We have arrived at ‘F’ in our A to Z series and this covers fertility which is of course at the heart of what we do and what you hope for.
These posts are written to help you understand not only the medical terms that are used in fertility clinics as well as on websites and magazines, but also illustrate that your feelings and emotions matter too.
So, let’s explore this letter which can be so loaded, and has so much meaning to so many.
A woman’s fallopian tubes are connected to her uterus and positioned near the ovaries. A healthy reproductive system will have one ovary and one fallopian tube on each side of the uterus. Healthy fallopian tubes are key when it comes to conceiving as this is where the egg and sperm meet and fertilisation occurs. In some cases, the fallopian tube can be blocked or damaged and this prevents the sperm from reaching the egg.
The most common cause of blocked fallopian tubes is pelvic inflammatory disease, but STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can have an impact, as can a history of water infections caused by an abortion or miscarriage. To find out if there is a problem with the fallopian tubes either an x-ray or ultrasound with a dye, or keyhole surgery, known as a laparoscopy, are carried out. While damage can be repaired for some patients, in other cases, IVF could be recommended.
If you have any concerns about your fallopian tubes, speak to your GP because it is always better to know what you are dealing with than to blindly carry on and worrying.
If you are close to your family, they may well form a key part of your support network during your fertility journey. If your siblings already have children you might find it hard to be around them, but they can actually be extremely comforting, and being an involved aunt or uncle can be rewarding and give you a real insight into family life.
Maybe you are close to your mum, sister or grandma, whoever it is, talk to them, cry with them, take them to your appointments and if they are happy to help you, let them.
When it comes to fertility and treatment, no two patients are the same, therefore the costs are never exactly the same. There are some patients who qualify for NHS treatment in the UK and that is brilliant. In cases where that isn’t possible, or the treatment has run out, then a private clinic is an option, but there are fees involved. It is vital that you work with the right medical team for you which is why we offer a free 30-minute appointment so you can meet members of our team, find out more about our services and see how we could help you.
Essentially when we talk about fertility, we mean either a woman being able to get pregnant and go onto give birth, or a man being able to get a woman pregnant.
The reality is that women are most fertile before they are 30 and after that their fertility starts to decrease, it dips again at 35, and more significantly by 40. As well as age, general health, weight, hormone levels, stress, and medical conditions can all play a role in a woman’s fertility. Some women are very fertile, for others, it is a harder journey, so it is a good idea to see your GP if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying, but sooner if you are really worried.
Fertility in men is dependent on having healthy sperm, being able to get an erection and to ejaculate as well as having the right hormone levels. This means men still have to look after themselves and not take it as a given that they are the fertile one in a relationship as this just isn’t the case.
Being fertile means, you are able to conceive or help produce babies.
People often talk about fertile days and by this, they mean the days during your menstrual cycle when it is possible to become pregnant if you have unprotected sex. You can work this out by knowing your cycle and having sex the day of ovulation, the day before, and the day after as these are the three days of peak fertility.
If your average menstrual cycle is 28 days, you will ovulate around day 14 which makes your most fertile days numbers 12, 13 and 14.
What we would say is, don’t get fixated on your fertile days and only have sex at that time of the month. This can make you really focus on just having a baby and there is the chance to forget why you and your partner are together. Find time to be together and enjoy your ongoing love, commitment, and closeness, because this is so important.
Fertilisation is where sperm penetrates an egg which then leads to pregnancy and a baby. This process occurs in the fallopian tube in natural pregnancy and in a culture dish in the laboratory in IVF treatments.
Fetus is the term for a baby from the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth.
We often speak with women who have fibroids and this is an overgrowth of muscular tissue in the uterus. Fibroids are a bit like knots that have got in a tangle and can distort the shape and function of the uterus.
Fibroids don’t always cause symptoms so tend to only be diagnosed during a routine gynaecological examination, test or scan. While they are non-cancerous, they can potentially impact fertility but if you are experiencing problems, it is something that can be explored so that they are either ruled out or treated.
As with so many things when it comes to fertility, the more you know about your body, how it is working, and where real issues are occurring, the more chance there is you will go onto have a baby.
Fimbria are the soft finger-like extensions of the fallopian tube that help to catch and move the egg towards the uterus, so they are pretty helpful.
First Response Early Result
First Response Early Result is a specific brand of pregnancy test that incorporates ultra-sensitive technology that can detect tiny levels of pregnancy hormones up to five days before your expected period. While these are 99% accurate, we would suggest that you do carry out more than one test, and also speak to your GP or clinic whatever the result is.
First Morning Urine
First-morning urine (FMU) is the first wee of the day and one that has a high concentration of hormones. It isn’t suggested that you carry out a pregnancy test at this time because of the strength of the urine, but people do.
A follicle is a fluid-filled sac in the ovary and when it has grown to the right size, it bursts and releases a matured egg that can potentially be fertilised. While these eggs are microscopic, measuring just 25 micrometres, follicles can be seen by ultrasound. It is important to note that there is only one egg per follicle and as they are inextricably linked to your fertility, they are something that can be investigated when problems arise.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is the hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the growth of the ovarian follicles before the release of an egg when you ovulate. This is key for men too because FSH contributes to the production of sperm.
We do carry out tests to check these levels and it is something that will be discussed with you by your team. This hormone is used in the form of an injection to grow the follicles in IVF treatments.
Follicle tracking is a way of seeing inside your ovaries. These specialised scans can check whether your eggs are maturing properly and help to predict when you ovulate. This can be used for both natural and assisted conception, and are very helpful if you are having trouble conceiving.
Your friends are so, so, so important when you are dealing with fertility issues and having treatment. It could be your old school friends, work colleagues who you are close to, or even new friends who are also on this roller coaster ride. Some people might not ‘get’ what you are going through, others might be less than sensitive when they announce a
pregnancy and of course some friends won’t know there are any problems at all because you don’t tell them. It is good to talk to close friends to get things off your chest and reduce your stress.
We would suggest that, just as with family members, you find your support network, call on them as much as you can and if you find certain people or situations hard, try to develop coping mechanisms, or make your excuses so you avoid them and just look after you.
Frozen Embryo Transfer
A frozen embryo transfer (FET) is an IVF cycle where frozen embryos from a previous fresh IVF or donor egg cycle, are thawed and then transferred back into a woman’s uterus.
FET is generally easier than a fresh IVF cycle because it does not involve the stimulation of the ovaries, egg collection or fertilisation. Thawed embryos can be replaced during a natural cycle, without medication, or during a controlled cycle using medication to control hormones. We are able to advise patients about whether this is suitable for them, and the decision is often based on medical history and age.
It is really important that you still go out and have fun when you are dealing with fertility problems. No, you probably don’t want to go out and party all weekend, but you can meet up with friends, go on holiday, have meals out, go to the spa, take yoga classes or simply chill out and enjoy the simple things in life.
Getting pregnant might not be turning out to be a fun experience at the moment, but we do suggest that you try to live as full a life as you can and don’t just focus on being a parent. If you are really struggling to come to terms with what is happening, we have qualified counsellors on hand to talk things over and help you to find a way forward.
As things stand, your future might feel uncertain and that isn’t always easy to deal with. We know that you want an answer right now, you want to be pregnant now, you want to find a surrogate now and you want to be fine, now!
This isn’t always going to happen and we know that can be frustrating and painful, but we think you can do this. Surrounding yourself with a support network, finding the right medical team for you, connecting with others in the same position, eating well and getting plenty of rest can all help make you stronger and more likely to get the baby you so desperately want.
The future is uncertain for us all, but together we can make your future as happy as possible and find the right path for you.
If you have any questions about these terms or other fertility issues and treatments, please get in touch and we are very happy to help.
The Harley Street Fertility Team