The Fertility Forum – A day that brought the professionals and the public together

 

The Fertility Forum 2019 was a collaborative effort by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Fertility Society (BFS); alongside the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Ferility Network UK (FNUK) and a host of other organisations. It was held at the home of the RCOG on Saturday 30th March in central London. The aim was to provide a full day of evidence-based and impartial information for those affected by fertility problems.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“Trying for a baby can be an incredibly stressful time for some. This new data echoes what we have been hearing from women and patients for many years.

“It is vital that women and couples have access to accurate, evidence-based, impartial and expert advice which is why we have brought together renowned experts, patients and partners together in one location for our very first Fertility Forum event.”

I’m not sure how widely advertised this event was, but I managed to get myself a ticket (for only £25 which I though was a bargain for a day like this) and went along with @fibroidforum (on Twitter) to hear all of the latest advice.

Sally Cheshire, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said:

“As the fertility regulator, we collect data about every treatment cycle across the UK to provide patients with clear, unbiased information and to prepare them for what they will face at their clinic.

“I know from personal experience as a former patient how difficult it is to find impartial, evidence-based information so that you can make informed choices about the right fertility treatment for you. The HFEA is delighted to be joining the Fertility Forum, giving patients the opportunity to ask questions, hear from experts and find out about our latest data on all aspects of fertility treatment and donation.”

There were several talks on a wide range of topics, covering the latest information and advice.

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Topics:

  • Understanding your fertility and causes of subfertility – including investigations and how to seek advice
  • Recurrent Miscarriage
  • How to improve natural fertility
  • Using donor gametes (egg/sperm donation)
  • The best treatments and how to seek treatment including the use of donor gametes, surrogacy, legal and social aspects, modern families and fertility preservation
  • Endometriosis
  • Choosing a fertility clinic
  • New technologies
  • Legal issues (surrogacy, donor eggs or sperm – co-parenting & legal parenthood explained)
  • Egg freezing
  • Male fertility problems
  • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Living without children
  • Planning for health pregnancy – lifestyle, diet, supplements
  • What comes first – stress or infertility?
  • Understanding ovarian reserve and treatment for older women

 

The talks were held in three parallel streams, so unfortunately there were seminars that I did miss out on. I did however, manage to see the following:

Talks Attended:

  1. Recurrent Miscarriage – Professor Lesley Regan Current RCOG Chair and the Consultant who runs the Tommy’s RMC clinic at St Mary’s Hospital in London. An overview of the potential causes and treatment
  2. New Technologies – Jason Kasraie All about technological advances in IVF treatment and their effectiveness. Are they really worth the extra $$$?
  3. Egg freezing – Ephia Yasmin Procedure discussed and the risks. Chances of success discussed. The age at freezing is important, but also the age at implantation matters.
  4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – Adam Balen World leader in this subject. Information about PCOS, how to calculate the fertile window if you have variable cycles (I thought this was very useful!!), recommended fertility treatment pathway. Signposted to Verity the National support group for women with PCOS.
  5. Where do the men figure? – Richard Clothier A personal story of male factor infertility. Great to hear a male voice and perspective on infertility.
  6. Planning for a healthy pregnancy: lifestyle advice, diet, supplements – Grace Dugdale The evidence behind optimising and stabilising preconception conditions through diet/nutrition and lifestyle. This includes MEN ALSO!!
  7. Understanding ovarian reserve and fertility treatment for older women – Melanie Davies AMH discussed in detail (I think I may finally understand this now) and the role of egg donation

 

It was like being at Medical school again and I found myself taking several notes.

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Key Messages:

I have picked ONE key message from each talk and summarised below in an order which hopefully makes more sense…

  • Diet and lifestyle – We need stable conditions for 3 months prior to conception ideally (e.g. avoid rapid weight loss/diets during this period).
  • PCOS – Fertility problems usually due to irregular ovulation (there has previously been a huge emphasis on metabolic syndrome as a cause of subfertility). A way to calculate your fertile window if you have variable cycle length subtract 11 days from your longest cycle and 19 days off your shortest cycle. Check out Verity website (okay, 2 key messages!).
  • Male Factor Inferility? Choose your confidant wisely! Also applies to women I would say…
  • IVF New Technologies – Be cautious when sold extras such as IMSI/PICSI/embryo glue
  • Ovarian reserve – Ovarian reserve = number of eggs. This declines with time. AMH is related to egg number, but really is a marker of how well an egg will respond to stimulation (e.g. in IVF) and how many eggs may be produced . It is not a marker of whether a woman will fall pregnant naturally; age and periods are better markers of this.
  • Egg Freezing – The age at freezing is important, but also the age at implantation is  key.
  • Recurrent Miscarriage – Still little evidence to prove most treatments being trialled are effective, though there is great collaborative work ongoing at Tommy’s Clinics

 

Overall this was a fantastic day!

I think it would have most useful those going through IVF as many of the talks were directed at this topic. It was great to be able to receive impartial evidenced-based facts/opinion and also to have the opportunity to speak to experts on a personal basis. I even asked a question about Recurrent Miscarriage! I would have loved to have heard the talk on Involuntary Childlessness (‘Living without children’) as there were women telling their own personal inspiring stories, but unfortunately this clashed with another talk.

I would say it was a success and I think the Fertility Forum has set a president when it comes to really delivering expert advice to the public. I hope this will become an annual event in the RCOG calendar!

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