If you’ve ever wanted to know more about your fertility and about tests and treatment, the Fertility Forum taking place in London this March is just for you, says Kate Brian, Women’s Voices Lead and Chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists Women’s Network. We invited Kate to explain how idea of the Forum originated.
The Fertility Forum is an information day put together by patients and professionals focusing on evidence where a wide range of leading experts in the field will be speaking. There is no commercial element to the day, so there will be no exhibitors from businesses or clinics, no sales and no promotional activity.
Although there has never been such a mass of accessible information online, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to find answers as it can be a challenge to work out what is truly impartial and unbiased, especially where there are conflicting points of view. It was this lack of clear evidence that first led one group of women investigate what they could do to help people experiencing fertility problems.
The Women’s Network and Voices Panel at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) represents women who are passionate about health, and the group decided it was time to redress the balance when it came to fertility. They wanted to set up an information day where no one would be promoting particular treatments or businesses, but which was instead based entirely on giving information without any hype or sales pitches. They also wanted to create a lasting resource, a reliable place to find the latest evidence on infertility given from an impartial point of view.
Working with Professor Adam Balen, a fertility specialist from Leeds, they put together a plan for a day called the Fertility Forum and approached other professional bodies working in the field to see whether they’d be interested in being involved.
Groups representing fertility doctors, nurses, embryologists, andrologists and counsellors were all keen to support the idea, along with the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). A core group of women with personal experience of fertility issues joined them to work on a plan for a fertility day based on accurate and impartial information and they were also supported by the patient charity Fertility Network UK.
The group wanted to help people to make informed choices about their fertility and treatment, with experts who know what makes a difference to outcomes based on the latest scientific evidence giving their views. They recognised that emotional support was often overlooked, and wanted to provide a place to discover more about the patient groups who can offer support.
More than anything, they wanted to offer a safe space where people could be sure that they were getting accurate evidence rather than having to pick their own way through conflicting views and arguments.
The Fertility Forum will take place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London on March 30.
Open to anyone with an interest in fertility, it provides an wide-ranging programme with three separate strands throughout the day to choose from. There is something for everyone whether you are just starting out and wanting to discover more about fertility or have already had some treatment and are considering your options.
The day will cover male and female fertility problems, fertility tests, IVF and ICSI, ovarian reserve and miscarriage. There will be talks on emotional support, lifestyle advice, diet and supplements and the role of stress. There will be a special session for men on dealing with fertility issues, and the Donor Conception Network will be there explaining what to consider when thinking about using donor eggs and sperm.
Other talks will cover egg freezing, embryo development, the pros and cons of treatment abroad, legal issues around surrogacy and donation and access to NHS funding for fertility treatment.
There will be a panel discussion on living without children with a group of inspiring women who have personal experience of this. The professional societies involved in the event will be running a stand where you will be able to seek advice, and the day will end with a Q and A panel where a range of experts will be answering queries from the audience.
Fertility support organisations will also be at hand to talk about the services they can offer. Living with fertility problems is challenging, and the organisers recognised that people attending an information day may feel the need for support and quiet time, so the British Infertility Counselling Association will be running a special Time Out Space throughout the day. It will provide a peaceful space, and the professional counsellors who have training in dealing with fertility issues will be at hand ready to offer support if needed.
Fertility Forum outreach
The organisers realise that not everyone will be able to attend the Fertility Forum in March as places are limited and it is too far for some to travel. They felt it was important for everyone to be able to benefit from the kind of impartial advice the day will provide, so they are working on an online fertility information hub which will give links to reliable information on many aspects of fertility which will be available around the time of the Fertility Forum through the RCOG website.
The Fertility Forum is a non-profit making day, and tickets cost £25 each which will generate funds to help cover the costs of putting on the event. If you’re interested in attending the Fertility Forum, the full programme listing all the speakers is available on the RCOG website, and this includes links to buy tickets.
There are a limited number of tickets and they are expected to sell in advance of the day, so do book soon if you would like to come along. The organisers hope this unique event, put together for the first time by patients and a wide-ranging group of professionals working in fertility, will fill a much-needed gap and will leave those who attend feeling empowered and knowing the right questions to ask as they explore their future options.