On a fertility journey together – Dr Thanos Papathanasiou CEO and Medical Director

We think of treatment as a fertility journey, not a number of cycles, says Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, CEO and Medical Director of Bourn Hall. He discusses how treatment at the clinic is evolving to embrace the latest thinking on treatments and how emotional and nutritional wellbeing can improve outcomes.

Ahead of Fertility Week, Fertility Network UK released a report into the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on those struggling with infertility. It made for very sober reading.

Jackie Stewart is an independent fertility counsellor and she facilitates the Bourn Hall Fertility Support Group; she comments: “Infertility is a state of continuous uncertainty – a definition of stress – and many people will have been living with this for years. It can create an emotional exhaustion.

“Sadly, the cost-of-living crisis will only exacerbate this, as the deepest root of all stress is fear – fear that treatment is not going to work, and fear that treatment will have to stop before it has a chance to work because of a lack of funding or finance.”

Jackie Stewart
Jackie Stewart, independent fertility counsellor

Bourn Hall’s virtual Fertility Support Group meets regularly and you don’t need to be a patient.  See more information about the Bourn Hall Fertility Support Group.

Emotional wellbeing

The concern that Thanos shares with his colleagues is that these thoughts can be isolating. Many patients talk of feeling isolated, may even feel disconnected from family and friends. It is therefore exceptionally important that those struggling with infertility don’t feel alone.

Thanos says: “The desired outcome of the fertility journey is to become pregnant and have a baby, but there is more than one way of getting there and treatment may not be successful, which is why support for emotional wellbeing should be considered at all stages of the journey.

“As a clinic we have been working with Fertility Network UK to look at ways clinics can help people balance the pressures of fertility treatment and a career. This obviously includes more flexibility over appointments, but also increasing our understanding of a patient’s work pressures and preferences, to see how treatment itself can be timed to optimise the chances of success.

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou fertility journey
Dr Thanos Papathanasiou

“We know that patients’ stress is reduced when they can see the whole journey, not just the next step, so we are looking to improve the ways that information is communicated at stages through treatment and make it easier to gain support when the going gets tough.”

Supporting the whole person

The role of nutrition in fertility is becoming more widely understood, both for balancing the hormones and improving the quality of sperm, and Bourn Hall has recently introduced a consultation with its nutritional therapist as part of treatment. The clinic is also introducing the option of a session of acupuncture ahead of frozen embryo transfer and will be monitoring the patient response to this.

There are also options to tailor treatment for each patient. Recommendations for women over 40 will be very different to those for a same-sex couple, or a younger heterosexual couple with strong male factor subfertility. Thanos will be happy to discuss this in general terms in the meeting.

Improving the fertility journey

“Improving support for emotional wellbeing extends to every aspect of the patient experience in the clinic, ” Thanos says. “We want to move away from considering treatment as a series of procedures and towards it becoming a journey that we are on together. I am looking forward to gaining the views of the support group.”

More information

Bourn Hall’s Fertility Support Group See more information about the Bourn Hall Fertility Support Group.

Read advice from Dr Nausheen Mawal on having IVF over the age of 40.

Find out more the benefits of acupuncture for fertility treatment.

See more information about nutrition, health and fitness for fertility in our Holistic Approach to Fertility section on the blog.

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