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27/04/18
A recent investigation has revealed that access to free fertility treatment on the NHS is now being refused to those who vape or use nicotine patches. As more health authorities adopt this policy, couples are now finding it more difficult than ever before to receive fertility treatment.

Here, we’ll look at why couples are being refused fertility treatment on the NHS if they vape and what options are available.

Could it simply be a cost-cutting move?

The survey carried out for The Mail on Sunday, revealed 16 NHS authorities have started restricting fertility treatment for those who vape or use nicotine patches. These authorities are also referred to as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

The reason behind the restriction is said to be in place because any amount of nicotine can be harmful during pregnancy. However, some question whether it could simply be a cost-cutting move for the NHS. The results of the investigation come only days after GPs were advised to start informing their patients that vaping is healthier than smoking, by Public Health England.

The impact of vaping on fertility

As it stands, there is currently very little evidence to show whether or not vaping can impact fertility. However, some studies have shown that vaping can cause potential fertility issues in men. In a very small trial, samples were taken from 30 men and it showed those with high concentrations of flavourings had slower-moving sperm.

Some experts are also concerned the new policy could send out the wrong message to women. It could make them feel like switching from smoking to vaping isn’t a healthier option, when in fact it could be much healthier. The truth is, nobody really knows at this point, which is why restrictions are understandable.

It appears to be the lack of data available, which is causing somewhat of a postcode lottery when it comes to fertility policies. All 10 of the CCGs within Greater Manchester have adopted the policy, along with NHS West Suffolk, NHS Crawley, NHS Ipswich and North Sussex, NHS Horsham and Mid-Sussex, NHS Nene within Northamptonshire and NHS Milton Keynes.

Majority of CCGs have no plans to restrict treatment

A total of 117 CCGs were questioned in the survey and the majority (101) stated they had no e-cigarette restrictions in place. Many also had no plans to introduce them in the future. So, as it stands, the majority of couples will still be able to seek free treatment for the time being.

Those who no longer have access to NHS fertility treatment also have private fertility treatment options. IVF has advanced dramatically over the years, now boasting higher success rates than ever before.

Overall, these latest restrictions will no doubt impact many couples seeking fertility treatment. Of course, the healthiest thing to do is to quit smoking and vaping, but those who do vape do have private fertility treatment options available if they no longer qualify for free NHS treatment.
Clinic Team
22/04/18
A UK audit has revealed that the biggest cause of couples seeking fertility treatment is male infertility. In recent years, male infertility rates have increased, with poor sperm quality and mobility issues being the most common culprits.

It is estimated that 20% of men experience fertility issues in the UK, leading experts to suggest more research needs to be done to get to the root of the problem. Here, we’ll look at male infertility and the help available for couples experiencing male-related fertility issues.

What is male infertility?

There are a lot of different male infertility causes. The most common include poor sperm production, poor quality sperm, ejaculation issues and testicular damage. Each of these problems could be caused by numerous factors, including poor lifestyle choices.

Poor sperm quantity and quality can both have a significant impact on fertility. A full sperm analysis can determine the cause and ultimately the best solution moving forward.

What did the audit reveal?

The report, carried out by The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), revealed male infertility is the most common reason couples seek treatment. Around 37% of couples seeking treatment experience male infertility.

It wasn’t just male infertility rates that the audit revealed. It also showed that age is the most important factor to determine fertility treatment success rates. It also revealed sperm and donor egg treatments are becoming more popular. Exact figures showed a year-on-year increase of 6% for donor sperm and egg treatments.

It also revealed that although same-sex and single patients seeking treatment are on the rise, the majority of those seeking IVF treatment are heterosexual couples.

IVF is strongest it’s ever been

The most promising data revealed by the audit is that IVF treatment is currently the strongest it’s ever been. It’s been 40 years since the very first child was born via IVF, and figures show in 2016 the number of births recorded after 68,000 IVF treatments, was 20,000. This is a very positive statistic, highlighting just how far IVF success rates have come over the years.

The number of multiple births from IVA has decreased, making the treatment much safer than it once was. While finding out you’re expecting multiple babies through IVF can be wonderful news, unfortunately, they do come with much higher risks and complication rates.

The chair of the HFEA, Sally Cheshire CBE, says although she is delighted to see from the results that more couples are able to access fertility treatment than ever before, we also need to focus on unsuccessful births. If you consider the statistics from 2016 where there were 20,000 live births out of 68,000 treatments, you see there’s still a lot of couples who experience the heartache of unsuccessful pregnancies and births through IVF. Cheshire claims more support is needed for these couples moving forward.

Understanding the reasons behind your fertility issues is key to seeking successful treatment. Therefore, it is advisable to book a consultation with a fertility specialist to determine the best course of treatment suitable for you and/or your partner.
Clinic Team
16/04/18
Technology has provided amazing advancements in pregnancy scans over the past decade. These days, expectant parents can invest in private 3D or 4D scans, giving them a closer, more in-depth look at their growing baby.

However, these scans aren’t exactly cheap, so it’s understandable you may be wondering exactly what you’ll see if you do pay for one. Here, you’ll discover the difference between a 3D and 4D scan to help you decide whether or not it's worthwhile paying for one.

What’s the difference between 3D and 4D pregnancy scans?

The traditional scans you receive on the NHS, provide 2D images, but 3D and 4D scans are available privately. The 3D scans offer a three-dimensional look at the baby. Rather than just seeing the insides of your little one, you’ll be able to see their skin and facial features in much more detail.

4D scans offer the same 3D imaging, only they show your baby moving too, much like a video.

What can you see on the scans?

As mentioned above, 3D and 4D scans offer a much more in-depth look at your baby’s features. However, what you will actually see depends upon a number of factors.

Baby’s gestational age, how much clear fluid is surrounding them, and their position will determine the quality of the scan. The older baby is, the more you’ll be able to see. If you opt for the 4D scans, you could be able to watch your little one yawning, smiling or maybe even scratching their nose! One thing you won’t be able to see however is eye colour. No scans currently detect the colour of baby’s eyes as the colour typically changes after birth.

When is the best time to have one?

The earliest recommended time to have a 3D or 4D scan, is between 24 and 34 weeks. The features start to become more visible at 24 weeks, but 28 weeks is where you’ll see your baby looks more like they will when they’re born. If you can wait however, 30 weeks is typically the best time to have 3D or 4D scans as you’ll see much more detail.

What are the benefits of 3D and 4D scans?

There’s a lot of benefits which come from 3D and 4D scans. Most notably, you’ll get to actually see and recognise your baby. You won’t be disappointed by the quality of the scan like you may be with the blurry 2D traditional scans.

Of course, you will also see whether the baby is healthy, giving you great peace of mind. They’ll show whether there’s enough amniotic fluid, assess the blood flowing through the placenta and they can also tell you the sex of baby if you’re interested to find out.

Are there any risks?

There is a risk 3D or 4D scans could harm the baby, but only if you have too many of them. Having just one scan won’t typically be harmful but be wary of scans lasting longer than 45 minutes.

Overall, 3D and 4D scans offer a truly amazing view of your unborn baby. They can provide lifelong memories, with 4D scans typically offering a DVD copy you can watch again and again. If you can hold off, it’s definitely better to undergo these scans at 30 weeks into the pregnancy.
Clinic Team
10/04/18
The minute you discover you’re pregnant, it’s understandable you’d be excited to find out the sex. Knowing whether you’re expecting a little boy or girl can really help you to not just get better prepared, but to bond with baby too.

The trouble is, if you attempt to find out baby’s gender too early with a private scan, it could prove impossible to tell. Here, you’ll discover when the best time to find out the sex of your baby is and the things to consider before booking a gender reveal scan.

How soon can you accurately discover baby’s sex?

On the NHS, gender reveal scans are typically carried out between 18 and 21 weeks. However, private scans are available a little earlier.
The earliest recommended time to find out the sex of your baby is 16 weeks. Any earlier than this and it would not only be very difficult to detect the sex, but it could also harm your baby if you have too many scans early on in the pregnancy.

Is it a good idea to wait a little longer?

Although you can find out baby’s sex in your 16th week of pregnancy, it is advisable you wait a little longer. This is because babies develop at totally different rates to one another. So, you may attend a 16-week scan only to find the sex cannot yet be determined.

If you can, wait until at least 17 weeks and ideally 20 weeks before undergoing a gender reveal scan. That way, you know there’s an excellent chance of finding out the sex and there will be little risk to your baby.

Understanding the blood test reveal option

It is possible to determine baby’s sex via a blood test, rather than scan. However, these tend to only be given to women who have a high-risk pregnancy.

The blood tests are designed to detect potential genetic disorders. Part of the analysis of the blood tests includes looking into your baby’s chromosomes. This means, if a Y chromosome is present, the baby is most likely a boy. If there is no Y chromosome discovered, the baby is usually a girl.

Now, this is a pretty accurate test, but it’s only recommended for those with a high-risk pregnancy. The tests can be carried out at just 10 weeks of age and avoid the risks of a scan. However, if you do qualify for the blood test option, you won’t actually see the baby. So, a scan is generally preferable as you get to not only discover the gender but also see them too.

So, it is possible to discover baby’s sex at 16 weeks into the pregnancy. However, we do recommend waiting until week 17-20 if you want the best chance of discovering whether you’re having a boy or girl. If you choose to have a private scan, we also encourage avoiding the free NHS scan as too much ultrasound exposure can be harmful to the baby.
Clinic Team
09/04/18
A recent investigation has revealed that access to free fertility treatment on the NHS is now being refused to those who vape or use nicotine patches. As more health authorities adopt this policy, couples are now finding it more difficult than ever before to receive fertility treatment.

Here, we’ll look at why couples are being refused fertility treatment on the NHS if they vape and what options are available.

Could it simply be a cost-cutting move?

The survey carried out for The Mail on Sunday, revealed 16 NHS authorities have started restricting fertility treatment for those who vape or use nicotine patches. These authorities are also referred to as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

The reason behind the restriction is said to be in place because any amount of nicotine can be harmful during pregnancy. However, some question whether it could simply be a cost-cutting move for the NHS. The results of the investigation come only days after GPs were advised to start informing their patients that vaping is healthier than smoking, by Public Health England.

The impact of vaping on fertility

As it stands, there is currently very little evidence to show whether or not vaping can impact fertility. However, some studies have shown that vaping can cause potential fertility issues in men. In a very small trial, samples were taken from 30 men and it showed those with high concentrations of flavourings had slower-moving sperm.

Some experts are also concerned the new policy could send out the wrong message to women. It could make them feel like switching from smoking to vaping isn’t a healthier option, when in fact it could be much healthier. The truth is, nobody really knows at this point, which is why restrictions are understandable.

It appears to be the lack of data available, which is causing somewhat of a postcode lottery when it comes to fertility policies. All 10 of the CCGs within Greater Manchester have adopted the policy, along with NHS West Suffolk, NHS Crawley, NHS Ipswich and North Sussex, NHS Horsham and Mid-Sussex, NHS Nene within Northamptonshire and NHS Milton Keynes.

Majority of CCGs have no plans to restrict treatment

A total of 117 CCGs were questioned in the survey and the majority (101) stated they had no e-cigarette restrictions in place. Many also had no plans to introduce them in the future. So, as it stands, the majority of couples will still be able to seek free treatment for the time being.

Those who no longer have access to NHS fertility treatment also have private fertility treatment options. IVF has advanced dramatically over the years, now boasting higher success rates than ever before.

Overall, these latest restrictions will no doubt impact many couples seeking fertility treatment. Of course, the healthiest thing to do is to quit smoking and vaping, but those who do vape do have private fertility treatment options available if they no longer qualify for free NHS treatment.
Clinic Team
09/04/18
A new study has revealed more women than ever before are paying to have private scans, despite also undergoing free scans on the NHS.
UK guidelines recommend women undergo two scans during their pregnancy; one at 12 weeks and the other at 20 weeks. In some cases, more may be provided if there is a concern over the health of the baby, but two is usually sufficient for healthy pregnancies. So, why are patients opting to pay for private scans on top of these free scans and could it impact baby’s health?

Study shows anxiety is driving rise in private scans

According to this new study conducted by the ChannelMum.com parenting site, a third of pregnant women in England are paying for private ultrasound scans. The reason behind the increase is said to be down to anxiety over baby’s health.

Approximately 1 in 3 pregnant women have what is being dubbed “scanxiety”, but are unaware it could be doing more harm than good. The study surveyed 2000 mums, showed 1 in 5 paid for two additional scans, while 18% paid for three or more additional scans. Most worryingly, 1 in 50 women admitted to paying for 9-10 extra ultrasound scans equating to almost one scan a month for the duration of the pregnancy.

Many of these scans are also longer than standard scans offered on the NHS, taking approximately 30 minutes or more each time. These longer scans are much riskier as they expose baby to increased levels of ultrasound. If the scans delve deeper into the abdomen, due to excess fat for example, they could be particularly harmful.

Which scans are available privately?

There are three different types of scans available privately. These include:
The visibility scan is carried out earlier than the NHS scan, taking place between 6-10 weeks. This simply checks that the pregnancy is developing as it should and can prove reassuring to those who have previously suffered a miscarriage.

The gender scan helps you to identify the gender of your baby. Typically, you can find this out during your second NHS ultrasound scan, but it’s worth noting that not all hospitals will tell you. So, the gender scan can prove useful if you can’t get an answer from your NHS healthcare provider.

Finally, the 3D and 4D scans have become really popular in recent years. They provide a unique view of your baby, with 4D scans being particularly impressive. These tend to be deeper scans lasting for longer periods of time.

Could additional scans be harmful to baby’s health?

Private scans can prove invaluable for those who are genuinely concerned about their baby’s health. An additional couple of scans are unlikely to cause any serious problems. However, patients are advised to limit the number of additional scans they undergo and avoid having them simply for the fun of it.

When used correctly, private scans can offer peace of mind and provide a unique image of baby you can keep and treasure forever.
Clinic Team
09/04/18
In recent years, there has been an increased number of children diagnosed with autism, causing experts to question whether ultrasound scans could be behind it. However, after carrying out a study, it appears there is no link between ultrasound pregnancy scans and autism.

The results, published within JAMA Paediatrics, showed children who are diagnosed with autism, had fewer ultrasound scans on average. This provides peace of mind to pregnant women who may be concerned about the effects ultrasound scans have on their baby.

Understanding the results of the study

The results of the study carried out by scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center, should prove reassuring to parents. It was carried out to determine whether the rise in the number of ultrasound scans could be a contributing factor in the increased autism diagnosis rate.

After comparing the number and energy of ultrasound scans used on children diagnosed with autism and those who are not autistic, it was revealed those with autism actually had less exposure to ultrasound scans. It is known, however, that ultrasound has the potential to heat up the tissue. This, in turn, can cause damage, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.

There have been studies carried out on animals which have suggested ultrasound can impact the developing brain. In a study carried out on mice, for example, it was discovered ultrasound exposure within the womb caused them to be less social. There have also been studies which have shown children are more likely to be left-handed after exposure to ultrasound. However, in terms of autism, the majority of cases do not appear to be linked to ultrasound scans in pregnancy.

Deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk

Although largely reassuring, the study did show that deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk of autism. One of the main reasons deeper ultrasound scans are needed relate to excess abdominal fat. Therefore, weight management could prove to be a successful way to minimise the risks.

Age could also be a contributing factor, as studies show mothers of children diagnosed with autism appear to be over the age of 35. As it stands, researchers aren’t quite sure what these results mean, and further studies will be required to determine the numerous factors associated with autism.

Private scans should not be conducted “just for fun”

Although it has largely been discovered that ultrasound scans do not directly increase the risk of autism, experts still advise against having additional scans carried out for fun. It is known excess levels of ultrasound can negatively impact brain development, so logically, the more scans you have, the greater the risk.

Private scans can prove crucial for those worried about the health of their baby. However, patients considering having more than one additional scan purely for the photo memories they provide, should reconsider.

In conclusion, standard ultrasound scans do not appear to increase the risk of autism. However, additional research is required to determine the true risk factors behind the condition. Patients should also be wary of undergoing too many private scans, especially if they are deeper ultrasound scans.
Clinic Team
09/04/18
New hope for those suffering from fertility issues has been provided, after a hormone which could aid conception is identified. According to scientists, the recently discovered fertility hormone could help prepare the lining of the womb for conception.

Here, we’ll look at what the study revealed and why it is an exciting development within the fertility industry.

DHEA hormone could be key to helping women in their forties conceive

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, have discovered the DHEA hormone could help prepare the womb lining for pregnancy. After testing the tissue collected from women in their forties, DHEA was shown to double the number of key proteins required for implantation.

The results of the study were published within the Fertility and Sterility Journal. Funded by the Medical Research Council, the findings could prove invaluable at producing effective future fertility treatments.

According to the researchers, this new discovery could help to increase the pregnancy rates of women trying to conceive via IVF or naturally. It is especially great news for middle-aged women who may only now be starting to think of having a baby. Prior research has shown women are waiting longer to have children these days, often resulting in issues with fertility. So, this fertility hormone could be key to ensuring pregnancy in older age is achievable.

Could hormone tablets help boost fertility?

DHEA treatment is actually already available in both a hormonal gel and tablet form. However, these treatments are largely used for non-pregnancy related issues. For example, they are advertised as being effective at slowing down the ageing process and fat reduction.
Trials have been carried out to determine whether DHEA could help the ovaries to work better, but they failed to make a connection. However, it did show pregnancy rates were higher in women undergoing IVF treatment.

Little is also known about the exact environment required for a healthy egg implantation, but the study showed DHEA does appear to send the right signals to the appropriate cells. It was also discovered that the hormone boosts androgen production, a sex hormone found in both sexes, responsible for preparing the womb for pregnancy.

The scientists are keen to point out that the research is still very much in its early stages. Therefore, more studies will be required before DHEA related treatments could be used to help older couples conceive.

Other potential causes of fertility issues

While low DHEA levels associated with ageing, could be a barrier to fertility for older couples, it’s certainly not the only factor to be aware of. It is estimated that 1 in 7 couples within the UK struggles to conceive. Changes to male sperm is also said to play a major part, with stress affecting both the quality and motor ability of the sperm.

Therefore, it is vital couples seek professional help to determine the true cause of their fertility issues. Only then can a treatment plan be created. If it does turn out to be a problem with DHEA, this new research could prove crucial for developing a treatment in the not too distant future.
Clinic Team
21/03/18
A new study has revealed early pregnancy scans could detect whether a baby is left or right handed.

Up until now, it’s been believed that children only start to show signs of being right or left handed during the toddler stage. However, the new research carried out shows vital signs which determine whether a child is left or right handed, could actually be found in early detection scans.

Dominant hand preference could be determined as early as eight weeks

The new research conducted by the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, claims a child’s preference for being right or left handed can be determined as early as eight weeks into the pregnancy. Results of the study have been published within the eLife Science Journal.
Ultrasounds carried out after 13 weeks can show whether baby prefers to suck their right or left thumb. So, why is this considered an exciting discovery? According to the researchers, it’s entirely changed our understanding of the causes of hemispheric asymmetries.

What else did the study reveal?

Another interesting thing revealed by the new research is that it’s the spinal cord, not the brain, which determines our dominant hand. The motor cortex within the brain determines the hand and arm movements, but it’s the spinal cord which turns this initiation into physical movement.

This means that the side of the body which carries out the movement is determined by the spinal cord. What’s most interesting, however, is that within the womb, the motor cervix isn’t actually connected to the spinal cord. Therefore, the fact it has been proven babies do appear to have a dominant hand preference in the womb suggests the brain really doesn’t have anything to do with it.

It is the first time the fetal spinal cords right and left anterior and cervical thoracal segments, have shown differences between relevant gene expression. The research revealed at eight weeks, the gene expression asymmetries were most pronounced between both halves of the spinal cord. It was recorded that 3.29% of entire transcripts which showed biologically relevant differences within left-right gene expressions.

The results of the study could also help doctors detect signs of autism and schizophrenia. This is because the dominance of the cerebral hemisphere which controls left or right handedness, can also determine speech and language. This means it could prove to be an indicator of autism, schizophrenia and depression.

More studies needed to determine detection success

Although this new research is exciting, the scientists claim more research is required to determine whether or not ultrasound scans can detect left or right-handedness.

So, patients shouldn’t expect to be able to discover whether their baby is right or left handed in current 12-week scans. It will likely take a good few years before early ultrasound scans can successfully reveal your baby’s preference.

Overall, this new discovery is an exciting development. It may take a few years to complete additional studies, but it seems highly likely a baby’s left or right handedness will be detected in early pregnancy scans in the future.
Clinic Team