Reproductive medicine is one of the fastest advancing sectors in health, but greater awareness of fertility is needed to match patients with the potential
Contraception education is structured and effective yet understanding about becoming a mother, particularly in an environment where women are delaying pregnancy, can be incomplete.
Lifestyle changes have resulted in more couples considering parenthood for the first time at a later age: the average age of a first-time mother in the UK has been rising from 23 in the late-1960s to 28.5 in 2000 and 30.6 in 2018, according to government figures. i/ii
But a study conducted by leading fertility clinic IVF-Spain shows that many young women believe they will have no problem becoming pregnant after the age of 35 or even up to 40.
“Most women seek help way over the age of 35 and often closer to 40 and in some cases even later. These are women who try to conceive for the first time when their fertility is declining rapidly,” says Dr Jon Aizpurua, president of the IVF-Life Group, which has clinics in Alicante, Madrid and San Sebastian.
We will keep monitoring advances and will only use them when they are proven to be safe and effective
“We did a survey recently among university students and many believed it was super easy to become a mother aged 40. But, at that age, more than 40 per cent will have serious problems. Women rightly have the opportunity to fulfil career and life goals before starting a family, but it is important they have the knowledge and understanding about fertility and what they face.
“No one tells women about the risks involved in dealing with motherhood at a later age and, when IVF is considered, most people think it is going to be the immediate answer for them.”
Research shows that fertility declines for both men and women from the age of 30, with the drop becoming sharp for women and more gradual for men.iii
A report from the charity Infertility UK echoes IVF-Spain’s concerns as it reveals a need for enhanced education as less than 1 per cent of students surveyed realised age has an influence on fertility.iv
IVF-Spain, which has a heritage of scientific excellence and patient engagement, believes greater understanding can synchronise with medical advances that are increasing success rates for UK patients.
“The core elements of our good reputation are transparency and a continuity of care with patients assigned a co-ordinator from their first meeting. And the fact that we are experts in understanding patients’ hopes and expectations, and in explaining the process and guiding patients through it,” says Dr Aizpurua.
“IVF treatment provides answers, but it is not always a miracle solution. There is no such thing as a 100 per cent success rate. We try hard to help every patient get pregnant in their first attempt, but it is important to understand that underlying pathologies and conditions have an influence, and it is often harder than patients initially thought.
“Being honest, clear and explaining all treatment options, the potential success rates and all the processes involved is vital so patients know what to expect and what they are investing in.”
IVF-Spain, established in 2009, holds regular clinics in London where couples can get advice and a provisional diagnosis. It is a free, no-obligation consultation and gives patients a wider appreciation of the physical, emotional and financial factors involved. All treatments are performed at its three state-of-the-art clinics where it has a high success rate that can reach 80 per cent, according to certified data.
Use of the latest technology is combined with human contact to personalise each case and tailor treatment to the individual, rather than just following standard protocols. It performs more than 3,000 treatment cycles a year and runs three IVF laboratories.
IVF treatments are evolving fast and its staff – doctors, embryologists, gynecologists and laboratory technicians – regularly attend conferences and courses where the latest developments in techniques, genetics and stem cell therapies are explored.
“The advances have been spectacular over the last 40 years and no other area of medicine has published or patented as many advances as reproductive medicine,” says Dr Aizpurua.
“It is in our DNA to learn, improve and be up to date with worldwide developments in IVF and reproductive medicine, and to conduct research and trials in the clinic.
“There is huge potential in the use of stem cells, but that could take ten to twenty years to refine. However, the use of genetics to select the best embryos could be commonplace over the next five years. This will be used to select the best embryo to help us reduce the number of times a patient might need implantation. But it is, I stress, nothing to do with engineering cells to choose characteristics.
“There is so much scientific evidence that it will be difficult to justify not using it. We will keep monitoring advances and will only use them when they are proven to be safe and effective.
“Our aim is to help patients by understanding who they are and what they hope for. Our entire approach is about doing our best for them because we know what parenthood means to them.”
For more information please visit ivf-spain.com