andrologist inserted into all fertility clinics across the UK.  Side note: if you don’t know what an Andrologist is, it’s a medical specialist that deals with problems of the male reproductive system. Another side note: if you didn’t know this, this shows the extent of the problem.  The idea that women see a gynaecologist immediately when walking into a fertility clinic, but there is not the same equivalent for a man is actually pretty crazy seeing as men are 50% of the problem (see point 1). It feels fairly obvious that they should have their own specialist checking their fertile health too, no?

5) 1 IN 3 - One in three people have Endometriosis and / or PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome). This statistic shocked me.  I think because it made me realise just how many women suffer in silence.  You don’t hear one in three women telling people how much pain they’re in, or how much they suffer.  It’s still a silent struggle when it comes to female medical conditions, and something I feel needs to be more widely discussed, and more money and research time invested into these debilitating, life-changing, infertility-causing conditions.

6) RECURRENT MISCARRIAGE - some great scientific news was revealed while we were covering this topic on “Let’s All Talk Fertility” - it showed a strong lead into research. Scientists have managed to create “clumps” of human tissue that behave like early-stage embryos, a feat that promises to transform research into the first steps of human development.  The clumps of cells, named blastoids, resemble blastocysts, which form within a few days of an egg being fertilised. By studying blastoids, scientists hope to understand why so many miscarriages occur at this delicate stage in human pregnancy.  I look forward to hearing more about this exciting research as it moves forward.

7) QUESTIONS QUESTIONS QUESTIONS - I have heard time after time how men are ignored by the doctors in clinic.  Even if the man is the reason, you’re in the fertility clinic in the first place!  Patient Richard Clothier told us that the way to make yourself seen is to be as involved as possible.  Ask as many questions as your partner in the clinic - in fact, more so.  Pre-plan these questions if necessary and split them between you and your partner so you both ask the same amount.  Just make sure the doctor knows you want to be involved and be seen as part of the process.

8) PINEAPPLES - Oh the number of pineapples I have eaten!  For those of you who don’t know, the hardest part of the pineapple contains bromelain, an anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulation agent that has been thought may improve implantation by increasing blood flow to the uterus.  So much so that the pineapple is now an adopted symbol for fertility.  It also means that women TTC end up eating a shed load of them in a bid to help their treatment cycles… and not even the nice juicy bit, but the hard old core!  What are we doing to ourselves??  Then our fertility nutritionist Sandra Greenbank put us straight.  She told us that to include pineapples into our fruit and veg intake is a good idea, but that it’s unnecessary to eat “buckets of the stuff” as Sandra said, “because who wants to eat the woody bit anyway??” Good point Sandra.

9) THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORT - After speaking to fertility counsellor Tracey Sainsbury, I realised how few people believe they need support during a struggle with fertility. Tracey said talking things through and getting the perspective of a trained professional can really help the process, especially when considering donor conception or adoption.  The place to go to find a professionally trained fertility counsellor is BICA.  If counselling isn’t for you, there are other places.  The Fertility Network are always there for anyone who need them.  The national charity has advice, great contacts, and a wealth of experience.  Then there’s Peanut, a free app for women that is with you any time you need a community who understands you.  Instagram has also become an extremely important space for those facing the struggle, and I have personally met so many people facing all sorts of TTC roads, many of them I can now call my friends.  If you haven’t already, do follow The Fertility Show on Instagram, I am behind the content and often the one talking to you, so do please come and say hi.  Then of course there’s Fertility Help Hub!  With great fertility resources, tips for TTC, nutrition, holistic remedies, advice on clinics, donor conception, surrogacy & also community it’s a one stop shop for support and guidance.

10) WEBINAR LOVE - It’s been a tricky old year, but one of the greatest things about taking our content online is being able to reach an audience anywhere at all, from the comfort and privacy of their home.  People can now access these talks for free and ask the questions they need to ask anonymously and without fear.  In fact, we’ve been so heartened by the popularity and feedback of these events that The Fertility Show has decided to put on a four-day online Summit across September, to build on what we’ve learnt.  The extensive seminar programme is set to cover everything you need to know for your TTC journey.  The speakers will include the world’s leading experts, as well as those sharing information about the newest technologies and treatments in the fertility space.  Tickets will go on sale this month so make sure you sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear the latest news and some exclusive offers from our exhibitors and partners.

So that’s ten things I’ve learnt so far!  Thanks for reading.  For those of you who have missed our Let’s all Talk sessions, the most recent ones live on The Fertility Show’s YouTube Channel - link below.  Meanwhile, to join us at The Fertility Show Online Summit in September and to sign up to our newsletter, just follow this link:

Best Wishes