As NHS funding for IVF in Essex is cut or under threat in five out of seven Essex clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), Bourn Hall warns that fertility testing is also being downgraded and this may mean that couples that require treatment (other than IVF) may also be affected.
Sarah Pallet, Regional Clinic Manager for Bourn Hall in Essex, says: “The majority of couples will conceive within a couple of years if they are in good health. If they have been unsuccessful for longer than this or have a known reason why there might be an issue then they should be referred by their GP for fertility testing. This is vital to understand the cause of their problems.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that the wait for these tests is getting longer and as fertility declines with age every month is important.”
IVF in Essex
Individual CCGs make the final decision about who can have NHS-funded IVF in their local area. Before 2014 all patients in Essex who met the stringent criteria were offered three cycles of IVF; now it is a postcode lottery.
Sarah continues: “When funding for IVF gets cut in an area it seems to signal that fertility treatment is a low priority and this is impacting the type of help that couples are getting.
“Only a small number of people will need IVF. In many cases there are other options if there are no medical reasons for infertility, such as lifestyle changes or medication to boost natural fertility. But this can only be determined by testing and as a result many individuals are missing the vital information they need to become pregnant.”
There are some simple lifestyle changes that everyone can do to boost their fertility If you are trying all of these and still having no success then consider fertility testing either through your GP or directly from a specialist provider.
For example, it is possible at Bourn Hall to have a complete fertility check-up within a single menstrual cycle, allowing you to be in a better position to consider your options.
Five top tips for improving natural fertility
Five top tips for a fertility boost Lianne Kidger, Regional Lead Nurse for Bourn Hall Clinics in Colchester and Wickford:
1. Know when you are hot and keep a diary
If you are not having regular periods there is a chance that you are also not ovulating regularly, which is when a mature egg is released. There are only around six days each month when you can get pregnant, so keep a diary and consider using an ovulation prediction kit.
2. Get fertility fit
Doing some exercise every day helps to burn off excess body fat but also reduces the effect of stress on hormone levels. For men it can boost the fertility hormone testosterone, but it is important that women avoid excessive exercise as this can result in irregular periods. Try low-impact activities that you enjoy such as walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates and yoga. A healthy body weight is best if you are trying to get pregnant as too little or excess body fat affects the hormones and reduces fertility in both men and women. Sometimes putting on a few pounds if you are underweight or a managed weight loss for 12 weeks is all that is needed to boost fertility.
3. Clean up your act
Smoking harms sperm and can reduce a man’s sex drive; in women it affects ovulation and reduces fertility. It is also known that alcohol and caffeine affects the fertility level of both men and women so cutting back is a sensible precaution. Caffeine is not just found in tea and coffee but in chocolate and some soft drinks too. Foods such as green leafy vegetables, eggs and dairy, nuts, seeds and citrus fruits provide key nutrients. For example Vitamins C and E and zinc play key roles in fertility, increasing sperm count and motility (movement) and supporting the female reproductive organs.
4. Men keep your cool
Cycling on hard bike seats can also reduce fertility by damaging nerves and blood vessels to the genital area. Think about buying a gel seat for your bike to provide more cushioning. Overheating can also temporarily lower sperm counts, so it is important to avoid saunas, hot baths, sunbathing and tight underwear.
5. Take it easy and get more sleep!
Getting a good night’s sleep of about eight hours a day or more can help men and women optimise their fertility. Last but not least, couples should not forget to take the time to wind down and enjoy each other’s company.