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Letter From The Heart Kim’s Story

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Letter From the Heart Kim Sjoblad

Ralph Waldo Emerson is often quoted as saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” It’s a nice sentiment, but for anyone who has ever battled through infertility, you know the destination of a baby in your arms is what you are truly striving towards. Seeing the value in that journey isn’t exactly something most of us are capable of doing while in the midst of that fight.

I am a certified Holistic Practitioner and Fertility Coach. I love what I do, but if you had asked me a decade ago what I would be doing with my life today, it wouldn’t have been this.

Back then, I was in the fast paced, high-pressure world of marketing, advertising and special events. I had been in my career field for over 12 years, and I was good at what I did. Of course, I also worked insane hours and regularly fuelled my body with a steady diet of fast food, lattes and a variety of caffeinated beverages. I was known as the artist who loved her burgers and fries! I didn’t put much thought into what I was eating and I admittedly didn’t take the best care of myself, like so many other women in the world today.

It was almost 10 years ago when I first began the journey towards healthier living; a journey that became all the more urgent when I realised my fertility was also suffering alongside my overall health. But I’ll get to that.

The initial catalyst was the long list of symptoms and ailments I seemed to be accumulating over the years. Severe abdominal pain, constipation, abnormal bleeding, awful periods and skin rashes and more. Over the years, these ailments only became worse, accompanied by other irregularities like my eyes occasionally swelling shut and chest pains I had trouble breathing through.

I saw doctor after doctor, visiting too many specialists to count and submitting to all kinds of invasive tests. I was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune condition that causes the colon to be chronically inflamed.

Letter From the Heart Kim Sjoblad

At first I thought, “Great! At least now I have a diagnosis! Something we can treat!” But over time, I came to realise that nothing they were prescribing me was working. Alleviating the discomfort I was experiencing began to feel completely out of reach.

Forget the fact that my diet was still abysmal, like so many people today, I had convinced myself that the way I ate was totally normal – that it couldn’t possibly be contributing to my condition, because I had eaten the same way my entire life and because everyone around me was eating the way I did. I wasn’t overweight, so surely my diet wasn’t a problem. Right?

I continued to lament the fact that none of the medications I was being prescribed seemed to help. There were days when the discomfort was so bad that I was genuinely afraid to eat. Putting anything in my stomach felt like a risk. This continued for years.

In addition to my diminishing health, my job had started to become less rewarding and more difficult to enjoy. For reasons I couldn’t quite figure out, I was no longer happy in the career I had spent over a decade building. I realised I wasn’t feeling great about most things in my life, and then my husband and I started talking about children – and it became clear to me, once and for all, that I needed to make some changes if I was ever going to be in a position to truly embrace motherhood. I slowly changed my diet and lifestyle, turning my back on fast food and opting for organic options instead. For the first time ever, I began to see significant improvements in the discomfort I had been experiencing for years. I wasn’t ‘cured’, but I was feeling better. Realising I was on the right track, I took another leap and left my job, deciding it was time to start working for myself instead. And again, the shift seemed to be in the right direction.

Over a period of time, I slowly took myself off the colitis medication, and was pleased to find that my symptoms were now at least manageable as a result of the changes I had been making. I was feeling healthier and happier every single day. But over the next few years, we still hadn’t conceived. We tried every month, and every month we faced a deeper feeling of disappointment and fear that it would never be us with a baby in our arms. It had never before occurred to me that it might be this hard. But there I was, watching my friends get pregnant one right after another, while we were still struggling. Still trying. Still hoping.

Letter From the Heart Kim Sjoblad Letter From the Heart Kim Sjoblad Scan

Eventually, we decided it was time to visit a fertility clinic. After a series of tests and even an exploratory surgery, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Endometriosis, a condition that causes the lining of the uterus to implant itself in other areas of the reproductive and abdominal cavity, leading to scarring, pain and a much more difficult time conceiving. So much of the pain I had experienced over the years had been attributed to colitis, but now there was reason to believe endometriosis had always been a problem for me as well. My case was so bad that my uterus, colon and ovaries were all glued together. According to my husband, the surgical photos looked as though my organs were “covered with melted string cheese”. Because of how extremely endometriosis inhibits fertility, we decided to move forward with additional surgeries to remove as much of the rogue endometrial tissue as possible. Thanks to a team of amazing doctors, I was able to walk away with an 80% reduction in endometrial lesions. I was told my best bet for conception would be over the next six months, before the endometriosis returned. Talk about pressure!

I monitored my cycles every month. We added in injections of hormones and did everything the doctors suggested, yet still, a positive pregnancy eluded me. With every failed attempt, my hormone dosage was increased. It was a painful descent into madness, pumping myself full of drugs that would make any woman feel batty, particularly while also facing that heartbreaking disappointment month after month. The imbalance in my system, combined with the trauma of failure, was becoming more and more challenging. But like so many other women in my shoes, I was willing to endure anything if it meant walking away with my baby in the end. So focused was I on the destination.

Once upon a time, I had believed that when we decided we were ready to conceive, it would just happen. It never occurred to me that we would struggle. And even if we did, I assumed we would just get through it. I made snap judgments about those around me who were trying so hard to get pregnant, wondering why they would allow it to consume their lives. Seeing those women cry, avoiding other pregnant women, and battling bouts of depression; I thought to myself, ‘I will never put us through that’. Funny how life turns out, right?

The lesson learned is to never say never. Because as soon as it was me in those shoes, going through cycle monitoring every morning, daily blood work, regular internal ultrasounds, and scheduled love making sessions, I knew once and for all that I would do anything to have my baby in the end. The destination was, again, all that mattered.

Of course, anyone who has ever been through it knows that it’s not just that simple. You start to doubt yourself, and you certainly start to doubt your body. So I began doing research on nutrition, lifestyle and the impact of environmental factors on fertility; suddenly ready and willing to delve far deeper into making positive lifestyle changes than I ever had before. Unfortunately, I found most of that research to be overwhelming and confusing.

It was only when I came across the Institute of Holistic Nutrition that I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. So intense was my desire to understand my body, that pursuing an advanced education in how to help it function optimally somehow made perfect sense to me. In fact, I was pretty sure I had found my calling. Every time I went to the fertility clinic, I couldn’t help but notice how many other women were there as well. At least 60 women a day, in one clinic. Far too many women were struggling in the same way I was. And I thought if I did this, not only could I help myself, but maybe I could start educating others who were struggling as well.

It had never been my intention to go back to school, but my determination to have a baby was all the motivation I needed to begin pursuing that path.

At the same time, I was being told by doctors that my only real hope for a pregnancy at this point was IVF.They felt.They felt they had exhausted all other options and that this was the last resort. Conceiving naturally, they explained, was no longer a possibility. I was learning so much at school though, yet realised that I was expecting far too much from my body. I needed time to process this next step, and for my husband and I to decide if IVF was really the path we were willing to take. For the first time, the journey seemed to matter just as much as the destination.

So my husband and I decided to take a break from fertility treatments. We thought that a few months off hormone treatments might be a good way to at least get my body back in balance. I detoxed, took daily supplements, continued to eat better and made lifestyle changes to create the best environment possible to have a child in.

The changes that I saw in myself and my health over the next few months were dramatic. I continued cycle monitoring, solely so that we could keep an eye on my progress. Over just a few months, I watched as my hormone The lesson learned is to never say never. Because as soon as it was me in those shoes, going through cycle monitoring every morning, daily blood work, regular internal ultrasounds, and scheduled love making sessions, I knew once and for all that I would do anything to have my baby in the end. The destination was, again, all that mattered.

Of course, anyone who has ever been through it knows that it’s not just that simple. You start to doubt yourself, and you certainly start to doubt your body. So I began doing research on nutrition, lifestyle and the impact of environmental factors on fertility; suddenly ready and willing to delve far deeper into making positive lifestyle changes than I ever had before. Unfortunately, I found most of that research to be overwhelming and confusing.

It was only when I came across the Institute of Holistic Nutrition that I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. So intense was my desire to understand my body, that pursuing an advanced education in how to help it function optimally somehow made perfect sense to me. In fact, I was pretty sure I had found my calling. Every time I went to the fertility clinic, I couldn’t help but notice how many other women were there as well. At least 60 women a day, in one clinic. Far too many women were struggling in the same way I was. And I thought if I did this, not only could I help myself, but maybe I could start educating others who were struggling as well.

It had never been my intention to go back to school, but my determination to have a baby was all the motivation I needed to begin pursuing that path.

At the same time, I was being told by doctors that my only real hope for a pregnancy at this point was IVF. They felt they had exhausted all other options and that this was the last resort.

Conceiving naturally, they explained, was no longer a possibility. I was learning so much at school though, yet realised that I was expecting far too much from my body. I needed time to process this next step, and for my husband and I to decide if IVF was really the path we were willing to take. For the first time, the journey seemed to matter just as much as the destination.

So my husband and I decided to take a break from fertility treatments. We thought that a few months off hormone treatments might be a good way to at least get my body back in balance. I detoxed, took daily supplements, continued to eat better and made lifestyle changes to create the best environment possible to have a child in.

The changes that I saw in myself and my health over the next few months were dramatic. I continued cycle monitoring, solely so that we could keep an eye on my progress. Over just a few months, I watched as my hormone.

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Fertility Life

Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown

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Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown

Louise Brown is an extraordinary woman.  Extraordinary by virtue of her conception – the first IVF baby. On 25 July 2018 Louise Brown and the world are celebrating her 40th Birthday.

You might think that there is nothing special about a 40th birthday but this is no ordinary birthday. In the last 10 years, finally, IVF has come of age as a scientific “discovery” and from it so many other areas of advancement have sprung; encompassing legal, ethical, medical and technological developments.

Although too late for Patrick Steptoe who died in 1988, Bob Edwards received a Nobel Prize in 2010 and was knighted in 2011, recognition coming just 2 years before his own death.  It was also too late for Jean Purdy, whose clinical and laboratory roles have been highlighted recently, bringing her to the attention of those of us who had been unaware of her huge contribution, which has been rightly and publicly celebrated.

Thanks to the public recognition of those pioneers, this decade birthday is being celebrated around the world. It is a commemoration of achievements that transformed the management of fertility problems.

IVF has enabled so many couples to build families that otherwise might never have been. These families aren’t simply a child or maybe two for a couple to bring up to adulthood but families in the truest sense of the word – grandchildren for grandparents, cousins and future parents, aunts and uncles.  Making a family is not just life changing for one or two people but has inter-generational impact.

Today, IVF has been assimilated into accepted practice. This by virtue of the HFEAct for which we are indebted to Mary Warnock and her great ethical insight. The Act underpins the regulation of current practice and ongoing research through license to the HFEA.

The news of Louise Brown’s conception, and her birth, drew huge public interest. The response was fascination and alarm in equal measure. Whilst there was rejection of the science and scientists by the public, press and peers, this did not mean that her existence was neglected.

Although that direct interest in Louise Brown has therefore waxed and waned there have been key milestones. Perhaps most significant was the interest when she herself (after her sister) became a mother naturally (what did we think was going to happen?), and we were again reminded that she is extraordinary.

Louise Brown’s very existence is extraordinary. However she is also extraordinary in her very ordinariness.  She is normal. There should be something ordinary about Louise Brown. She was a child born and brought up in the 70s and 80s; she is a wife and mother and works for her living.  It is right that she is ordinary – is that not the point?

Our patients, probably very much like her parents, don’t want to be extraordinary – they want to be ordinary people with ordinary lives who raise families in an ordinary way. Yet some of them have to go to extraordinary lengths to make that happen. Why? Because we have yet to acknowledge that the lack of this ordinary ability to found a family leads to extraordinary suffering.  We have yet to accept, despite the undoubted success and safety of IVF treatment, that it is an ordinary NHS treatment, for an ordinary medical problem, which ordinary couples and individuals face, day in and day out.

The idea of a postcode lottery for health service commissioning is not unique to infertility but it is certainly the most brazen and most generalized. This is not a drug that has been singled out to be too costly, this is wholesale neglect of a specialist area of medicine. This neglect is not confined to IVF itself, but in some areas has an impact on the ability even for patients to get a proper medical opinion, to be properly investigated or to have access to any other appropriate treatment.

Moreover, even when a diagnosis and opinion are available and there is a good chance of successful treatment, social limitations may be applied by commissioners, which override any clinical decision making. This is unique to fertility patients. And we find ourselves failing to treat a significant fertility issue for one partner because the other has been judged to be undeserving. Making such judgments within our National Health Service the norm may lead to compromise in our own social right to other areas of health care.

It is of course necessary to consider cost-effectiveness and not provide treatment where there is little chance of success. But guidance for IVF has rightly been given by NICE (the National Institute for health and Care Excellence); it is largely ignored.

Some people say that fertility treatment is a luxury, that the desire to have children is a lifestyle choice.  I would argue that that drive is as innate as the need for shelter and sustenance. Whilst as humans we can make a rational decision or choice not to have children (not always without regret) it remains for many a deep and fundamental need.

We also live in a world where second families and alternative family building is common. Traditionalists may not like the change in social patterns but that does not make those families or indeed those parenting models less valid nor indeed inferior. As physicians we consider the welfare of the child but our job is to treat the medical problem. As a society we must be careful not to make prejudiced judgments, which may infringe basic human rights and needs.

Driving healthcare into the private sector may seem a natural step for some, but the commercial sector has been criticized roundly in recent years for potentially exploitative practices in reproductive medicine. Centres must work with integrity around treatments where evidence is poor or lacking. That includes those treatments which remain experimental or still require proper validation. These simply must not be promoted for commercial gain. Thankfully, it does not appear to be a sector-wide issue but one that must be taken extremely seriously.

Louise Brown came from extraordinary parents who along with many others aided the research that brought about her birth. They were able, ultimately, to build the ordinary family they so desperately wanted and went to such lengths to bring about.

That is not the end of the story however. Having had the spotlight of public interest swing her way over her 40 years of existence, Louise Brown was not satisfied with ordinary. Harnessing her celebrity, she has not balked at shouldering a responsibility for promoting the very technology that gave her her being.  She has become an ambassador for IVF and technologies following. More importantly she has become an advocate for patients and patient rights speaking out on the inequities prevalent in our NHS fertility provision and for the promotion of reproductive health provision worldwide.

On the occasion of her 40th birthday, Louise Brown has picked up the public interest that has once again swung her way and used it for the good of those yet to come.

Louise Brown you are an extraordinary woman and I and the British Fertility Society salute you for it. Happy Birthday!

Originally published https://britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/2018/07/25/happy-birthday-to-louise-brown-bfs-chair-dr-jane-stewart-reflects-on-40-years-of-ivf/

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A Woman From Canberra Who Conceived Naturally After Nearly 10 Years Struggling With Infertility Is Now Helping Other Women To Get Pregnant

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Liz Walton With Husband

Liz Walton, now 48, had tried six rounds of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and spent around £30,000 trying to conceive.

But today she is the proud mother of two-year-old Willow after getting pregnant naturally- despite doctors saying the couple not have children without medical intervention.

Liz, from Savery Street, Garren, said: “I thought I was going through the menopause and was shocked to learn I was in fact pregnant.

“I’d let go of our dream of having children. I think because we were relaxed and finally accepting of the situation, we were, in fact, ready to have them.”

Liz, who got pregnant at the age of 45, has gone on to work with 14 women across 3 continents – and they have all since had children.

Liz, an international leader and coach, said: “I now focus on helping women who are having difficulties getting pregnant for various reasons, as well as unexplained fertility.

“It is because of my own experience and learning that I can support and help women so they receive the best help to get their desired outcome.”

Liz techniques such as hypnotherapy and a healing process called The Journey to help women tackle stress, which is often an underlying factor in being unable to conceive.

Liz, who has over 20 years’ experience in the therapeutic industry, said: “Constant stress shuts down all our reproductive systems and sometimes what we want most can be pushed further away.

“I can’t guarantee the support will result in a couple getting pregnant, though there have been many cases.

“But what I can enable is a shift, which allows people to find peace and see beyond just having children.”

Liz, who previously ran a complementary health practice in Canberra called Body and Mind, has returned from seven years in the UK, where she cared for ailing mother, who has sadly since died.

She has set up Liz Walton Therapies and Coaching to help people deal with a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief and infertility.

For more information about Liz’s work, visit lizwalton.org or call +61 0432 427 464.

 

Liz’s story:

Liz and her husband, Greg, 43, married in 2005 and tried to have children soon after.

But they later learned Greg had anti-sperm antibodies, which can cause sperm to stick together and reduce movement – preventing them from fertilising the egg.

They had IVF for over eight years and were told their chances of conceiving with treatment were still less than five percent.

Liz was devastated each time it was unsuccessful and the stress put a strain on the couple.

Liz said: “We got married and thought ‘OK, let’s get pregnant. But a couple of years later it still hadn’t happened.

“We grow up believing we are put on this earth to have children and when I couldn’t, I ended up attacking myself. I asked myself why I couldn’t and what had I done wrong.

“I was devastated each time the treatment failed. It tore me apart and I felt annihilated. I kept thinking ‘how can I fix this?’ It became an obsession and drove me crazy.”

Liz piled on weight because of the stress – gaining nearly two kilos after each course of treatment, going from 67kilos to 75 kilos.

Liz said: “Being told ‘no, it hasn’t happened,’ would be stressful and I’d often go into a bad mood. The stress was overwhelming and I turned to food for comfort.”
Rather than save for a home, they used all the money they had to pay for treatment.

But when Liz’s sister-in-law fell pregnant it was a turning point for Liz, who now past 40 was told her chances of conceiving through IVF was now unlikely.

Liz, who used to run her own holistic complementary health practice, turned to coaching.

She said: “I took part in an emotional healing workshop and it brought our relationship to a whole new level. It also helped me to cope much better with the situation.

“I didn’t want to be a person full of bitterness and I realised I needed to let go. It had got to the point I wasn’t living my life, but holding out for something I couldn’t have.

“I cried for weeks, but it was something I had to do. It’s better than shutting down and turning to eating or drinking – which is something I would have done in the past.”

Liz worked with therapists to come to terms with infertility and now offers counselling and coaching to other women in a similar situation.

She said: “I think there were many reasons I got pregnant when I did. Partly, Greg turned 40 and he started to review his life – realising he wanted children in it.

“I believe our mindset can influence our bodies and I learned tools to become mentally and emotionally healthier. Something must have changed for both of us and we were finally ready for this.”

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The Fertility Show Manchester 2018

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Fertility Show Manchester Q&A Stage

After a successful first year in the North, The Fertility Show is returning to Manchester for the second time on 24th and 25th March.

The Fertility Show Manchester, held in association with Fertility Network UK, is a follow up to the renowned London Show, which celebrated its ninth year in November last year and welcomed almost 3,000 visitors.

Manchester’s Central Convention Complex will play host to exhibitors including doctors, clinicians and fertility experts all offering help, support and guidance for patients on their fertility journeys. The Show will also feature a diverse seminar programme, with 30 topical sessions across the two days delivered by experts in the field.

Key issues and hot topics that will be discussed in Manchester include:

  • Secondary infertility – Trying for another baby
  • Natural cycle and mild IVF – fertility treatment without the drugs?
  • Options for adoption
  • Improving the odds of IVF working for you
  • Dealing with and treating endometriosis
  • What men need to know about fertility
  • Infertility management and the rule of 3

Visitors to the Show will also have the opportunity to be involved in the unique Q&A stage, running throughout the two days in association with Fertility Network UK and hosted by Jessica Hepburn, one of the UK’s leading patient voices on infertility. The stage gives visitors an opportunity to put forward their questions, either openly or anonymously, to a panel of experts.

For more information or to buy tickets please visit www.fertilityshow.co.uk/manchester

We look forward to seeing you there!

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