Last month, we wrote about managing IVF in the workplace which struck a chord with many of you. One interesting development from the COVID pandemic is that it seems to have accelerated the trend for fertility treatment benefits as employers prioritise employee wellbeing.

We take a look at the fertility treatment benefits starting to be introduced by employers.

What fertility treatments are being offered by employers?

Perks within businesses are certainly nothing new. However, up until now they largely consisted of free gym memberships, company cars, or additional days off.

In recent years, however, employers have started to realise the importance of employee wellbeing. For employees who are going through fertility problems, it can greatly impact their wellbeing and their performance. That is why several UK groups have started to offer fertility-related benefits.

Large UK employers such as NatWest and Clifford Chance, have introduced fertility benefits totalling up to £45,000 per employee. These include offering to pay for IVF or surrogacy. Other benefits include providing time off for appointments, counselling, and miscarriage leave.

Rarely did employers get involved with the outside lives of their workers? So, what’s changed?

The pandemic and its impact on employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing was already starting to become a priority before COVID hit. However, the toll the pandemic has taken on the population has forced businesses to accelerate their efforts.

There has also been a huge increase in the number of employees leaving their jobs as people revaluate what is important in life. With a record number of job vacancies available, employers are having to pull out all the stops to keep hold of their existing workforce.
According to research, 49% of employers have introduced new benefits for their workers since the pandemic began.

Our contribution to fertility treatment benefits

Aria Fertility works alongside Carrot Fertility to provide fertility benefits to employees through their employers. Flexible plans are available to suit businesses of all sizes. Just some of the benefits companies can opt to include are:

  • Fertility medications
  • Pregnancy support
  • Family planning and care
  • Adoption benefits

The fact businesses are starting to help employees with fertility issues is fantastic. However, it is still only select businesses that have introduced these benefits. As time goes on, more HR professionals are realising the importance of fertility-related benefits. At the very least, workers who are experiencing fertility troubles can ask for more flexible working hours.

There is no denying that fertility issues can greatly impact employee wellbeing and performance. Employers who prioritise their workers mental and physical health such as offering fertility treatments are going to also reap the benefits. Get in touch to find out more.

The government has made a major announcement this week on egg, sperm and embryo freezing limits following a public consultation earlier this year. Currently, the statutory storage restriction is 10 years, but in a landmark ruling, they plan to extend the storage limit to a maximum of 55 years, with 10-year renewals.

Dr Anna Carby, fertility expert and consultant gynaecologist at Aria Fertility, commented on the news: “We welcome the government’s plans to extend the storage limit for frozen eggs, sperm and embryos. The increase in the number of egg freezing cycles in the UK has risen exponentially over the past few years with improvements in freezing technology and the recent COVID outbreak has led to an additional surge in the numbers of cycles undertaken. Here at Aria, we are delighted that storage limits are set to increase up to 55 years for both eggs and sperm allowing patients the freedom to decide if, and how early, they may choose to freeze.”

Why are storage limits being extended?

The government has taken this step to give prospective parents a greater choice over when they can start a family. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the current limit was “severely restrictive” and the change will remove the pressure of the “ticking clock in the back of people’s minds”.

Under the current legislation, after the 10-year storage period, parents must decide whether to proceed with fertility treatment at that point or have the cells destroyed. There are some exceptions to this – patients that can prove they are premature infertility, for example, as a result of medical treatment such as chemotherapy, are able to preserve their gametes and embryos for 55 years and the new proposal would allow all fertility patients to be treated equally.

What is egg, sperm or embryo freezing?

During egg freezing, your ovaries are stimulated in the same way as IVF to maximise the number of eggs you reproduce. We monitor your progress and schedule the best time to collect the eggs. Egg collection is a straightforward, minor surgical procedure and we then flash-freeze the suitable eggs in a process known as vitrification.

Before we freeze your sperm, we carry out a fertility assessment including semen analysis. We then receive your instructions on how your sperm can be used in the future. Once the sperm is collected, it is then preserved in liquid nitrogen at very low temperatures to preserve its quality.

Embryo freezing can be performed either as a standalone procedure or after IVF or ICSI to preserve any excess embryos in case you need to undergo further fertility treatments. Your eggs are collected and fertilised like during IVF. They can be frozen when they’re just a single cell, at the two to eight-cell stage or later in their development.

Prevalent research suggests that eggs, sperm and embryos can be stored indefinitely without deteriorating.

The next step is for the plans to be brought before parliament so new legislation can be introduced. Now, all patients with frozen gametes or embryos have been given a two-year extension due to the disruption to fertility treatments caused by the COVID pandemic. For more advice on fertility preservation, get in touch with Aria Fertility to arrange a consultation.

Going through IVF treatment in the workplace can be exhausting and emotionally taxing. There are a lot of appointments you’ll need to attend, and it can be a stressful process.

If you have a full-time job, it can be difficult managing your IVF around it. However, there are some great tips you can follow to make it work. Below, you’ll discover how to successfully manage your IVF treatment in the workplace.

Consider how much time off you will need

To minimise disruption in the workplace, you’ll need to know how much time you need to take off. You can find this out by going over your individual treatment plan with your care team. Figure out how many early morning clinic visits you’ll need to make, alongside how much time off you’ll need after the egg retrieval and embryo transfer procedures.

Speak to your manager

Once you know how much time you’ll need to take off, it’s a good idea to speak to your manager. You can decide how much you want to tell them. If you don’t want to reveal that you are undergoing IVF, you can simply state you have a medical issue. However, you’ll find most managers will be understanding if you are honest about the situation.

Before you speak to them, make sure you have a plan in place. How will you make up any time that is lost? You could also see whether working from home on your appointment days is an option.

Prepare for physical discomfort

Your body goes through some major changes during IVF. Not only will you feel exhausted, but you may experience physical discomfort. It isn’t unusual for women to experience pregnancy symptoms while they are going through the treatment.
To prepare for physical discomfort, wear loose, flattering clothing. Eat smaller meals and snacks if you develop nausea. You’ll also want to limit what you do, so don’t be afraid to pull back on your commitments.

Look after yourself

Going through IVF in the workplace can be stressful. Increased stress levels can wreak havoc on your health. As you are trying to become pregnant, keeping stress levels to a minimum is key. This means you’ll want to make sure you are taking good care of yourself.
Engage in relaxing activities such as reading, yoga, or listening to relaxing music. While it’s hard to practice self-care at work, it isn’t impossible. On your breaks, do something relaxing like going for a walk or reading a good book. Remember to take regular breathing breaks to focus on lowering your stress levels.

If you follow the tips above, you’ll be able to better manage IVF in the workplace. The more you prepare, the easier you’ll find it is to balance IVF with work. For more advice on IVF treatment, call us on 020 3263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.com.

A new study has revealed women who have a BRCA1 gene mutation have fewer eggs than those who don’t. The results of the study, published within the Journal of Clinical Oncology, mean affected women may have a reduced window of opportunity to have children.

Here, we’ll look at what this latest research means, and how it impacts fertility preservation.

Understanding the latest study

The study included a total of 824 women who had undergone BRCA testing. It was revealed that 246 of the women tested positive for either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. The other 578 tested negative.

The majority of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer. It was discovered that those who did have a BRCA mutation had a 2.04 ng/mL (14.6pmol/l) anti-Müllerian hormone level. Those who didn’t have the mutation had a hormone level of 3.36 ng/mL (24pmol/L).

The results of the study mean women with the BRCA1 mutation may have a shorter reproduction period.

What are BRCA Gene mutations?

BRCA gene mutations are most associated with breast cancer. They are changes within the genes that can lead to illness and genetic disorders. We each have BRCA genes, and they help to release proteins that suppress tumours and fight off cancer. Those with a BRCA gene mutation are therefore at a greater risk of developing the disease.

In terms of fertility, it is now known that a BRCA1 mutation can lead to issues with fertility. With the latest study revealing that it may decrease your reproductive lifespan, those with the gene might want to consider preserving their fertility.

Preserving your fertility

It isn’t known why the BRCA gene mutation impacts fertility. However, it is suspected that the mutated genes can cause the ovaries to have a decreased ovarian reserve. Women with the mutation may be more likely to go through early menopause. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with the gene mutation, you might want to start thinking about protecting your fertility.

Freezing your eggs or embryos is a great option for those worried about losing their fertility. You can talk through your options with a fertility specialist to determine which one is right for you.

Be aware that although BRCA gene mutations can increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancer, it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it. However, there is growing evidence that it can impact fertility. Either having a family earlier in life or preserving fertility, should therefore be a consideration for those diagnosed with a mutation.

If you’re worried you may have a BRCA mutated gene, getting tested will help to give you a proper diagnosis. You can then begin to plan for your future. Aria Fertility’s Dr Anna Carby is a senior consultant gynaecologist with a specific interest in fertility preservation and she can advise you on egg or embryo freezing. For more advice on preserving your fertility, call us on 020 3263 6025 or email us at admin@ariafertility.com.

New data published by the UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has found that the IVF success rate is continuing to improve in the UK.

Reviewing the trends in fertility treatment numbers between 1991 and 2019, they were able to ascertain that as well as an increase in IVF success, more single women and same sex couples were seeking fertility treatment.

Chair of the HFEA Julia Chain summarised that there have been “many positive changes in the treatment of patients”, citing “birth rates increasing, multiple birth rates falling and treatment becoming safer”.

A 30-year review of fertility treatment

The report was published to mark the 30-year anniversary of the establishment of the HFEA, the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment.

It found that, since 1991, the success rate for all patient groups under the age of 43 for IVF and donor insemination had increased. In patients aged between 35 and 37, this had grown from 6% to 25%.

A common concern about IVF treatment is the possibility of multiple births and its associated complications. The multiple birth rate has dramatically declined, from 28% to just 6% in 2019, reflecting a change in treatment practice.

Sally Cheshire CBE, commented: “Fertility treatment has come a long way over more than 40 years and is now safer whilst helping more people to create their much longed for families.”

“We know that multiple births carry higher risks to mothers and babies and cost more to the NHS. That’s why, it is a great achievement that all our hard work with fertility clinics has paid off as we have now achieved the lowest ever multiple birth rate while continuing to see success rates rise.”

Fertility patient demographics

While patients in heterosexual relationships still account for most fertility treatments, the report also found that the number of single women and same-sex couples choosing to undergo IVF or donor insemination has also rapidly increased in this time frame, reflecting a growing societal attitude change to family creation.

Embryo freezing uptake growing

The report also noted that the use of frozen embryos has gone up by 11% since 2016, which indicates an increased uptake in freeze cycles. Notably, frozen cycles success rates at 23% have overtaken fresh embryo cycles success rates (22%) for the first time since records began, meaning that our patients can be reassured that freezing embryos can give them as much chance of success as using fresh embryos.

For more advice on any of the fertility treatments we offer at Aria, call us on 020 3263 6025 or email us on admin@ariafertility.com. Alternatively, fill in the contact form below and one of our team will be in touch.

Our knowledge of the COVID pandemic and our response – particularly in terms of the vaccines that are now available – is constantly evolving and it’s not surprising that many couples and individuals who are contemplating fertility treatment are feeling unsure about the best course of action.

Studies are now emerging into the effect of both COVID infection and the vaccine on fertility treatment and, so far, the news is good.

COVID and its effect on ovarian reserve

A new study has just been published that found that ovarian reserve was the same or similar after a COVID infection. Although this was a small-scale study, it did reveal promising results for women who are hoping to conceive or about to embark on fertility treatment.

Researchers at a Madrid fertility clinic analysed data from 46 patients undergoing IVF and found that there was little difference in AMH levels before and after a woman become infected with COVID. The results were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s annual meeting this June.

The COVID vaccine and its impact on fertility

A study from Wuhan, China, has recently been published in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online and analysed data from 237 women of childbearing age. It found that the average sex hormone and AMH concentrations of women who had COVID were no different from women of the same age who didn’t get infected.

In terms of the impact of the vaccine on IVF treatment, a recent Israeli study that investigated the effect of the Pfizer vaccine, identified no differences between IVF cycles taking place before and after the patients received the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, the study analysed the ovarian stimulation cycle and outcome in terms of the number of high-quality embryos produced, both pre- and post-vaccination.

Professor Raoul Orvieto, who led the study at the Sheba Medical Centre, Israel, told the Jerusalem Post, “Comparing two IVF cycles was the best way to see if the vaccine would have any impact in terms of number of eggs or any other factors. It did not.”

It’s important to remember that pregnant women who develop COVID are at risk of becoming seriously unwell and have an increased risk of pregnancy complications, so the current advice is that it’s essential to become vaccinated as soon as you are able.

Click here for more advice on COVID and your fertility treatment or get in touch to discuss this in more detail with our team. Call us on 020 3263 6025 or email us on admin@ariafertility.com or fill in the contact form below.