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Fertility Treatment

Saskia Boujo on BBC’s Panorama – Inside Britain’s Fertility Business…

By Saskia Boujo / 1st Dec, 2016

Cup of herbal tea in hand, I sat down to watch Panorama on Monday night with my husband.

I’d even set the alarm, and a few friends had texted to make sure that i’d be watching. This was of high interest! Infertility doesn’t get a lot of television coverage so this was very encouraging indeed. I was a little miffed by the title, unsure that this was really as controversial as other infertility related topics (lack of nhs funding springs to mind, egg freezing, birth registers…) but I was open minded nonetheless.

What on EARTH…?! From the very start it made for very uncomfortable viewing. My husband lasted about a minute until he pulled his phone out of his pocket. I plugged on through til the very end…painfully.

I’m honestly not sure where to begin.

But I guess the first point has to be this. If there is no evidence to suggest these add-ons work, then where is the evidence to suggest they don’t work? To put it simply, unexplained infertility is UNEXPLAINED, therefore these doctors have to try something! So they attempt things which have worked for others, which they are hoping will work again. The Zita West clinic is a highly reputable clinic who has helped hundreds if not thousands of couples start families, often after many previously failed cycles. Zita West is one of the founders of the fertility-nutrition-health movement, who speaks regularly at fertility shows and who has a genuine interest in finding out why IVF has failed so many. The problem with a lot of clinics is that they expect their patients to keep going when a cycle fails and do little investigation into why it’s not working for them. Precisely what the Zita West clinic does well and what my clinic did is look at the stats, look at the results of the blood tests, check thyroid levels for instance, with the aim of finding out what has gone wrong and what they can do differently next time. And all those add-ons of course cost money. The Zita West clinic has been unfairly picked on in my view and shows a complete lack of understanding of the whole infertility sector in general. The Zita West clinic have released a statement following the Panorama program which you can read here.

The fact that Panorama targeted that clinic tells me they hardly researched the topic. The couple that sat down in front of Dr George Nduwke would typically have been through countless failed cycles already. They are desperate, vulnerable, willing to do pretty much anything to get their baby. And that doctor would have wanted nothing more than to give them that baby.

I am not as naive to think that every clinic is as honest as what I believe the Zita West clinic to be. For certain there will be some wishing to take advantage of couple’s desperation. And this is where the governing body, the HFEA, has a duty to inspect clinics and assess their practice. The fact that there are concerns is entirely down to them not regulating this industry properly, and it is the HFEA that is to blame in all this. The program stated they declined to comment, but they should be made accountable.

Panorama’s only saving grace in my point of view was Jessica Hepburn’s contribution. Jessica has been through 11 rounds of IVF, unsuccessfully, and is now facing a childless world. She is today a fierce advocate for fertility and infertility and finding it’s place in society for women who involuntarily childless.  In the program she has a point indeed when describing how utterly vulnerable we are when in front of doctors with our hope in their hands… however her point was plunged in the middle of more very biased information with the aim of reinforcing panorama’s “research”. Her much more unbiased opinion can be found in Tuesday’s Guardian article, as usual beautifully written.

Social media is up in arms over this program. Countless people have come forward on forums everywhere to say that they have had add-ons and gone on to conceive. There are people out there for whom the add-ons have worked. Come out, come out, wherever you are! Why do we slam the new findings, the new research, the amazing technologies?? Without them, many of us, like myself would indeed be childless.

After two failed rounds, I was offered an endometrial scratch by my clinic. It was presented to me as a simple procedure (a little like a smear and to be honest i’d been through so many procedures by then, dignity had no meaning to me anymore!). Regardless, it was definitely worth a try. It worked. And I’ll be doing a scratch again in the new year when we go and collect our frozen embryo.

Before this transfer I will also have to do a thyroid test. This is requested by my clinic as routine before any transfer. Seems logical to me, as an under or active thyroid would impact negatively on implanting an embryo. As I understand it is offered as an add-on by other clinics, seems to me like it should maybe be compulsory. Opting out of that could deprive many of the answers many are so longing for. I can go and get my thyroid test done on the NHS as long as I present my clinic with the results. No, my clinic didn’t tell me that, I used my own brain to work out that I could save money there. My point is, yes we are at the mercy of these doctors, but we still have our own minds, our own intellect.

All that that program would have achieved is setting even more doubt into the already doubt filled heads of infertile couples around the country, leaving them feeling even more lost, with perhaps even less hope. And hope is pretty much all we have.

And what frustrates me even more is that this program could have really enlightened us on far more highly debatable topics related to infertility. Why aren’t we holding our CCGs accountable to the fact that they are removing all IVF funding? Are we led to believe that having a family is a privilege that only high income families are entitled to? Why aren’t we discussing egg freezing and the false hope given to many women who are putting their families in the freezer so to speak, only to find out later that the success rates are lower than 5%?! I really could go on.

The only thing I have come away with after watching Panorama is how badly the media has failed us, yet again.

Written by Saskia Boujo

Saskia Boujo lives in London with her husband and two children. She was a primary school teacher for 12 years before giving up teaching to focus on her IVF treatment, and now runs her own fertility support business from home. She also continues to volunteer for Fertility Network Uk. Visit my website

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