Ir­ish hand­book on fer­til­ity

He­len O’Cal­laghan looks at what each sec­tion deals with

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

ADOCTOR at the coal­face of re­pro­duc­tive and fer­til­ity medicine for the last 30 years has writ­ten a guide­book to max­imise chances of preg­nancy.

With one in six Ir­ish cou­ples fac­ing fer­til­ity prob­lems, con­sul­tant ob­ste­tri­cian/gy­nae­col­o­gist at Dublin’s Na­tional Ma­ter­nity Hospi­tal, Pro­fes­sor Mary Wing­field has writ­ten The Fer­til­ity Hand­book as an “ev­i­dence-based an­ti­dote” to “mis­in­for­ma­tion reg­u­larly re­gur­gi­tated” on the sub­ject of fer­til­ity.

The book of­fers straight­for­ward ad­vice and is in five sec­tions:

Sec­tion 1 is about nat­u­ral bi­ol­ogy and cov­ers is­sues like ovu­la­tion, sperm, male and fe­male re­pro­duc­tive sys­tems and sex. Cou­ples are re­as­sur­ingly told that if they have an ac­tive sex life — sex ev­ery two or three days — they don’t need to worry about the ‘fer­tile win­dow’. They’ll be hav­ing sex of­ten enough.

Sec­tion 2 de­scribes the hugely im­por­tant in­flu­ence of life­style. Re­as­sur­ing ad­vice here: stress doesn’t cause in­fer­til­ity and you’re not un­usual if in­fer­til­ity af­fects your sex life. But al­co­hol may be more of a prob­lem than peo­ple re­alise, e-cig­a­rettes aren’t ideal and fer­til­ity apps may not be all they’re made out to be.

Sec­tion 3 deals with fer­til­ity prob­lems, tests and in­ves­ti­ga­tions and gives ad­vice on when/how to seek help if you have a prob­lem. Wing­field ex­plores whether all women should check their ovar­ian re­serve — num­ber of eggs left in ovaries. She ad­vises think­ing be­fore hav­ing the test. “If you have not al­ready been try­ing for a while, only have it done if you think you might do some­thing pos­i­tive with the re­sult, such as start­ing to con­ceive or freez­ing eggs.”

Sec­tion 4 cov­ers treat­ment, in­clud­ing med­i­cal and sur­gi­cal op­tions for women and men. Clo­sure is dis­cussed, as well as deal­ing with ‘when it doesn’t hap­pen’. Sec­tion 5 looks at thorny eth­i­cal is­sues in­clud­ing lack of pub­lic fund­ing here for IVF treat­ment. Ire­land is one of just three EU coun­tries that doesn’t pro­vide such fund­ing. “In­fer­til­ity is ab­so­lutely a med­i­cal dis­or­der with ma­jor life and health con­se­quences,” Wing­field says, point­ing to a WHO def­i­ni­tion of it in 2009 as a ‘dis­ease of the re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem’. “There is undis­puted ev­i­dence show­ing in­abil­ity to con­ceive is a sig­nif­i­cant cause of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety... ,” says Wing­field. The book in­cludes sig­nif­i­cant amounts of com­ment from fer­til­ity pa­tients at var­i­ous points of their jour­ney.

The Fer­til­ity Hand­book, Gill Books, Pro­fes­sor Mary Wing­field, €16.99.

Pic­ture: iStock

Dr Mary Wing­field: If a cou­ple has sex 2-3 times a week they don’t need to worry about the fer­tile win­dow.

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