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Keeping A Lid On The Cost of IVF

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The Cost of IVF

We recently undertook some research with Fertility Network UK to look at why more people from the UK are going abroad for fertility treatment. We found that the high cost of private IVF treatment in the UK was the primary driver, with over 76% of our respondents believing it was too expensive. Nearly 80% felt it is twice as expensive as they were willing or able to pay. According to our survey, people were willing to pay between £1000 and £5000 for IVF. In the UK, IVF can often exceed £10K when additional expenses are taken into account.

The research also revealed some of the shocking ways people were funding their IVF treatment and the impact this was having on them. We found that 62% of couples were forced to dip into their life savings, putting added pressure on their ability to fund pensions, pay for educational fees or support other family members. Some of the respondents had to remortgage their houses, sell personal belongings, ask for help from family and friends or even start crowd funding campaigns to fund treatment.

Facing such financial pressures at home, it is little wonder why more people are seeking a better deal abroad. Treatment in some countries can be up to 50% cheaper than the UK equivalent.

We have put together some useful tips to help individuals and couples reduce their fertility costs, both at home and abroad:

1. Get fertility help early

General medical advice is to get a fertility assessment after trying to conceive for one year without success. However, couples should not fall into this “one year” trap. This advice is for younger couples (less than 30 years of age) who, if given adequate time, will conceive naturally in 80%-90% of cases. The remaining 10% may need some help. When the female partner is older or has any known medical conditions which may impair her fertility, early fertility assessment is imperative. The one-year rule does not apply to this group of women because the longer they wait, the more their fertility declines. They should see a fertility specialist after about six months of trying naturally. For example, a woman with endometriosis may have an ovarian cyst or a blocked tube, which might require laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. If they wait for a year, the endometriosis may worsen and impair her fertility still further. Starting IVF early in the journey increases chances of success; reducing the number of cycles required and saves thousands of pounds in the process.

2. Understand your costs

Don’t just look at the IVF price as advertised – make sure you make a note of any additional expenses that may be incurred such as flights, accommodation, medical insurance and living expenses. You may also need to take some time off work which will affect your earnings and if the treatment doesn’t work first time, you’ll need money aside for future treatments should you wish to continue.

3. Hidden costs – Don’t get caught out

Treatment costs tend to be fairly transparent but watch out for any “hidden” extras. For example, is the first consultation deductible from the treatment cost? Is sedation included in the price for egg collection? Is sperm or embryo freezing included? Are there any guarantees e.g. can you pay for two cycles and get a third free? Most clinics will expect you to have undergone certain tests such as mammograms, sperm analysis, HIV and so on before your trip –– so make sure you find this out before your visit. Clinics will charge extra to have these tests done on site.

4. Look for savings

It is worth having a look for clinics that offer a ‘shared risk programme’ to mitigate possible failures. For example, some may allow you to pay for two cycles, and if they don’t work, offer a third round for free. At the very least this could save you some money. Egg sharing is another option, which can significantly reduce the cost of IVF. Egg-sharing is an In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment that brings together women who produce surplus eggs (an egg sharer) with those unable to produce eggs (an egg recipient). Egg-sharing enables these two groups of women to help one another – egg sharers receive free standard IVF treatment, whilst egg recipients receive the eggs they need for IVF.

5. Do you need ‘add-ons?’

Many clinics will try to promote treatment add-ons to enhance success rates, but we advise caution in paying for these as we believe many are unnecessary. Add-ons such as embryo glue, time-lapse monitoring or endometrial scratching are often offered by clinics, but in our experience their impact is minimal and probably not worth the added cost. Better save your money for further rounds than waste it on unnecessary perks. It’s always a good idea to consult with your GP and/or fertility professionals about add-ons offered by your clinic. Some women under certain circumstances may benefit from additional treatments – e.g. women over 40 or those with medical conditions, such as endometriosis or irregular periods – but make sure you get a professional’s opinion before you get the credit card out.

6. Country research

Take the time to investigate different countries across Europe and the world. Some ‘less popular’ countries – Turkey, Greece, and Russia may actually offer what you need in terms of donor selection or the law around anonymity and be cheaper. For example, Finland has different rules on donor anonymity than most of Europe and is up to 15% cheaper than Spain, one of the more popular destinations. The country you choose could be down to something as simple as personal preference or as critical as IVF age legislation. One of the more common factors aside from cost, is anonymity. In the UK, the identity of egg and sperm donors is not protected by law, which can have far reaching consequences in the future. If this is a concern to you, you should look at countries where donations are anonymous, such as Spain, the Czech Republic and Greece. Other considerations may include the cost of living, expense of travel or accommodation costs. Different countries also have different age legislations for IVF treatment, or there may be specific laws on the number of embryos that can be transferred. These could be a deal breakers before you even step on the plane.

7. Choosing the right clinic

Choosing a clinic can be a daunting prospect, so having a ‘must have’ check list can be a useful tool. Jot down your must haves and use these to help you make your choice – if the clinic isn’t ticking the right boxes, then you can discount it from your list. Treatment costs vary from one clinic to the next. Unfortunately there is limited information about international clinics in the UK, so you’ll need to visit the clinic’s website to get an idea of treatment costs. It is also a good idea to pick up the phone and speak to them in person so you can ask any specific questions you may have. Some useful starting questions related to cost include:

  • Do they offer help with translation and travel?
  • Are they accessible?
  • Do they offer complementary therapies?
  • Do they offer guarantees or shared risk plans?
  • Will they pay for travel between the airport, clinic and hotel?

8. Hotel recommendations

Many clinics have deals with local hotels where reduced room rates are offered to patients. Some clinics even have their own hotel e.g. IVF Zlin in the Czech Republic. Always ask the clinic if they have accommodation deals to help reduce your travel and living expenses.

Fertility Clinics Abroad was set up in 2012 by Dr Caroline Phillips, a former clinical embryologist at the London Fertility Centre on Harley Street in London and senior embryologist at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’s IVF Unit. fertilityclinicsabroad.com

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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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