Today is the turn of the letter E in our ‘A to Z of Fertility’.
We hope this series is helping you to get to grips with the terms frequently used during conversations about fertility, but that you don’t fully understand – and why should you? This is a new medical area for you, with a lot to take in and learn, but you don’t have to do it alone and we are here to help.
An ectopic pregnancy is where an egg is implanted outside of the uterus, and this most often happens in the fallopian tube. The problem with this is, left undiagnosed and untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can have serious medical consequences, so action needs to be taken once identified.
With more people than ever dealing with fertility issues, it is important for there to be better education and knowledge out there. Many of us simply expect to get pregnant and when that doesn’t happen it can be a terrible blow. We are here to help and offer advice so that you can make the right choice for you and your family. Outside of the clinic, the more the world knows about reproduction and issues in fertility health, the bigger the strides we can take in changing things and making life easier for people on this roller-coaster journey.
You will often hear the term ‘egg retrieval’ and this is the procedure during an IVF cycle where the female’s eggs are harvested via a surgical procedure. This typically happens under a general anaesthetic and takes around half an hour.
Egg donation is where eggs from one woman are another and it can be life giving, as well as life changing. It can be a woman who is having conventional IVF or someone who is unable to produce their eggs.
Egg donors are then women who offer their eggs to other women in the hope they can get pregnant. The recruitment of egg donors can be a major challenge and the UK does generally have a shortage of donors. We encourage non-smoking women aged between 18 and 35 to come in and talk to us about this opportunity and see if they are eligible to take part and help a woman become a mum.
When a woman’s egg is fertilised by a man’s sperm an embryo is formed. The embryo develops into the foetus. It is worth knowing that embryos can be frozen so it may be possible to have a baby at a later date.
The embryo transfer is the procedure of transferring embryos back in to the womb of a woman during an IVF cycle and it generally happens on the third or fifth day after an egg retrieval which is where eggs are drawn out of the ovaries using light suction.
We know that when you are trying for a baby and want a child more than anything else in the world, it can be heart breaking when it doesn’t happen. There may be times when you feel depressed and empty and while this is natural, we would encourage you to talk to your partner, family, friends or a member of our team rather than dealing with it alone. There are people here to help and offer you comfort and support.
Endocrinology is the study of hormones, their function, and how they are produced and this can play a part in fertility assessment and treatment.
Sometimes it is necessary to take away a small piece of tissue from the lining of the uterus so it can be examined; this is known as an endometrial biopsy.
Endometriosis is thought to effect 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK, and is where tissue that normally lines the uterus is found in the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The tissue can lead to lesions that cause pain, inflammation and scarring and it can cause fertility issues. If this is a concern for you, do speak to your GP or a specialist.
The lining of the uterus that responds to female hormones during the menstrual cycle and treatment cycles, is called the endometrium. When this lining is ‘normal’ it forms an area of attachment and implantation for an embryo and part of the lining is lost once a month when you have a period.
Epididymitis is where the tube (epididymis) behind the testicles becomes painful and swollen. In many cases this is caused by an infection and can be treated with antibiotics. It is important to note that if left untreated, scar tissue can form and this can prevent sperm from leaving the testicle which can lead to fertility issues, so do get it checked out and treated.
The term epidural is used a lot but people don’t always really know what it involves. An epidural is a type of anaesthetic that can be used in labour to numb the lower half of the body but allow a woman to have a vaginal birth while she is awake and aware of her surroundings.
If you are dealing with fertility issues, essential oils might be able to help you. They won’t suddenly make you pregnant but they could help you to manage stress, help increase your libido, regulate hormones, stimulate your menstrual cycle and calm inflammation. There is no magic wand when it comes to the human body, and fertility is no exception, but if you look after yourself well, trying alternative approaches is worth looking into – just check with your medical team first.
Estrogen is one of the two predominant female sex hormones, the other is progesterone. If estrogen levels are too high or too low, it can affect fertility by preventing ovulation and not allowing the lining of the uterus to thicken enough for fertilised eggs to implant. These hormone levels will be measured and the appropriate treatment plans will be offered by your medical team.
People like evidence, and this is true when it comes to finding the truth behind trouble conceiving. We work with patients to find out what is happening with their bodies, and you can be assured that we will look for the evidence behind what is happening with you and how we can move forwards in a positive way.
To conceive you need to be healthy and part of that is by taking regular exercise. We know that lives are busy and you get tired, but finding something you enjoy – be that swimming, cycling, rowing or dancing – will not only help your physical health and weight but can boost your mental health too. If you exercise with your partner, this can give you a new focus and take your mind of having a baby all of the time. Do note that excessive exercise can lead to weight loss and this can affect ovulation and fertility in women, so make sure you do everything in moderation.
If you have any questions about these terms or other fertility issues, please get in touch and we are very happy to help.
The Harley Street Fertility Team