Award-winning dietitian and founder of Fertility Dietitian UK Ro Huntriss has been supporting individuals and couples undergoing fertility treatments for many years. Recently, she embarked on her own fertility journey when she decided to freeze her eggs at Aria Fertility.

I’ve worked in the fertility sphere for a good few years now, and I’m very aware of egg freezing and its potential benefits.

I am 37, and I love my career, travelling, and spending time with my friends, so I had considered egg freezing. However, I was in a long-term relationship and out of nowhere, the relationship broke down very suddenly. I made the swift decision to freeze my eggs.

Making the choice to freeze my eggs

I don’t know what the future holds for me with regards to children, but I wanted to make a very positive decision in the middle of an uncertain time. Egg freezing represented an empowering choice. If I want to go on and have children, I’ve done what I can to facilitate that.

Preparing for my egg freezing treatment

Through my work, I’m seeing more and more patients who are about to embark on egg freezing, as there is so much you can do through your diet and lifestyle to influence your outcomes, including increasing the quality of your eggs and also the number collected.

Some women may have had an unsuccessful round and want to improve their chances, but there is also a growing awareness about the importance of preparation before they even begin. Egg freezing is a significant investment in time and money, so delaying your procedure for three months to improve egg quality and quantity makes absolute sense.

Stress and other lifestyle factors are also things to consider as there are many things that can affect our fertility so it’s wise to look at things from several angles.

So, I did everything I could do from a diet and lifestyle perspective to optimise my chances. This was very holistic, as everything I was doing made me feel better and did good things for my body. There’s no downside to making these positive changes.

My egg freezing journey

My egg freezing process went smoothly. I had the advantage of working in the industry, so I understood the process better than most people going into it. The most important part of it is finding a clinic that you like and that you’re comfortable with.

You are with that team for some time and want to feel cared for and seen as a person with a story and not just a number.

I knew of Aria beforehand and had met the clinicians, so that was a positive for me. But after speaking to the team members, I just felt very comfortable and supported.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to be with needles; I’m not needle-phobic, but I wasn’t sure how painful it would be. However, it was fine. I felt bloated towards the end, which makes sense as you have so much more fluid there, so it wasn’t unexpected. It does feel like your life is on hold for a bit.

They collected 13 eggs. The optimal number is 15 to 20, but this was still a pretty good result for my age from one cycle so I decided not to repeat the procedure because I was so close to the optimal number, and the quality of eggs was good. I’m also in a place where I’m not sure I want to have children, so I felt very happy with what I’d achieved and ready to move forward with the rest of my life.

Egg freezing was a positive step for me and I’m really glad I did it. It increases my chances of having children should that be my path, so I’d encourage others to consider it if they find themselves in similar positions, or who may be considering having children later in life.

You can watch Ro’s journey as the BBC’s Anna Collinson meets the people taking the chance to try and preserve their fertility in Egg Freezing and Me.

The relationship between stress and fertility has been a hot topic for discussion for years. It is well documented that women experiencing infertility report elevated layers of stress, anxiety and depression. However, whether stress causes infertility is inconclusive.

Women get pregnant every day in very stressful conditions, but we know that elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone released by the body, can have a negative impact on the body as a whole, especially when experienced for extended periods. This can lead to inflammation which in turn affects menstruation, ovulation and embryo implantation.

One study found women who had high levels of an enzyme that indicated stress known as alpha-amylase in their saliva, took 29% longer to conceive compared to those who had less.

Similarly, studies have suggested there could be a link between stress and sperm quality, affecting sperm concentration and motility as well as abnormally- shaped sperm.

Steps to managing stress when undergoing IVF

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but the emotional rollercoaster of IVF treatment on top of usual stressors can be overwhelming.

Moderate, short-lived stress actually has several benefits: it can enhance alertness, boost performance and improve memory function. When your stress response includes oxytocin, it can literally strengthen your heart, according to a recent study.

Unfortunately, long-term and unmanaged stress can have a hugely negative impact on your mental, emotional and physical health and dealing with infertility and undergoing fertility treatment is often a source of chronic stress.

Tips for thriving during your fertility treatment include:

  1. Get informed: one of the best and most practical ways to deal with the stress of IVF is to know and understand what is taking place and each step of your fertility journey.
  2. Be open to emotional support: we ensure all patients are aware of the physical demands of IVF before they embark on treatment, whether that’s the blood tests or injections required or the procedures they’ll have to undergo, but we also offer individuals and couples access to counselling options that can help them cope with the emotional impact of IVF.
  3. Prioritise yourself: IVF can be both physically and emotionally draining so it’s important you do not take on new commitments that could overwhelm you. Do not be afraid to say no to requests, whether that’s from work or friends and family.
  4. Take control of what you can control: there are so many aspects of IVF that are beyond your control, whether that’s the number of eggs harvested or embryos that would result. It is essential to focus your energy on what you can control, which could be working on your coping mechanisms so you can face each challenge as it arises.
  5. Reframe negative thoughts: negative thinking can be a significant source of stress but learning how to control these thoughts can increase your emotional resilience and reduce anxiety.

At Aria Fertility, we offer patients the opportunity to access counselling support from the very beginning of their journey and in our  Support Hub, we provide a guide to some of the organisations and practitioners offering fertility support, advice and information.

Emily Patrick and Kerry Osborn recently made UK history by being the first to give birth to each other’s babies in a process known as simultaneous reciprocal IVF. Ezra was conceived using Emily’s fertilised egg and carried by Kerry, while Elvis, born just a few weeks earlier, was carried by Emily using Kerry’s egg. The same sperm donor fertilised both eggs.

What is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF is also referred to as shared motherhood, co-maternity, shared parenthood or intra-partner egg donation. It is a fertility treatment option that allows both partners in a same-sex female relationship to participate in the experience of conception and pregnancy.

If you choose to undergo reciprocal IVF, eggs are collected from one partner and fertilised in our lab using donor sperm. The most suitable embryo is then chosen for transfer into the other partner. Considerations include:

Choosing which partner will be the donor and which will be the carrier

At the beginning of your journey, both you and your partner will undergo a fertility check. The partner donating her eggs should have a good ovarian reserve, which is assessed by an ultrasound scan showing the number of follicles on each ovary, the small fluid-filled sacs that can potentially release an egg. Blood tests are also performed to measure certain hormones, such as anti-müllerian hormone (AMH). Low AMH levels can indicate a low ovarian reserve.

A pelvic ultrasound scan will also be performed to check the health of your and your partner’s uterus to facilitate a successful implantation.

These factors can highlight who is most suitable to be the donor or carry the pregnancy. However, if both of you have no fertility issues, it is up to you to make a personal choice, and we can provide you with our expertise and support when making that decision.

Understanding the risks

Neither role is free of risk as you’ll both be taking fertility medications, and both may experience side effects. Then, one partner will be going through pregnancy and childbirth.

As in the case of Emily Patrick and Kerry Osborn, if you are undergoing simultaneous or concurrent reciprocal IVF, then this may also mean unforeseen challenges as you may have very different experiences of pregnancy and childbirth.

Choosing the right sperm donor 

You can either use sperm from a known donor or from a sperm bank. At Aria, we provide the facility for sperm donors to donate their sperm on a known basis to either a friend, family member or someone else known to them.

We also work with several established sperm banks and can help advise and support you through the process. We will also inform you on when you should order donor sperm in advance of your treatment.

Understanding the legal implications

Understanding the legal implications of using a sperm donor and reciprocal IVF is vital. For example, if you and your partner are married, you are both the legal parents to the child born. However, you must consent to legal parenthood if you are not married before receiving treatment.

If you use sperm through a sperm bank, there are strict regulations regarding donors. A sperm donor can request confirmation of the number of children born, inducing gender and year of birth, but otherwise, the identity of the child and mother will remain anonymous. The donor will have no legal or financial rights or obligations in relation to the child. At the age of 18, your child will have the right to basic information about their sperm donor if they wish.

Using a known donor can be more complicated, so it is vital to obtain legal advice and consider a donor agreement. While they are not legally binding, they record the intentions of all involved.

Our team is here to answer any questions you may have and support you through the process of reciprocal IVF.

The good news is that if you’re suffering from endometriosis, it is still possible to conceive without intervention. It is estimated that 60 to 70% of women with mild to moderate endometriosis can get pregnant spontaneously. However, there is a link between endometriosis and infertility although it is not clear exactly why women with this condition may have a harder time becoming pregnant.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a very common, chronic gynaecological condition. The endometrium is the lining of the inner uterine wall and sometimes it can grow outside of the uterus. The most common places affected are the ovaries and fallopian tubes, but it can also affect the pelvis, bladder and intestines.

Even outside of the uterus, these abnormal tissue growths respond to the hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle. This means that in women of a reproductive age, the growths thicken and then break down. As the tissue cannot leave the body in the normal way, pain and scarring occurs.

Reasons why you may have difficulty conceiving

Although the exact cause has not been identified, there are several reasons why approximately 40% of women with infertility have endometriosis:

  • Scarring can make it harder for the ovary to release an egg or block the egg from reaching the fallopian tube to be fertilised
  • Ovarian endometriosis can affect ovulation and the number of mature eggs that are released
  • Inflammation creates an inhospitable environment that affects both the egg and sperm, making fertilisation and subsequent implantation more challenging

Endometriosis and infertility: your next steps

Endometriosis can affect women of any age and can present from very early on. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, seeing a fertility specialist is recommended even if you’re not considering getting pregnant at that point.

A fertility specialist can assess the quantity and quality of your viable eggs, known as your ovarian reserve, as well as check the condition of your fallopian tubes or tubal patency. They will also assess your uterine cavity. This combined with the severity of your symptoms and your age, will be critical in determining the best treatment option.

These include laparoscopic endometriosis surgery, but this can reduce your ovarian reserve. When ready to start trying to conceive, IVF is often recommended although the success rates of IVF for those with endometriosis is about half that for those with other fertility issues.

Egg freezing is also an important treatment option to consider if you want to start a family in the future as endometriosis often gets progressively worse coupled with a natural decrease in fertility as you age.

If you’re worried about endometriosis and infertility, call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 to arrange a consultation with one of fertility experts. Consultant gynaecologist, Dr Amanda Tozer leads the Aria Women’s health clinic and provides bespoke gynae services. She has spent more than 20 years assisting couples experiencing infertility and trouble conceiving.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is marked every 11th February as a global celebration of the accomplishments of women in science and to encourage young girls to consider a future career in STEM fields.

Francisca Mora, Senior Clinical Embryologist at Aria, along with clinical embryologist Summer Sorensen and embryologist Kim Hill, share their knowledge and unique insights into the fascinating field of embryology.

What led you to pursue a career in embryology?

“I’ve always known I’d work at something related to obstetrics. My parents say that I was always drawing pregnant women and babies when I was a child, maybe that was a tell?” Francisca reveals.

For Summer, the fascination with fertility started at High School when she attended a Science and Technology Forum and the keynote speaker explained all about the wonderful world of IVF. Kim undertook a Medical Physiology post-grad degree in South Africa that allowed her to be a part of the Reproductive Research Group, where her focus was on male fertility and nutrition.

What education / training did you go through to become an embryologist?

London IVF lab

Before working in IVF in the UK, all three of our embryologists first studied in their home countries.

Summer completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (majoring in Reproduction, Genetics and Development) before completing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Honours, both at the University of Otago in New Zealand. She then completed her Masters of Clinical Embryology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Her first job was a trainee position at Fertility Associates in Auckland, New Zealand where she learnt all the necessary skills of being an embryologist.

Kim completed a BSc in Human Life Sciences & Psychology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, then completed a Master’s Degree in Clinical Embryology at the University of Dundee.

After completing her MSc, she worked as a lab technician before advancing to a trainee embryologist. “I had in-house training, in both private and NHS settings, up to biopsy practitioner, before applying for professional registration. In this time, I also gained accreditation by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) as a Clinical Embryologist.”

Francisca holds a BSc and MSc Biochemistry from leading Portuguese universities. “I’ve also conducted my master’s thesis on the topic of male infertility. However, I’d say that my training didn’t start until I set foot in an IVF clinic and since then it has been an ever-growing experience, we are continuously learning! Since I’ve moved to the UK, I’ve learnt a great deal through colleagues, workshops, talks and the HFEA. Furthermore, acquiring my professional registration, has also been a key moment in my training.”

How do you stay current with the latest research and advancements in embryology?

“Aria Fertility supports an environment dedicated to improving outcomes through innovations in technology,” Kim explains. “Staying current with scientific advancements and professional recommendations enables us to provide state-of-the-art patient care.

This can come through a variety of sources. “Reading the latest scientific journal articles, attending conferences, LinkedIn, workshops, these are all useful,” Summer adds.

“Moreover, one of the most practical ways is to keep an eye on the embryology hubs that exist online; in that sense, social media has been very helpful in diffusing the latest developments,” Francisca points out.

What is the process or protocol that has most surprised you in terms of development and research?

“I’d probably say that trophectoderm biopsy, used for genetic testing (PGT), has been the process that surprised me the most,” Francisca explains. “Not only because I had not seen it before until I moved to the UK but was well for the level of detail and technical skill that it entails. It’s also a protocol that has evolved quite a lot in the last years, especially the technique used at the genetics lab to detect the abnormalities.”

How have recent advancements in embryology, like genetic screening, affected your work?

genetic screening in IVF lab

Both Kim and Francisca feel that genetic screening has greatly expanded their skill set and how they can guide patients through their treatment. “I became an embryo biopsy practitioner about a year and a half ago so the whole process is still very exciting to me,” Kim explains. “It is a valuable skill set to have, and unique as not all clinics provide genetic testing to their patients.”

“On one hand, such processes have made my work more challenging, in a positive way, since it has raised the bar for my skills and knowledge,” Francisca agrees, “and on the other hand, it has made it easier to guide patients on their treatment, as genetic screening can provide crucial answers.”

Summer feels that the greater awareness of egg freezing has had a huge impact on the fertility sector. “While egg freezing isn’t necessarily a new technology, I have really enjoyed the rise in awareness of this technology in the public space, and how more and more women are thinking about and planning their reproductive futures.”

What are some of the most exciting future possibilities in the field of embryology?

All three embryologists agree that AI will be the big focus in IVF. “It is very interesting to see what avenues are being explored and how this may impact our day-to-day procedures and the positive influence on our patients’ goals,” Summer explains.

“However, there will always be a need for a human embryologist on the other end of the line to support patients through the emotional impact and big decisions involved in IVF,” adds Kim.

Another possibility is creating eggs and sperm from stem cells. “I feel the possibility of creating gametes from other cells of one’s body could be a reality at some point, and this could bring hope to oncology patients,” Francisca expands.

Beyond the lab, what role does communication play in your job?

“As a clinic, we feel communication with our patients is one of the most important aspects of their treatment, for them to understand the process, the risks and to ask any questions they may have,” Summer explains.

“Patient interaction is my favourite part of the job,” Kim agrees. “I love explaining what goes on so that patients don’t feel the lab is a ‘black box’ of unknowns, and the decisions can be made together.”

Communication between team members is also vital. “Considering we all work under a lot of pressure and in a confined space, it’s super important to communicate effectively with colleagues to ensure that everything goes as smooth as possible,” Francisca explains.

“This helps when liaising with patients who can tell there is really good communication amongst the lab and greater team,” Kim agrees.

Is there a ‘typical’ workday at Aria Fertility?

“I’d say that each day can be quite different, as there are no equal cases, however there is a main structure that is followed every day,” Francisca explains.

The mornings tend to be busy with fertilisation checks, thawing embryos for embryo transfers later in the day, egg collections, embryo grading and sperm preparation. The afternoons are typically filled with inseminations (either conventional IVF or ICSI -sperm injection into the egg), embryos transfers, preparing for the next day and diagnostic sperm analyses.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Our embryologists all agree on what is the hardest part of their job.

“It’s without a doubt having to give bad news to the patients or to see that their treatment wasn’t successful,” Francisca explains. “Each failed fertilisation, negative pregnancy test, each pregnancy loss really takes a toll on all of us at Aria Fertility.”

“It never gets easier to tell a patient that is hasn’t worked this time,” Summer agrees.

“We want every outcome to be a success, but unfortunately science is not that robust yet, and this is a huge drive to keep developing the research behind IVF so we can better the chances of success,” Kim resolves.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Aria embryologists

“My favourite lab procedures are egg collections and ICSI. But, overall, my favourite parts are the conversations with patients, and ultimately having a helping hand in our patients realising their dreams of becoming parents,” Summer believes.

“I love it when patients return with a healthy baby for cuddles, after seeing them as a tiny embryo in the lab,” Kim agrees. “This makes every tough day worth it, knowing that so much joy is coming from it. I love speaking with patients and helping to guide them through the difficult decisions they need to make. I love working with the team as we all share common goals, and that is to see each patient journey end in success.”

“I truly value the fact that we can guide patients through their treatment and to be able to explain to them the latest scientific developments that we implement, but I also quite appreciate the fact that each day in the lab is different, each patient is a new opportunity of success,” Francisca adds. “Furthermore, in order to be an Embryologist, one has to have a broad spectrum of knowledge, from Biology to Law, Mathematics to Pharmaceutical Sciences, etc. and personally I enjoy this side of my job.”

First launched a decade ago, the Veganuary campaign had convinced half a million people to adopt plant-based eating by January 2021, almost double the number that had pledged to go vegan for January in 2019.

According to the Sainsbury’s Future of Food report, vegetarians and vegans will make up a quarter of the population by 2025. Individuals adopt a vegan diet for various reasons, including concerns about the environment, animal welfare, and personal health. While reducing animal product intake has proven health benefits, complete elimination may pose risks of nutrient deficiencies, potentially affecting fertility.

What are the pros of a vegan diet for fertility?

  • Eating plant-based foods means an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans that can positively impact fertility, providing essential nutrients such as antioxidants, fibre, and B vitamins.
  • Increased vegetable protein intake by opting for plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, instead of animal protein. This may reduce ovulatory infertility
  • Better gut health: A well-planned vegan diet rich in fibre supports healthy digestion and contributes to a balanced microbiome. This, in turn, may regulate hormones associated with fertility-related conditions.

What are the cons of a vegan diet for fertility?

  • Consumption of vegan ‘junk food’ – although these products may be marketed as healthy alternatives, many vegan options are highly processed, containing excess salt, preservatives, and fewer vitamins and fibre. Quality, rather than mere balance, is crucial for fertility.
  • A poorly planned vegan diet can result in nutrient deficiencies, and this is potentially the most significant impact on fertility. Common nutrient deficiencies in a vegan diet include vitamin B12 and iron. Iron from plant sources is poorly absorbable, and a deficiency can affect both male and female fertility. Vitamin B12, found exclusively in animal products, plays a crucial role in DNA production. Deficiencies in these nutrients can negatively impact fertility.

Current research doesn’t conclusively support the idea that eliminating animal products positively influences fertility. Some studies even suggest potential benefits of certain animal products, like dairy, in female fertility. Therefore, adopting a well-balanced diet containing both plant and animal products may be a prudent approach.

Other steps to take include supplementation of essential nutrients, embracing fortified products and enhancing iron absorption by pairing iron-rich vegetables with vitamin C-rich foods or supplements which can aid absorption.

Please visit our Support Hub for information on Fertility Nutritionists that can give you advice on a vegan-friendly fertility diet plan. If you have more questions about preparing for your fertility treatment, call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 or email us admin@ariafertility.co.uk on to book a consultation.

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.