A recent article in The Times has focused on the ‘hidden costs of IVF’ and claimed that unexpected charges mean the eventual bill for fertility treatment may be many thousands of pounds more than a clinic’s advertised prices.

In February 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) was asked to investigate fertility clinic pricing following consumer feedback. They raised concerns that some clinics provided unclear price information.

The next step was to explore the feasibility of developing a standard approach for a package price for a single cycle of IVF so patients could meaningfully compare clinics.

“The CMA has investigated this and found it is unfortunately not as simple as regulating supermarket pricing,” Aria Clinic Director Rob Smith explains. “Every fertility treatment is unique, and there are so many variables: the medical history of both individuals if you’re treating a couple, the scans or tests required, the medication dosage, whether fresh or frozen embryos are being transferred, or what different treatment add-ons are used.

“There’s no average price because there’s no such thing as an average patient.”

The value of treatment add-ons

The investigation by The Times found that an IVF treatment costs 50% more than advertised at a quarter of private clinics, based on data by Fertility Mapper, a review platform for fertility clinics. Additional costs not included in the initial quote frequently included blood tests, embryo freezing and scans.

Thirty-nine per cent did not include blood test monitoring, which can cost £150-200 for each test.

“Some clinics monitor the life out of patient – sometimes once or twice a day – and throughout an IVF treatment, this can quickly run into the thousands. If you’re not expecting it, this will be a huge shock,” Rob explains. “We make it very clear to patients at Aria that we don’t include the monitoring of bloods in their costs because actually very few patients require it. For those that do require more monitoring, we inform them of this at the very beginning of the treatment and make a small additional charges for these.  Charging for these tests on an ad-hoc basis prevents us from increasing the IVF treatment cost for everyone.”

Another cause for concern was treatment add-ons. When IVF was first invented, the process was collecting the egg, fertilising it and then transplanting an embryo back. This remains the basic IVF cycle. Since then, several refinements to the process have been developed, such as genetic testing or time-lapse imaging of the embryos.

These treatment add-ons are all additional costs, and it is true that there is currently not enough clinical evidence to prove that they are effective at improving treatment results. “At Aria we believe that treatment add-ons can improve the eventual outcome for some patients,” argues Rob, “which is why we offer them. But they are only applicable to certain patients.

“If you have unsuccessfully undergone multiple rounds of IVF, then it is vital that your clinic attempts to boost the chances of a successful treatment by utilising these advances in technology and techniques. We always discuss these options beforehand and make sure patients make an informed decision about their treatment.

“However, if you are under 38 and embarking on your first round of IVF, then genetic testing, for example, is just not required. Unfortunately, some clinics try to recommend these treatment add-ons when unnecessary.”

The Aria ethos

“We set up Aria because we wanted to create something unique in the industry,” Rob explains. “We aim to be as transparent and clear on costs as possible from the outset. We do not advertise a headline ‘from’ price on our website, and we include our complete pricing guide with every treatment clearly listed.

“After the initial consultation with one of our fertility experts, the doctor will send a list of what is required to our patient care team. They then provide the patient with a bespoke quote that includes exactly what is included in the treatment package.”

“Another thing that I think is quite unique is that you pay for a package and there are no surprises afterwards. It happened to me, at other clinics, to pay for packages and then to have to pay for countless ‘non-included’ extras. For example, ‘the first scan is not included’. You probably would not expect the medicines to be included but the scans? At Aria you pay once, and no further surprises.”

“If the patient wishes to discuss any aspect of the quote, they can come into the clinic and go through it line by line with one of the team.

“We are always striving to improve our patient experience, and gathering feedback is vital to this process,” continues Rob. “In our most recent data collected, almost 88% of our patients reported that they had paid exactly what they had expected.”

Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 to speak to one of our team about fertility treatment costs at Aria Clinic.

Egg freezing provides a unique opportunity to protect your fertility potential and it is becoming an increasingly popular and effective treatment option to preserve your eggs until you are ready to start a family in the future.

If you are contemplating egg freezing, it’s essential you are fully informed about the steps involved and the potential benefits as well as possible drawbacks. Here are just some of the questions we commonly get asked about egg freezing.

What is egg freezing?

Egg freezing is a process in which eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and cryopreserved for possible use later. As fertility declines as you age, your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy will be similar to the age you froze your eggs.

Why should you consider egg freezing?

Today, more and more women are delaying starting a family until later in life due to personal, social or career circumstances. As techniques and technology continue to evolve, egg freezing has become an increasingly popular method of preserving fertility, as freezing your eggs at a younger age may offer a better chance of a successful pregnancy.

How are eggs frozen?

Once the eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, they are assessed, and mature eggs are frozen soon after retrieval in a technique known as vitrification. This flash-freezing method means water molecules do not have time to form ice crystals, resulting in less damage when the eggs are thawed.

What can I expect during the egg-freezing process?

The egg-freezing journey typically takes approximately 14 days. As we want to collect as many mature eggs as possible per cycle, the ovaries are stimulated with hormone injections. We will perform scans and blood tests to monitor the progress so we can time the trigger injection. Egg collection is then timed for approximately 36 hours after this time.

What can I expect from the egg retrieval process?

Egg collection is done transvaginally in much the same way as a transvaginal scan. The procedure typically takes 30 minutes under mild sedation. Your eggs will be collected using a needle that goes into each ovarian follicle and uses gentle suction to pull out the fluid which contains the egg.

Once rested, you should be able to return home after a couple of hours. You may experience tiredness, bloating, mild abdominal pain and light vaginal bleeding for a few days after your procedure. Most patients can resume their regular routine the next day.

Is egg freezing painful?

Some elements of the egg-freezing process can be uncomfortable, depending on your sensitivity. However, the experience is not painful for most women.

The hormone injections can sting a bit, but your nurse will advise on how best to administer these injections. During this time, you can feel very bloated and crampy, varying from patient to patient.

Your egg retrieval will be performed under sedation so you will not feel anything, but afterwards, you may experience some mild abdominal pain and a little soreness.

What are the risks of egg freezing?

Egg freezing is considered a relatively safe, low-risk procedure. One potential risk is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

Stimulation of the ovaries is a deliberate aspect of egg freezing, as we try to obtain as many mature eggs as possible. When the ovaries are stimulated, there is a possibility of OHSS developing, which is an excessive response to the drugs used to encourage multiple follicles to form.

Most cases of OHSS are mild to moderate, occurring in up to 5% of all patients undergoing IVF treatment. This can give symptoms such as mild abdominal discomfort and nausea and usually settles with painkillers and maintaining a good fluid intake.

Very occasionally, OHSS can be more severe, causing marked swelling of the abdomen, dehydration, nausea and vomiting and difficulty in breathing. This is uncommon and may happen in up to 1% of women undergoing ovarian stimulation.

The team will manage the risk of OHSS, which might include altering the dose of stimulation medications or using a different trigger injection.

How many eggs should I freeze?

The success of techniques like IVF is dependent on two main factors: the age at which treatment takes place and the number of eggs the ovaries can produce.

With egg freezing, an additional factor to consider is the chances of eggs thawing successfully.

Current thinking is that women under 35 should try to freeze 20 eggs and women over 35 20-30 eggs. However, a woman’s ovaries may respond very differently to stimulation, which means multiple egg freeze cycles may be required to achieve this number.

How long can I store my eggs?

Once vitrified, eggs may be stored for any period up to a maximum of 55 years from the date they are first placed in storage. However, you must renew your consent every ten years; therefore, you must keep your contact details updated with us.

What happens when I’m ready to use my frozen eggs?

Your eggs will be transported from the cryostorage facility to the clinic and thawed. They will then be fertilised with partner or donor sperm using a fertility process called ICSI.

What happens next?

If you decide to proceed with egg freezing, the first step is a consultation with one of our fertility experts and a fertility assessment. Once any relevant investigations are completed, your consultant will discuss the results with you and any implications. They will inform you of what to expect from egg freezing and provide a detailed, fully costed treatment plan.

You will then attend a nurse planning appointment. During this appointment, we will map out the timeline of your egg-freezing treatment. They will also go through the consent process, which will be explained in detail, and your nurse will answer any further questions you may have.

When you are ready to start, you call to tell us when your period has started, and from there, the egg freezing cycle takes approximately 14 days.

If we haven’t answered your egg-freezing question, contact us to find out more.

Women have a complex, interconnected hormone network that can impact fertility.

Hormones are chemicals primarily produced in the endocrine glands, and they act as messengers that control and influence different bodily functions, including conception and pregnancy.

A hormonal imbalance is when your body produces too much or too little of a particular hormone. Conception relies on a carefully choreographed mix of hormones produced in a specific sequence during the menstrual cycle so that a small change can disrupt the hormones and fertility process.

In our latest blog, we discuss the 7 major fertility hormones that are at play when trying to conceive:

Hormones and fertility

1 Oestrogen

Oestrogen is the primary female hormone; it kickstarts puberty and continues to regulate the menstrual cycle, among many other essential bodily functions. Produced by the ovaries and placenta, it maintains the uterine lining and regulates other key fertility hormones.

2 Progesterone

Mainly made in the ovaries, progesterone helps regulate your menstrual cycle, and after ovulation, it helps the uterine lining to become receptive to the implantation of a fertilised egg. It also prevents the uterine muscles from contracting so the egg is not rejected. Low progesterone levels are thought to play a role in recurrent miscarriage.

3 Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)

The pituitary gland in the brain makes this hormone and signals the ovaries to grow eggs. It also stimulates oestrogen production at this stage, which is necessary for the body to produce a surge of luteinising hormone (LH), leading to ovulation. This also has an impact on the cervical mucus. When ovulating, the cervical mucus changes from thick and white or creamy to stretchy and clear, which helps the sperm survive and fertilise the egg.

4 Luteinising hormone (LH)

Another hormone produced by the pituitary gland, LH works in concert with FSH. LH levels must rise just before ovulation to trigger the release of the egg from the follicle. An imbalance in LH is often a cause of irregular menstruation.

5 Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

Often known as the pregnancy hormone, hCG is only produced by the body when you’ve conceived. hCG levels rise just after conception until about ten weeks in pregnancy, and it’s this chemical that pregnancy tests detect and measure. It tells the body to stop menstruation and helps thicken the uterine lining to support the growing embryo

6 Prolactin

Made by the pituitary gland, prolactin is a critical player in regulating your menstrual cycle. An imbalance in prolactin, especially if produced in excess, can cause menstrual and fertility problems.

7 Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH)

AMH is produced in the ovarian follicles and is responsible for maintaining your body’s immature eggs and regulating the number of growing follicles and their selection for ovulation. If you’re undergoing IVF, measuring the levels of AMH can be used to estimate your ovarian reserve

AMH remains consistent throughout your menstrual cycle, whereas other hormones fluctuate. For this reason, we can test your AMH level at any point during your process and this will provide us with an indicator of your current reproductive potential. If the level of your AMH is low, this does not necessarily mean you will not be able to conceive.

AMH levels strongly correlate with the antral follicle count (AFC), and when combined, we can provide you with a clearer understanding of your fertility. Get in touch to arrange your Female Fertility Investigation at Aria Clinic.

Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.co.uk.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common, although often underdiagnosed, condition affecting women in the UK. It is thought to affect more than one in 10 women, and those suffering from PCOS often have concerns about whether they can successfully have a family.

In September, we focus on PCOS, aiming to raise awareness of this often-distressing metabolic disease, which can cause many symptoms, including difficulties conceiving and complications while pregnant.

PCOS and fertility

Symptoms vary from person to person and in severity, but they can include:

  • Menstrual problems
  • Difficulty conceiving
  • Increased body and facial hair caused by high levels of male hormones
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair
  • Acne

It affects your ability to get pregnant in several ways. Your ovaries are typically enlarged, with many follicles containing immature eggs that fail to mature and release an egg, meaning many women have irregular periods or no periods.

PCOS can also cause weight gain and a high BMI, making it more difficult to conceive. However, a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome does not mean you cannot have a baby.

Whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or contemplating fertility treatment, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of success.

PCOS and nutrition

One of the first steps is to try and achieve hormonal balance by addressing diet. Fertility nutritionist Melanie Brown is particularly interested in endometriosis and PCOS and the effect of nutrition on ameliorating their adverse impact on fertility.

Fertility Nutritionist“First and foremost, PCOS is a challenging condition for women to live with, and it is also very tough to treat,” Mel explains. “Often the advice when you’re first diagnosed is to go on the pill which masks many symptoms. Many PCOS sufferers come off the pill when they want to start a family and find that their periods might not come back, whereas symptoms such as acne or facial hair return with a vengeance.

“Whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or about to undergo IVF, it’s ideal to prepare your body and improve egg quality. It is also good to reduce abdominal fat, which is often an issue for those suffering from polycystic ovaries, without crash dieting, which is not good for your fertility.”

Melanie explains that her approach to treating PCOS patients is similar to all her fertility patients but emphasises controlling blood sugar. Although the cause of PCOS is not entirely understood, it is believed that abnormal levels of the luteinising hormone (LH) and high levels of male hormones interfere with the normal function of the ovaries.

LH is released at a certain point in your menstrual cycle to stimulate the ovarian follicles to mature and release an egg. PCOS sufferers already have high levels of LH, which means they fail to ovulate normally. We also know that glucose-induced insulin spikes further increase the production of testosterone and LH.

“The basis is always a low glycaemic, low carb diet. As well as its impact on our hormones, a dysregulated blood sugar mechanism means that insulin no longer packages up glucose neatly and delivers it to the liver. Instead, it panics and stores it in your fat cells, particularly around your abdomen.

I always check vitamin D levels as many people, particularly those with a higher BMI, are deficient in it without realising it, and it’s important for fertility. As well as a high dose of vitamin D, I recommend supplements that control blood sugar and inflammation and balance hormones such as Inofolic to my PCOS patients.

“Weight gain is a common symptom of PCOS, and many of my patients have been living with this issue for many years. Often, I have to override the messages we’ve been fed by the diet and food industry for decades and explain that peanut butter on rye toast, avocados and full-fat humus are far better for you than Special K, diet coke and low-fat yoghurt.

“Education is always critical. If patients understand what’s happening in their bodies, brains and biome, they can make positive and informed choices.”

PCOS fertility treatments at Aria Fertility

Consultant gynaecologist Miss Amanda Tozer at Aria Fertility is an expert in general gynaecology and women’s health. She has a comprehensive knowledge of menstrual disorders, including endometriosis, PCOS and fibroids. She will investigate symptoms with a physical exam and complete a medical history check.

She can perform ultrasound imaging to check for cysts in the ovaries. You may also need a blood test to check your hormone and insulin levels.

Miss Tozer can offer advice on potential treatments depending on your symptoms and needs, including lifestyle advice, supplements, hormonal control and possible fertility treatments.

Treatment options include induction of ovulation, where fertility medication is used to gently stimulate your ovaries to produce and release a mature egg. You can then either attempt to conceive naturally or through intrauterine insemination (IUI). In general, IVF success rates are excellent for cases of infertility caused by PCOS. Women with POCS may be at higher risk of developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), but our experienced fertility doctors are highly skilled in treating PCOS patients and will take every precaution to prevent and manage OHSS.

For more advice on anything fertility and nutrition-related, see Mel’s website: melaniebrownnutrition.com. Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.co.uk for advice on preparing for IVF.

For more information on the individual practitioners and organisations offering support, advice, and information to those undergoing fertility treatment, please visit our Support Hub. To discuss your fertility options with one of our specialists, call xxx.

The practice of reflexology dates to Ancient Egypt, India and China but was first introduced into the West in 1913 as ‘zone therapy’. The concept behind reflexology is that specific points or reflex areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body.

Reflexology aims to restore or maintain the body’s natural equilibrium by applying gentle pressure to these reflex points, and it has been shown to be effective in treating various conditions, including arthritis, digestive disorders, migraines and insomnia. It is also gaining popularity for those experiencing infertility issues.

“Scientifically, we can’t explain exactly how reflexology works, but we can demonstrate it has a positive effect on treating not only symptoms but also the causes of symptoms,” Reproductive Reflexologist Barbara Scott explains.

Barbara’s interest in this area was sparked by her first reflexology client, who was struggling to fall pregnant. As Chair of the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists and author of Reflexology for Fertility, Barbara is committed to furthering research in this field. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Wales Trinity St David.

The Association has developed structured protocols to support couples struggling to conceive and those undergoing IVF or other fertility treatments, allowing them to measure outcomes beyond the anecdotal evidence from patients.

Reflexology and fertility

arbara Scott Reproductive Reflexologist“We take a patient-centred integrative approach. It is important for us to see both parties, as men often get overlooked in fertility treatment,” Barbara details.

“During the initial consultation, which can last up to two hours, we focus on where they are in their fertility journey and how they have got there. It doesn’t matter if they have just started trying or have already had a complex journey. We often advise further testing as there may be something they haven’t considered exploring.

“Then we devise a treatment programme. For women, we ensure their menstrual cycle is functioning as effectively as possible, even if they are about to embark on IVF.

“For both parties, three months is the optimum timeframe. Men produce millions of sperm cells every day, but from when sperm is first produced in the seminiferous tubules until they are ready to ejaculate, this takes about 12 weeks. Sperm are delicate single-cell organisms susceptible to damage, so you can improve both quantity and quality.

“Women are born with every egg they are going to have, so you can’t change the number, but you can change the environment. So we don’t just focus on ovulation but also the luteal phase from ovulation to bleed. This can be a question of whether you are producing the right kind of cervical mucus at the right time or are your levels of progesterone fluctuating.”

Your reproductive reflexology plan

“We devise a programme of weekly sessions based on specific protocols that are designed to support each stage of your cycle – or each key stage of your IVF treatment. This can be supported by patients working on reflexology points on their hands between each session. We also ask women to take their temperature each morning or use the OvuSense fertility tracker, and we use this data to monitor the effectiveness of our sessions.

“We work on specific reflex points on the feet. The first session can feel very strange for patients, but most usually find it incredibly relaxing. Often, they can experience sensations in the body depending on what we are treating. If they are in the stimulating phase of IVF, it is possible to feel the dominant ovary  or the thickening of the uterine lining.

“Once your IVF treatment begins, we like to know what you’ll be taking and when so we can design protocols to mimic and support each key stage of the IVF programme, whether that’s stimulation or sedation.

“Men can often feel sidelined during the fertility treatment pathway, but the sperm quality must be as good as possible whether you are undergoing IVF or ICSI. I often advise the TestHim website, which has a helpful health questionnaire. Men are often the biggest converts as they feel they are making a positive contribution.

“The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists expect our practitioners to stay up to date with current reproductive health developments. We also suggest that anyone who trains with us undergo maternity reflexology training so they can support patients beyond week 12 of their pregnancy.”

For more advice on Reproductive Reflexology, visit Barbara’s website Seren Natural Fertility. Or visit the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists to find a practitioner.

Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.co.uk for advice on preparing for IVF. For more information on the individual practitioners and organisations offering support, advice, and information to those undergoing fertility treatment, please visit our Support Hub.

In vitro fertilisation is a challenging time as it’s both emotionally and physically demanding, and one way to prepare for IVF is to focus on the potential benefits of improving egg quality or ovarian function through lifestyle changes, such as nutrition.

Leading fertility nutritionist Melanie Brown believes nutrition can help improve fertility.

“Women are constantly being told nothing can improve the quality of their eggs. And while we are all born with the eggs we shall ever have in our lifetimes, the environment in which those eggs mature is fundamental to their quality, so this assertion is not strictly true.

“There are many reasons why someone’s egg quality or ovarian function might not be optimal and can be positively influenced.

“We know that smoking damages egg quality, so conversely, I believe that nutrition and other lifestyle changes could also help to improve egg quality. If you can do something that adversely affects egg health, it shows they are not immune to their environment.”

IVF vs a normal menstrual cycle

During a normal menstrual cycle, many follicles containing immature egg cells or oocytes will develop and grow when your body releases a follicle-stimulating hormone called FSH.

Typically, one standout follicle grows faster than all the others, known as the dominant follicle. It sends a signal to decrease the amount of FSH being produced, which causes the other follicles to cease developing, leaving only the one dominant follicle to continue growing and the egg inside to mature.

In an IVF cycle, however, the goal is to grow multiple follicles simultaneously, a process that does not occur in a natural cycle.

“I often say to my patients, if you look at the progress of an IVF cycle as a flow chart, you can see how important it is to ensure you are as well prepared as possible,” Melanie explains. “You might have 18 follicles, which release 14 eggs, 10 of which are mature eggs, from which eight go on to be fertilised, six then go through to day three, and maybe two become day 5 blastocysts.”

Preparing for IVF with nutrition

“I can also advise patients on all the fertility-improving strategies out there on the internet – milk or no milk, soya or no soya, is DHEA right for you, how do I use melatonin?

Fertility Nutritionist“There’s an ever-running argument about milk consumption during IVF. Many nutritionists think milk is the devil’s work as it’s very inflammatory and can be a factor in everything from acne to polycystic ovaries. And I certainly think that’s true for those that suffer from certain conditions.

“But, if you don’t suffer from those conditions, I think there’s quite an argument for consuming milk in an IVF cycle. Milk is meant to grow baby animals and full-fat milk is full of growth factors and growth-promoting nutrients.

“Iron takes oxygen to our cells, so if you are even slightly anaemic, then it means you’re not getting enough oxygen to your ovaries. Yet, many people might be entering an IVF cycle with mild anaemia – if you have undiagnosed endometriosis, very heavy periods or have a vegetarian or vegan diet.

“A protein-rich diet is essential to support multiple follicle growth during an IVF cycle. Protein makes up the building blocks for every cell in our bodies, including our sperm and eggs. So ensuring you have the right amount of protein is essential.

“I see maximising ovarian function and potentially improving egg quality before IVF, as a ‘project’ – usually three months will do it.”

For more advice on anything fertility and nutrition-related, see Mel’s website: melaniebrownnutrition.com. Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.co.uk for advice on preparing for IVF.

For more information on the individual practitioners and organisations offering support, advice, and information to those undergoing fertility treatment, please visit our Support Hub.

At Aria Laboratories, we are proud to be at the forefront of cutting-edge fertility research, constantly striving to push the boundaries of what is possible in the field of IVF. On Research Appreciation Day, a day dedicated to honouring the invaluable work of health researchers worldwide, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate the research being conducted at our laboratory.

Below are some research projects that we hope will shape the future of IVF with patient experience as a pivotal element:

Enhancing Non-Invasive Preimplantation Genetic Testing with Morphokinetic Data

One of our ongoing research focuses on utilising morphokinetic data to enhance the diagnostic precision of non-invasive preimplantation genetic testing (niPGT). niPGT involves the examination of markers on the culture media in which embryos grow, which is usually discarded.

This research aims to move towards a non-invasive genetic testing approach, eliminating the need for embryo biopsy. Encouragingly, this research has already resulted in live births, highlighting the safety and reliability of this non-invasive method. By embracing this innovative approach, we strive to minimise the invasiveness of genetic testing and optimise outcomes for our patients.

AI-Based Classification for Improved Sperm Selection

Understanding the maturity and integrity of sperm plays a crucial role in assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures. To further our understanding in this area, we are conducting an analysis of single-sperm maturity using artificial intelligence (AI) imaging classification scores.

By harnessing the power of AI software, we aim to provide embryologists with a valuable tool that offers consistent second-hand opinions, aiding in the selection of the most viable sperm for ART procedures. This technology not only enhances the accuracy of sperm selection but also embraces the integration of new technologies in our IVF laboratory.

Semen Analysis with AI Robotics

Presented at the 39th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Copenhagen, this study explored how AI can improve andrology pathways while enhancing the overall patient experience.

By leveraging the power of AI robotics, we aim to streamline and optimise the semen analysis process, reducing turnaround time and enhancing accuracy. This research represents our commitment to embracing technological advancements to achieve the highest standards of patient care.

The HAMDA Project

In collaboration with the University College London (UCL), we have recently launched a global survey creating a database of non-euploid embryo transfer and postnatal follow-up. This ambitious project encompasses various aspects, including patient support, counselling, clinic policies, as well as monitoring pregnancy and birth outcomes.

By collecting comprehensive data and insights, we aim to refine and improve our practices, ensuring the highest level of care and support for our patients throughout their fertility journey.

To find out more about the work of our embryologists, call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.co.uk.

Following on from an international study published at the end of last year that demonstrated declining sperm counts are accelerating, new research has pinpointed that air pollution can significantly damage sperm quality.

A meta-analysis of nearly 27,00 studies identified factors such as air pollution, pesticide exposure, and chemical pollutants as causing increased sperm DNA fragmentation. The research was published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, and the studies they reviewed included data from men exposed to high levels of workplace pollution and those living in areas with high environmental pollution levels.

Standard male fertility tests check the number, motility and shape of the sperm. A further diagnostic assessment we offer at Aria Fertility is the sperm DNA fragmentation test. This provides more in-depth knowledge about sperm quality.

Sperm DNA fragmentation are breaks in the DNA strands that are contained within the sperm, and this can affect the ability to conceive and has been linked to a higher incidence of miscarriage. This is usually caused by oxidative stress and, as well as pollution, the study also identified several lifestyle factors that had a significant impact. Here are 5 common lifestyle factors that could affect male fertility.

Lifestyle factors and male infertility

1. Smoking

Nicotine addiction might be one of the most important lifestyle factors affecting fertility. Numerous studies have found smoking is associated with decreased sperm count, reduced sperm motility, and poor sperm morphology, which is how sperm are shaped, and in this most recent study, researchers demonstrated that smoking could increase DNA fragmentation by an average of 9.19 per cent compared to non-smokers.

2. Alcohol

How much is too much? Many studies have investigated the effect of excessive alcohol consumption and fertility and found that it impacts both male reproductive hormone production and the quality of your semen. One Danish study found that for men who consumed 40 units or more of alcohol per week, their sperm count was approximately 33% lower than those who drank between one and five units per week.

3 & 4. Your weight & diet

These two often go hand in hand. Generally speaking, men and women with a higher BMI are more likely to have lower fertility. Although it is not possible to say that losing weight will definitely improve your chance of conceiving, adopting healthy eating when trying for a baby is a sensible step. A healthy and varied diet, rich in vitamins and antioxidants, is essential for good sperm health.

5. Reduce your exposure to BPAs

Although it might not be possible to avoid the impact of environmental pollutants, particularly if you’re living in a large city, you can take steps to reduce your personal exposure to BPAs.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most common chemicals we’re exposed to in everyday life, as it’s used in everything from food and drink containers to dental fillings. Try to avoid canned food, use BPA-free plastic storage, eat fresh produce, cook from scratch, and use glass water bottles and reusable coffee mugs.

Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email admin@ariafertility.co.uk to arrange a male fertility health check, including a sperm DNA fragmentation test, at Aria Fertility.

Fantastic news from one of our couples – we were delighted to be sent pictures of their twins and to hear the family were doing so well.

“Last year myself and my partner came to Aria after 2 failed IVF rounds elsewhere, where we unfortunately had no embryos to transfer. We were at our lowest point and Aria was our last chance of having our own biological children. Your team listened to us, were willing to consider and try different approaches, and for the first time didn’t make me feel like it was simply down to me being too old (now 40).

“With the help of your team we ended up with 6 blastocysts and transferred 2, which we were delighted resulted in our first ever positive pregnancy test, after years of trying.

“Last month, all the heartache and struggle finally became worth it and we welcomed our twin boys. Our hearts are so full and we can not thank the team at Aria enough for making all of our dreams come true. Without you our beautiful boys would not exist.

“Thank you to everyone who played a part, every person, every interaction and every decision made at Aria was worlds apart from anywhere else we have visited.”

To book a consultation with one of our fertility experts, call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.co.uk.

In celebration of International Nurses Day, Maddy, who is egg donation coordinator at Aria, explains what drew her to working in fertility and the satisfaction she gets from being a fertility nurse.

What’s your favourite part about being a fertility nurse?

“The great thing about being a fertility nurse is the diversity of the day-to-day job. You can be down in theatre for the morning doing egg collections or looking after your patients in recovery. In the afternoon, you may be upstairs doing blood tests or scans or doing admin and following up with your patients with phone calls and emails.”

“Our appointments with our patients can cover talking them through their fertility treatment journey and what they can expect, explaining what their scans showed, or teaching them how to take their IVF medication.”

What element of your job do you find most special?

“I am the egg donation coordinator at Aria, which is really, really special. Everything is kept anonymous and takes careful planning to ensure that the donors and recipients are kept separate when they come in for their appointments. But it’s a special moment for both parties, and often the recipients come in with a gift or card for their donors. It’s lovely to see their kind words, and it always reminds me why I am doing this job in the first place.

“We use an external donor organisation that recruits the donors, and then we match them with our patients who may have experienced failed cycle after failed cycle and are unable to use their own eggs.

“I oversee the whole process, so I work with the donor from start to finish, doing their consent forms, blood tests, etc. And then I organise the recipients.”

What makes working in a fertility clinic different to other sectors of nursing?

“The continuity of care and hands-on nature of the role is critical. You see patients throughout an intense journey and are there for their outcomes, whether it’s egg freezing or they are creating embryos. Once they become pregnant, we see them up until 12 weeks before they move to antenatal care with their local hospital or private obstetrician.”

What makes working at Aria Fertility special?

“The team at Aria have all been together since it opened – the doctors, nurses, and the admin team – and we’ve created something unique.

“We are also a small team, so you often look after patients at every stage of their journey. We have a lot of egg-freezing patients at Aria Fertility. The initial step is a consultation with their doctor; then they will have a nursing consultation which I do many of. This will be quite a lengthy appointment as we explain the process thoroughly. You see them for their scans and track their follicle development, and then you often see them on the day of their egg collection.

“Today, we said farewell to one of our egg-freezing patients, who has done a couple of rounds and banked enough eggs. And hopefully, we may see her again in the future!”

What made you specialise in fertility nursing?

“My background is in theatre recovery nursing. I moved here from Australia in 2016 and initially did agency nursing, working at hospitals around London. My recruiter contacted me with a month-long temporary position at a fertility clinic; it’s always lovely to have longer-term positions as an agency nurse, so I immediately said yes. And, from the moment I stepped in the door, it was love at first sight.”

What’s the next stage for you in fertility nursing?

“If any area of nursing needs spotlighting, its fertility nursing. People often think you need lots of experience or training, but you learn on the job, and there’s endless progression.

“I started with zero experience, and five years later, I’m now donation coordinator and furthering my knowledge of scanning. I currently do follicle-tracking scans, and next week I’m doing a scanning training course for two days, so in the future I’ll be able to do pregnancy and diagnostic scans.

“After your initial consultation with our doctors, you’ll have a fertility check, and a diagnostic scan is a cool 3D scan of the uterus to identify any potential issues such as cysts or fibroids. I’m very excited about this next stage!”