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NHS to close Bristol IVF centre leaving ‘devastated couples’

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Bristol IVF Centre

Bristol IVF Centre will be closing in November due to budget cuts.

Couples seeking IVF treatment to have a baby will have to travel to Cardiff when NHS bosses in Bristol close the clinic.

North Bristol NHS Trust has told couples it has “decided to discontinue the provision” at Southmead Hospital, and the clinic will close at the end of November.

The decision has been taken by NHS bosses because individual local GPs groups that pay for the service have cut back on who is eligible for in vitro fertilisation treatment on the NHS, and how many ‘cycles’ they are eligible for.

That has meant the number of people receiving IVF treatment at Southmead Hospital on the NHS has dwindled over the past couple of years, and now the majority of the people treated there are actually paying thousands of pounds from their own pockets.

NHS bosses in North Bristol said that does not fit with the ethos of the NHS – and their resources would be better put into other much-needed NHS services.
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It will mean there will be nowhere in the city, where the world’s first IVF conceived baby Louise Brown lives, that will carry out the treatment.

All those having fertility treatment will be able to continue their current cycle, but it is understood that no new patients will be taken on.

There is no other place to undergo IVF processes either privately or through the NHS in Bristol, which means that couples struggling to conceive may be sent to Cardiff and neighbouring hospital trusts to have the procedure carried out.

The news has prompted a backlash from people who have used the service both privately and through the NHS including pregnant Sarah O’Mahony.

She said: “There is no other physical or mental illness I know of which affects you as much as the pain of being infertile.

“This decision will leave couples devastated.”

North Bristol NHS Trust currently runs a number of fertility services from Southmead Hospital including fertility assessment, investigations and surgery.

The letter states that these services will still continue, but the actual process of IVF – the removal of a woman’s egg cells for fertilisation and the reinsertion of the fertilised egg in to the woman’s womb – will no longer be available.

The Trust told patients: “Following a review last year, the Trust has decided to discontinue the provision of Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) licensed fertility services such as IVF from the end of November 2017.

“This decision has been made in order to focus on providing acute NHS services.

“Patients currently having treatment or in treatment planning at BCRM will be able to complete their cycles and gametes and embryos currently in storage at the centre will continue to be stored by a licensed regulated provider.”

The letter suggests that the decision has been taken because “there has been a reduction in the number of NHS patients receiving IVF”.
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However, Ms O’Mahony said this is likely because of stricter rules on the age and circumstances of women eligible to undergo IVF on the NHS.

The closure of the service will also affect women who plan to privately fund IVF treatment as both the private and NHS procedures were carried out at Southmead hospital.

Ms O’Mahony has spent £40,000 on privately funding five cycles of IVF treatment and is now five months pregnant with her first child.

The 42-year-old said: “Because I was over 40 I was not permitted to undergo IVF on the NHS, but I still used the same facility for all five of my cycles.

“If I had heard this news last year I would have been devastated, heartbroken, and I can imagine that is how lots of couples will feel.”
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Ms O’Mahony – who started her first cycle in 2015 – said even adding a little extra time on to hospital and clinic journeys will affect women undergoing treatment.

She said: “When you start off they essentially give you medication to induce the menopause and that leaves you feeling tired and drained and awful.

“I know going to say Cardiff isn’t that much further in distance, but when you are feeling that unwell it is a huge thing.

“And it isn’t like you are popping over for a check-up, if you are having a procedure you may have to stay overnight and if they need to see you it might not be possible to get over quickly – there are lots of reasons why I think it is a bad idea.”

Ms O’Mahony is looking forward to giving birth in October, but has said it might make her and other women think twice about going in for IVF.

“There are a lot of misconceptions around IVF,” she said.
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“People say ‘why should we be paying for you to have a baby’ – but infertility is physically debilitating.

“I personally think that it would be more cost effective to keep the clinic open because it must surely cost more to the Trust to treat women depression and health problems associated with them not being able to have children.”

Would-be parents come from all over the Bristol area and further afield – with Clinical Commissioning Groups, the NHS organisations run on a county or area basis by GPs – sending couples to Southmead from as far away as Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire.

It will be up to those CCGs and not North Bristol NHS Trust where those couples are sent instead from November, but the nearest alternative is in Cardiff or Birmingham for both NHS-funded couples or people paying for it themselves.

A joint statement from North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG said: “Licensed fertility services for NHS and self-funded patients will continue to be provided by North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) until the end of November and plans are in development to ensure that the transfer of care to a new provider or providers, happens as smoothly as possible.

“Local CCGs are committed to the ongoing provision of licensed fertility services for NHS patients and have begun the process of recommissioning a provider to take over from the Trust.

“Services will be commissioned on the same basis as before and patients will be able to access the same range of licensed treatments, including IVF. The new NHS provider will be confirmed in the autumn.

“Patients are being notified of developments and further information is available on the CCG’s websites and the website of the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine.”

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Detech your bedroom

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Detech Your Bedroom

Why charging your phone next to where you sleep could be harming your sperm.

“If you are trying for a baby and it doesn’t happen within a year you might want to think of whether it could be your mobile phone habit that is to blame,” says Professor Martha Dirnfeld, of the Technion University in Haifa which recently investigated whether mobile phone use can affect sperm quality. In the study, Israeli scientists monitored 106 men attending a fertility clinic for a year and results indicated that those who chatted on the phone for more than an hour daily were twice as likely to have low sperm quality as those who spoke for less than an hour.

The scientists’ findings were published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine and found that 47% of men who kept their phones within 50cm of their groin had sperm levels that were seriously affected, compared with just 11% of the general population.

The benefits of leaving your laptop and smartphone outside the bedroom have long been known: blue light before sleep suppresses melatonin production leaving you feeling exhausted, and answering work emails whilst in between the sheets can build a virtual wall between you and your partner. But aside from being an obvious passion killer, this new study also found that a man’s sperm count can be reduced by talking on a phone that is charging, or even keeping it close by on a bedside table at night.

The science behind the findings is alarmingly simple: heat and electromagnetic activity which emanate from a mobile phone are thought to ‘cook’ sperm, causing them to die. Also, men who used their phone as it charged were almost twice as likely to suffer problems, suggesting that the so-called urban myth of charging devices giving off stronger rays may actually have some substance to it..

Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, a fertility consultant at St George’s Hospital, London, comments: “Men need to think about their wellbeing and try to stop being addicted to their phones. If you wear a suit to work put the mobile in your chest pocket instead of close to your testes. It will reduce the risk of your sperm count dropping or dropping so much.”

However, some medical professionals are keen to prevent studies like this causing a mass hysteria. Dr Fiona Mathews, a biologist from the University of Exeter, has conducted her own studies in this field and acknowledges that whilst these rays seem to have a detrimental effect on sperm, there is still not sufficient evidence to prove that mobile phone radiation can render men infertile. “We have previously found that there are consistent patterns of mobile phone exposure being linked to reduced sperm quality,” says Dr Mathews.

“Unfortunately, there is not yet any direct evidence available to link mobile phone use with complete infertility. All we can say at the moment is that mobile phone exposure reduces sperm quality and it would therefore be reasonable to infer that, for men who are already on the borderline of infertility, phone exposure could further reduce the chances of pregnancy.”

So why not follow the lead of James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who though known for his high-tech gadgets on screen, once suggested that the secret to his happy marriage with Rachel Weisz is their bedroom ban on technology. He told The New York Times: “There’s nothing technological allowed in the bedroom. If the iPad goes to bed, it’s a killer. We have a ban on it.”

Of course this doesn’t mean we need to ditch mobile phones all together, but it is important to be aware of our addiction to tech. So what else can we do to minimise mobile disruption? When at work or home it’s worth making sure men take their phones out of their pockets and keep them on the desk or table. Before bed consider a device curfew; not only will this have a positive effect on your mental health but will encourage intimacy between you and your partner. Lastly, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and keep your charging smartphone away from the bed. All these are small lifestyle changes, but ones that could have a profound effect on both your relationship and your fertility journey.

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Fertility 360

Do This ONE Thing to Improve Your Fertility Immediately

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Do This ONE Thing to Improve Your Fertility Immediately

Why is Earth the only planet in our solar system that supports life forms?

Quite simply…water.  No other planet has it.

Drinking water is essential for optimal health.  And you probably think you get plenty of fluids every day.

Yet, up to 75 percent of Americans may be in a chronic state of dehydration, according to research.

Many people understand the importance of drinking enough water but they don’t overcome the perceived inconvenience to make it part of their routine.

The problem is that allowing yourself to become dehydrated causes more inconvenience because it can be a significant contributing factor to your fertility issues.  Something as simple as drinking enough water can be the turning point for you.

Staying hydrated is critical when trying to get pregnant.  You can survive weeks without food. But as little as a few hours without water.  For example, a child left in a hot car or an athlete exercising hard in hot weather can dehydrate, overheat and die in a period of a few hours.

50-70% of your body weight is water.  Your blood is 85% water, your muscles 80%, your brain 75% and even your bones are 25% water, which indicates how important water is for your health.

Water keeps all of your organs and cells functioning properly including the reproductive cells (egg, sperm) and reproductive organs (brain, ovaries, uterus, testes, thyroid).  It also naturally flushes out toxins in the body.

For men, semen production and semen volume can be reduced by not drinking enough water.   If semen is thicker due to dehydration, sperm may have trouble swimming.

For the fetus, staying hydrated is critical for fetal development.  Water helps carry nutrients to the placenta and is an important part of all aspects of development from the time of fertilization. Without water, a developing baby cannot survive, increasing the risk of miscarriage.

For women, dehydration can affect…

  • …which leads to dehydration interfering with or preventing ovulation
  • The cervical mucus, which is important in transporting the sperm to the fallopian tubes for egg fertilization.  Having little to no cervical mucus can be an indication that you’re dehydrated. You should see 2-3 days of egg white, stretchy cervical mucus around ovulation.  Without enough water, the cervical mucus that balances vaginal pH also becomes too acidic, harming the sperm.
  • Implantation –  Water is necessary for cell division and metabolism. The cells of the uterine wall must be healthy for the embryo to implant.

 

How much water to drink?

Because people are busy throughout the day, using thirst as a guide is unreliable.

A general rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of water.

But more accurately, use your urine as a guide.

The color should be pale yellow like lemonade.  If it is a deep, dark yellow then you are probably not drinking enough water.  If it is colorless, you are drinking too much water which can cause salts & other electrolytes in your body to become too diluted.

A healthy person urinates on average about 7-8 times a day.  If you haven’t urinated in many hours, that’s an indication that you’re not drinking enough.  Time your water intake so that needing to go to the bathroom doesn’t cause you to wake up at night.

Make sure you start your day with a large glass of water to rehydrate.  You breathe out a small amount of water every time you exhale as you’re sleeping.  If you sweat at night, you’re also losing water.

Water bottles

Storing your water in the appropriate water containers is important.  Glass and stainless steel water containers are best.

DO NOT USE plastic bottles!  Even if they’re BPA-free.

BPA (bisphenol-A) mimics estrogen, and therefore can have estrogenic effects in the body causing infertility including low sperm quality.  BPA increases aneuploidy, a defect consisting of abnormal loss or gain of chromosomes, which could lead to miscarriages or disorders such as Down Syndrome.

Plastics, including BPA-free materials, leach chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies.  Conditions that are known to release these harmful chemicals are heat, putting them in a microwave or dishwasher, or leaving a plastic water bottle in a hot car.  Microwaving the containers or placing hot liquids or food into them releases BPA 55 times more rapidly! But even normal contact with food or water was enough for these chemicals to leach into the food and the water because they are unstable.  Some of the chemicals that are in the BPA-free plastics actually have been found to have greater estrogenic activity than BPA itself.

Water quality

Many people rely on drinking bottled water regularly.  The problem is that you don’t know how long they’ve been in the plastic bottle and what conditions they have been stored in.

Instead, purify your tap water using the best water filtration system you can afford, preferably one with reverse osmosis (RO).

Unfortunately, an effective water filtration system also removes beneficial minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese).  Because RO water doesn’t have enough minerals, when it is consumed, it also leaches minerals from the body and your food if you cook with RO water. It’s because water wants to bind to everything, and it will take the minerals where it can — like from your body or your food.  This means that the minerals in food and vitamins are being urinated away.

Less minerals consumed plus more minerals being excreted equals serious negative side effects and big health problems, including fertility issues.

A simple solution is to add trace minerals to filtered water.

Here are some easy tips to ensure you’re drinking enough water

  • Have a bottle with you constantly and make it a habit to take a sip whenever you have down time.
  • Use an app to track your water intake.>
  • Set recurring water break reminders on your phone.
  • Buy a bottle with pre-marked timed intervals. You can also make your own stickers to add to your favorite clear bottle.  All you have to do is come up with your own timed drinking goals and write the times on the bottle.

Optimal fertility starts with the basics – water being the most critical ingredient to life.  Make it a daily habit to drink enough for your reproductive needs.

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Fertility 360

Study Points To Fertility As A Leading Economic Indicator

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Study Points To Fertility As A Leading Economic Indicator

Many research studies have shown that when the economy does well, people have more babies, and when the economy does poorly, they give birth less.

New research from the University of Notre Dame, however, discovers something unique — people appear to stop conceiving babies several months before recessions begin.

The study, “Is Fertility a Leading Economic Indicator?” was published Feb. 26 in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s working paper series. It is coauthored by Notre Dame economics professors Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman, and Steven Lugauer from the University of Kentucky.

The team compared conceptions to other well-known economic indicators — such as consumer confidence and durables purchases — over the past 30 years and found that conceptions fall at the same time or even before other indicators whenever a recession is about to start.

“We show that for the last three recessions, conceptions predicted the downturn just as well as traditional economic indicators did,” Buckles says.

The team examined data on more than 100 million births spanning decades in the United States. Unlike most studies that use data aggregated up to the year level, the NBER paper focuses on the timing of births within the year using monthly or quarterly data, which allowed the researchers to study changes occurring months before a recession — changes that papers using annual data would miss.

“Once you examine monthly or quarterly data, the pattern becomes obvious,” Hungerman says. “We show the existence and magnitude of this pattern before the Great Recession, and it’s striking since that recession was famously hard to predict. None of the experts saw it coming, and in its first few months, many business leaders were convinced the economy was doing OK — even as the number of conceptions plummeted and had been falling for a while.

“While the cyclicality of fertility has been studied before, the possibility that conceptions change months before recessions begin has not been shown before,” he says. “In fact, some well-known studies have even declared that the pattern we find shouldn’t exist.”

“One way to think about this,” Buckles says, “is that the decision to have a child often reflects one’s level of optimism about the future.”

The study also shows conceptions are slow to rebound when recessions end. The Great Recession famously had a “jobless recovery.” This study finds it also had a “babyless recovery.”

The paper is available online at http://www.nber.org/papers/w24355.


Also published on Medium.

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