Prioritising the wellbeing of women

Difficulty conceiving can place enormous emotional and financial strain on the one in seven couples it affects in the UK. According to Public Health England, half of women that have experienced fertility issues see it as the most upsetting experience of their lives. And research from the Center for Women’s Mental Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, associated with Harvard Medical School, claims depression is up to 54 per cent more likely among infertile couples than their fertile counterparts.

Anything that diminishes a couple’s mental health can not only be damaging to their relationship with each other and overall wellbeing, but can also negatively impact their fertility issues even further. In a 2018 study from Boston University’s School of Public Health, women who experienced higher levels of stress had lower rates of conception.

This makes it absolutely crucial that a woman’s journey with a fertility clinic is positive from her first visit all the way through to treatment cycles and aftercare. Yet while experiences at the initial consultation will often be good, research from The Evewell, a clinic on London’s prestigious Harley Street, found that when a clinic gets too big in terms of the number of cycles it is doing, service levels can fall significantly at the treatment stage.

This is one of the most sensitive and difficult areas of medicine in terms of people’s wellbeing, and you have to be acutely aware of the emotional and financial pressures fertility treatment poses

“Often women will find there are just too many people in the building,” says Emma Kafton, founder and patient services director at The Evewell. “People are standing outside the procedure room, queuing to be sedated and have their eggs collected, feeling like they are part of a factory line. This just shouldn’t be happening to people.

“Communication is often stretched, which is a real problem as patients need to know they are being kept up to date and involved in their treatment. This is one of the most sensitive and difficult areas of medicine in terms of people’s wellbeing, and you have to be acutely aware of the emotional and financial pressures fertility treatment poses.”

Kafton’s conviction that things should be done differently is what drove her to open The Evewell in 2018 with medical director Colin Davis, an eminent consultant gynaecologist and fertility expert with more than 20 years’ experience. Together, they created the state-of-the-art centre to redefine what women should expect from a fertility clinic.

Each patient goes through a bespoke journey to get to the heart of their fertility problems, and the clinic itself is designed to foster a calm and caring environment from the reception to the consulting rooms, treatment and aftercare. The Evewell offers a free counselling session with all its IVF cycles. If there is a failed cycle, it will always offer a follow-up consultation with the patient’s doctor to ensure the support continues.

The Evewell’s real uniqueness, however, is that it is a women’s health centre providing both gynaecology and fertility treatment. Davis, who is the rare combination of a gynaecologist, obstetrician and specialist in reproductive medicine, was frustrated at the alarming lack of focus on gynaecology in fertility clinics. By running the practices side by side, The Evewell is able to identify gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and fibroids that could, if treated effectively, enable a patient to conceive naturally.

“Fertility and gynaecology have to be practised together; you can’t look at one in isolation,” says Davis. “If somebody comes to us as a fertility patient struggling to have a baby, we will always advise on the most appropriate treatment to achieve a pregnancy in the shortest timeframe. If a patient requires a gynaecological procedure, which may well be preventing conception, our consultants can perform that surgery.

“The Evewell’s central focus is how it can help a person or couple to conceive with the least possible intervention. If we can save someone the emotional and financial struggles that go with fertility treatment and achieve a successful pregnancy, then we’ve done our job.”

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