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Q&A about fertility claims with Sense About Science -ANSWERS BACK

(94 Posts)
LucilleMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-Jun-14 10:05:02

This week we're running a Q&A with Sense About Science about fertility. Sense about Science has teamed up with Progress Educational Trust and the British Fertility Society to help people Ask for Evidence behind fertility claims. If you’ve seen claims for products, diets or policies about fertility then send us your questions and we will put them to the scientists.

Superfoods to promote your chances of conceiving, home-made energy bars to ward off infertility, and even fertility astrologers. Fertility is a global industry and there are hundreds of claims out there. But which ones are based on evidence that they work? Sense About Science tackles claims that aren’t backed by evidence and regularly hear from people about the emotional cost of chasing false hope.

The experts answering the Q&A will be:

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology and chairman of the British Fertility Society - His research interests cover the biology of human spermatozoa and aspects of semen quality and fertility in males including occupational and environmental influences on semen quality.

Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of Midland Fertility - She has a special interest in age-related infertility, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and nutrition.

Dr Sue Avery, director of assisted conception at Birmingham Women's Hospital - She has been working in the field of infertility for 30 years, as a clinical embryologist.

Post your questions to the thread before 10am on Monday 16th June and we'll post up the experts' answers the following Monday 23rd June.

TheCheckerdyHorse Mon 09-Jun-14 10:16:51

Is it possible for a young man to have his sperm frozen - privately - even though he doesn't currently have any health problems which affect his fertility?

It would be a precautionary measure against any possible future harm to fertility.

I feel a bit naive asking - maybe it's already commonplace? It seems such an obvious thing to me. And simple to do.

raydown Mon 09-Jun-14 10:29:42

Is there anything that can be done to improve a very low sperm count <8 mil total count. Or to improve poor morphology? There are lots of supplements that claim to help but is there any evidence that they do? What about pine bark?

When going through ivf icsi, is there anything the couple should do to prepare themselves? Is there a special diet that should be followed e.g high protein?

joycep Mon 09-Jun-14 11:40:54

At my fertility clinic, all ivf ladies were given strict instructions to drink at least a litre of milk per day before and during ivf. They said getting a lot of protein was imperative. Is there any truth behind this? And is milk really the best way to get your protein quickly especially as there are questions marks about whether dairy is actually good for humans?

joycep Mon 09-Jun-14 11:51:55

Should people undergoing ivf quit refined sugar? There are claims that it has a negative impact on the way the follicles develop. Is this true?

MrsF09 Mon 09-Jun-14 12:09:46

Are there any advances in identifying the underlying cause of "unexplained" infertility.
Meaning is there any promising research in identifying causes of infertility that current nhs procedures/tests cannot identify.

YouAreMyFavouriteWasteOfTime Mon 09-Jun-14 12:43:43

i would like to see more scientific information about fertility decline and aging. information in the news appears to be low on statistics and high on scaremongering and unhelpful to people wanting to understand the real changes that will/are taking place in their body.

FartyMcGhee Mon 09-Jun-14 13:37:03

I had a baby at the age of 40 after IVF and made various changes to my diet including only drinking organic milk. I worry about the amount of hormones we consume in the food we eat. My question is about contraceptive pills.

Statistics from before the second world war and up to the introduction of the pill show that large numbers of women have always had children in their 40s and were doing so in greater numbers during those post war years. Clearly the introduction of the pill gave women more control over their fertility but to what extent would you agree that the hormones in contraceptives have contributed to a general loss of fertility in both men and women?

Some examples RE Birth rates...

in 1938 there were 621,204 live births recorded of those 26,599 were live births to mothers over 40
in 1947 there were 881,026 live births recorded of those 34,696 were live births to mothers over 40
in 2012 there were 729,674 live births recorded of those 29,994 were live births to mothers over 40

Trooperslane Mon 09-Jun-14 14:58:46

That's really interesting farty (snigger)

I'd like to know - having had a baby at 40 after countless miscarriages and 2 x ivf plus 2 icsi (with unexplained infertility and 8 years of trying)

.....if there's something in the anecdotal (afaik) chat around your body kicking itself into shape after many years of failing to carry a full term, healthy baby and subsequent 'easy' pregnancies.

I'm not sure I'm explaining that very well. Can someone else help?! shock

ShergarAndSpies Mon 09-Jun-14 15:27:17

Apologies if this is too far off-tangent but do you believe there to be evidence for the oft-quoted 'fertility peak' immediately post-miscarriage?

Would you recommend immediately trying to conceive (assuming emotionally ready) or do you think it is preferable to take time to re-prepare the body for another pregnancy?

Thank you

raydown Mon 09-Jun-14 17:48:58

I've thought of more! is there any evidence that ICSI can cause long term development or health problems? And what about the effects of ivf on a women? Can the drugs increase the risk of cancer?

NatashaBee Mon 09-Jun-14 17:53:26

is there any evidence that ICSI can cause long term development or health problems? And what about the effects of ivf on a women? Can the drugs increase the risk of cancer?

Would also be interested in knowing this - likewise, whether injectibles such as Gonal-F or ovulation stimulating drugs such as Clomid have long term issues.

joycep Mon 09-Jun-14 18:08:48

When I had ivf, I was given steroids and ivig treatment because my immune results showed I had an over active immune system. The clinic had excellent results with this treatment, with many women finally having a successful pregnancy after multiple failed treatments elsewhere. Many top private clinics use this treatment and does many places in the USA as well.
Yet it is not accepted by NHS doctors and most are not even willing to have a conversation about it.
Is this because there just isn't enough evidence for this treatment at this time? And is it possible that one day the evidence will show that women's immune system can play a role in recurrent miscarriage and unexplained infertility?

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 09-Jun-14 18:19:20

There's been a bit of a backlash recently regarding the Daily Mail's favourite scary statistics about declining fertility in 35+ women.

Whilst much of the revisionist data seems well-founded, I do worry that all the "Stop Panicking!" articles concentrate on reassuringly high chances of getting pregnant at older ages, but never seem to factor in the significantly higher risks of miscarriage to give you the odds of an actual baby.

What do you think? Am I being too pessimistic?

Littlemisshopefull Mon 09-Jun-14 21:53:41

What is the probability of someone with non-obstructive azoospermia successfully fathering children? Is it possible?

Would icsi be the best option? What data exists regarding the physical and mental health for children born via icsi - i read somewhere that there is a higher rate of learning difficulties in these babies - is this true?

RidgyTipper Tue 10-Jun-14 16:27:47

Whys is MTHFR testing not carried out for women suffering recurrent miscarriages. I've known SO many women who were told their miscarriages were due to 'unknown' cause, who then started investigating genetic testing and found they were either hetero- or homozygous for MFTHR and just needed to take the right form of frolic acid. Very frustrating that so few medical professionals seem clued up in this area.

Bue Tue 10-Jun-14 17:16:47

Is there anything that can be done to improve a very low sperm count <8 mil total count. Or to improve poor morphology? There are lots of supplements that claim to help but is there any evidence that they do? What about pine bark?

I'd also like to know about improving sperm health. What are some concrete, evidence-based actions (if any) you can take to improve motility and morphology? You hear a lot about reducing/eliminating alcohol, but does this really make a difference?

I don't have a question about fertility but I just wanted to say thank you for the Sense About Science website. I think it's bloody marvellous on all sorts of topics smile

beakybeak Tue 10-Jun-14 22:45:11

I was wondering if there is a natural way of encouraging ovulation rather then using medication such as clomid etc?

ballsballsballs Tue 10-Jun-14 23:31:13

I'm a fan of the website smile Thank you for fighting the good fight.

When we were going through fertility tests, I was astonished about the number of people around me who told me that a positive attitude was everything. Also, that if we 'just relaxed' and 'stopped thinking about it' a pregnancy would miraculously happen. Or we should go on a holiday... There is no evidence that any of these things could improve sperm quantity and motility. We looked at the figures and decided not to go ahead with IVF.

A lot of people on the fertility forum I used to frequent were convinced that acupuncture would help the success of IVF. Is this true?

After 2.5 years of ttc and no identified problems other than uneven cycles (I have a 7 or 8 day luteal phase which no medical professional so far has believed is a problem) I have turned to alternative options and have been trying a wheat free diet and acupuncture. I'd be interested to know whether there was any evidence that either of these things might help regulate my hormones and even out my cycle, giving me a greater chance of conception. Or, indeed, whether there's any evidence that a very short luteal phase causes problems with conception.

tigerdog Wed 11-Jun-14 09:57:04

Do you think there is any substance to the idea that there can be mental rather than physical blocks to conception in cases of unexplained fertlity?

Rather than allowing them to perish, do you think it would help improve success rates if couples were encouraged to donate "spare" embryos towards research? Perhaps some posters or similar in the waiting rooms?

LadyIsabellaWrotham Wed 11-Jun-14 16:35:55

Returning to the subject of age-related infertility. We used to hear that there was a problem with ignorance about women's fertility declining with age and that loads of people assumed that it would be fine to plan four children staring at age 35.

Presumably this is no longer the case and anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the last decade knows there's an issue. But I wondered whether there was still another great misapprehension; that IVF will magically make the problem go away.

In your opinion, is there still a problem with people thinking that IVF is a cure for age-related sub-fertility?

puddymuddles Wed 11-Jun-14 19:10:51

Is it possible for a woman to be trying to conceive a child for 13 years then suddenly gets pregnant with the same man, no previous miscarriages and no gynecological operations/medical procedures/fertility treatment?

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