Under The Microscope: Real Life ICSI Treatment

This week I’m kicking off a new series on my blog called ‘Under The Microscope’.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at what we thinks makes IVF successful. I will be with George Ndkuwe our medical director and our embryologist Rob Smith and we’ll all be at the lab at Care London where we do our procedures and embryology.

I will be sharing the secrets of IVF success including: how we create embryos, how we choose embryos and what we do to ensure successful implantation. And George and Rob will be sharing their lives as IVF doctors and their advice, knowledge and wisdom.

So keep an eye out on the blog over the next few weeks.

This week I want to talk about Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The development of ICSI has revolutionised male fertility, making it possible for men to have a family who would otherwise not have been able to and is now used in nearly half of all IVF treatments in the UK.

ICSI  involves injecting a single sperm directly into an egg to fertilise it. The fertilised egg (embryo) is then transferred into the womb a few days later. The development of ICSI means fertilisation is possible even if there are problems with your partner’s sperm and it is usually recommended if there is any reason to believe the egg will not fertilise with conventional IVF.

ICSI is used most often when your partner has:

  • A very low sperm count,
  • A very high percentage of abnormally shaped sperm,
  • A high level of anti-sperm antibodies.

Watch Rob Smith, the Clinic Director of CARE Fertility London as he talks us through a live ICSI treatment.

 

For weekly tips, advice and wisdom on natural fertility and IVF, subscribe to our Fertility Show on YouTube.

Book now

Consultations are available at our Clinic in London, or our visiting clinics in Dublin and Cork or via Video Conferencing from the comfort of your own home.

Connect with us

Call us on 0207 224 0017 or email us at clinics@zitawest.com

 

My fertility problems weren’t taken seriously because I was so young – until I found The Zita West Clinic

We recently celebrated our 5 year and 500 babies milestone at the Zita West Clinic, and to celebrate we decided to sit down with some of our clients, and ask them to share their story and experience of IVF and how it has changed their lives.

First up, it’s Kate, her husband Bill, and their baby Hughie.

Kate was in her 20s when she came to us, and had been trying for a baby unsuccessfully for 5 years. 

The biggest struggle for Kate, who started trying to conceive at the age of 21, was that she felt she wasn’t taken seriously by anyone, due to being so young.

Kate says: ‘By the time we came to Zita West, we had been through all of the different fertility tests you can have. We’d been to the GP, had scans, dye tests and even Clomid. We’d found out I had mild endometriosis, but there was never a clear reason as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. Everyone just kept saying ‘oh you’re young, you’ll get pregnant’ but I didn’t. We made every positive lifestyle change we could think of and it still didn’t happen.’

Kate recalls: ‘When we went to the Zita West clinic, I was only 26, until that point, we hadn’t really been taken seriously by anyone and that was one of the toughest things. I was actually worried about asking about IVF for that reason. I had a stigma in my head I’d be told I was worrying about nothing because of my age. But for the first time, I felt heard and it was recognised that there was a genuine issue and that something needed to be done.’

In January 2016, Kate and her husband started IVF at the Zita West Clinic and by mid-February they had a positive pregnancy test.

Kate says: ‘We still can’t really believe he’s here. Every day we kind of still say to each other, “Is he real life? This is just amazing.” He just keeps us constantly entertained and we feel like the luckiest people ever.’

For weekly tips, advice and wisdom on natural fertility and IVF, subscribe to our Fertility Show on YouTube.

Book now

Consultations are available at our Clinic in London, or our visiting clinics in Dublin and Cork or via Video Conferencing from the comfort of your own home.

Connect with us

Call us on 0207 224 0017 or email us at clinics@zitawest.com

 

The IVF Diet Book: Mackerel Paté

Good nutrition plays a very important part in helping couples conceive, and can even make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful IVF outcome.

In my new book, The IVF Diet Book, I share why it’s so important to eat well. You should aim to include two or three portions of oily fish in your diet each week, so this week i’m going to show you an easy way to cram more oily fish into your diet with my tasty snack recipe, Mackerel Paté.

Mackerel is a fantastic source of omega-3 fats which are known to lower inflammation, improve sperm quality and the health of eggs and follicles. 

This pate will keep in the fridge for three to four days, so if you make a little extra, store it away for the next day.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves 4:

Ingredients

  • 2 hot smoked mackerel fillets
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 100g creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp freshly grated horseradish
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Black pepper

Step one: Skin the mackerel fillets. Flake half of the fish into a food processor with the cream cheese, creme fraiche, horseradish and whizz until smooth.

Step two: Season with black pepper and lemon juice to taste, the fold through the dill and the remaining fish.

Step three:   Place in a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up slightly before serving.

It’s that simple!

For weekly tips, advice and wisdom on natural fertility and IVF, subscribe to our Fertility Show on YouTube.

Book now

Consultations are available at our Clinic in London, or our visiting clinics in Dublin and Cork or via Video Conferencing from the comfort of your own home.

Connect with us

Call us on 0207 224 0017 or email us at clinics@zitawest.com

 

Is sugar ruining your fertility?

As a practising midwife and fertility expert, I have always been fascinated by the role nutrition takes in every couple’s ability to have a healthy, happy baby.

What I see in my fertility clinic is women know everything about ‘diet’ but very little about nutrition. They will be looking for a magic ingredient in their diet that will get them pregnant, but in reality, every part of the diet and the micronutrition within it lays the foundations for a healthy – or not so healthy – egg and sperm.

Over the course of my many years in this field, I have come to the conclusion that micronutrients play a big role in getting pregnant – both naturally and through assisted conception – with deficiencies having significant effects on fertility for both men and women.

2016 was the year of Brexit, Trump…. And the year that sugar became public enemy number 1.

And not unreasonably so – especially when it comes to your fertility.

In order to make a mature egg both naturally and for IVF, there is a delicate and complex interplay of reproductive hormones that need to peak and flow throughout the month. And unfortunately for those with a sweet tooth, sugar is a major hormone disruptor and affects blood sugar balance, having a negative impact on this process.

What’s the evidence?

Some studies show that with a lower intake of carbohydrates have links to better IVF success. It is known that eggs and embryos do not thrive in a high glucose environment.

In a study presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) meeting last year, IVF patients who switched to a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet and then underwent another cycle increased their blastocyst formation rate from 19% to 45% and their clinical pregnancy rate from 17% to 83%.

Even non-IVF patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome have improved pregnancy rates after making this lifestyle change, the study’s author Dr. Russell noted.

Sharon Phelan, MD, from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque said: “Although the blood glucose is not high enough to be in the diabetic range, it is enough to be toxic to the developing blastocyst.”

How does sugar affect fertility?

The term blood sugar relates to the amount of glucose in your blood stream at any one time – which in turn affects your energy levels.

An unhealthy diet (one that is high in refined carbohydrates – ie sugars – and saturated fats) leads to blood-sugar imbalance (manifesting as peaks and troughs of energy throughout the day), which in turn has a negative impact on the health of your reproductive system. First, low blood sugar (which will make you feel lethargic), stimulates the body’s release of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol).

Continued release of stress hormones alters the way in which your body responds to progesterone – which is so important for the proper function of the menstrual cycle.
Second, high blood sugar (that sugar-high burst of energy), when frequent and sustained, causes the body to release the hormone insulin, which aims to get sugar levels under control.

The trouble is that if we have too much insulin in our system too frequently, the insulin receptors in the body (some of which are on the ovaries) begin to desensitise, creating a condition called insulin resistance. This is a major risk factor for PCOS and may even directly cause damage to the woman’s eggs.

And there is more: sugar is empty calories which causes weight gain, which converts to fat and ages sperm and egg cells.

So keeping blood sugar under control is essential for optimising the chances of pregnancy, whether through IVF or naturally. Optimum nutrition provides a steady supply of blood sugar throughout the day, in order to ensure stable energy levels and stable metabolic processes.

What can you eat?

All this said, I passionately believe that that couples who want to make a baby need to have treats. Who could live without bread, chocolate and sweet treats? Not me!

If you crave chocolate and sweets, I don’t believe that the IVF diet should be about complete denial. So, rather than thinking you must cut out all sweet foods, try to think about how you satisfy your need from something sweet. Highly refined white sugar (in cakes, chocolate, biscuits, sweets and so on) has been stripped of all the natural moderators in raw sugar – the nutrients that make the sugar less damaging to the body. So, try to get your sugar fix from naturally sweet sources:

  • Dried fruits, such as dates, figs or apricots which make wonderful, sweetening additions to stews and desserts; if you want a sweet snack, try a few pieces of dried mango rather than a chocolate bar.
    organic maple syrup can not only make a healthier alternative to white sugar, but also contains the nutrients zinc and manganese.
  • Honey is higher in calories, gram for gram, than refined sugar, but it has healthier components, including B-vitamins – a teaspoon drizzled over granola for breakfast, or used to sweeten desserts, is preferable to refined sugar.
  • Xylitol is a low-calorie natural sweetener (occurring in certain fruits and vegetables, including strawberries and cauliflower) that can be extracted from its sources and used in baking and in coffee and tea as an alternative to refined sugar. It does have a laxative effect, though – so use it in moderation.
  • If you usually have sugar in your tea or coffee (bearing in mind you should minimise your intake of caffeine-containing drinks while you’re trying for a baby anyway), don’t be tempted to reach for artificial sweeteners, which are often made using some chemical nasties that can upset your body’s systems. Try instead to adjust your palate, gradually reducing the amount of sugar you use until you’re used to drinking coffee and tea without it.

For recipes and meals that contain just the right amounts of complex carbohydrate
and slow-release energy foods to keep your blood sugars stable and encourage optimum fertility, The IVF Diet Book is out now

Eating for IVF – cleansing broccoli soup

More and more couples are turning to IVF each year to help them conceive, and yet there are still many questions to be answered. “What makes IVF successful?” and “What else can we do to support our treatment?” are two of the most important queries couples can have.

Nutrition and lifestyle advice, psychological and emotional support and a positive mindset all play an important part in helping couples conceive, and can even make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful outcome.

And that’s what I’ve covered in my new book, The IVF Diet Book

This book not only advises how to prepare for IVF, but why it’s so important, and the step-by-step diet and lifestyle plan is a clear way to support your treatment.

Over the following weeks, I’m going to be presenting some of my favourite recipes from the book. First up, it’s cleansing broccoli soup.

For weekly tips, advice and wisdom on natural fertility and IVF, subscribe to our Fertility Show on YouTube.

Book now

Consultations are available at our Clinic in London, or our visiting clinics in Dublin and Cork or via Video Conferencing from the comfort of your own home.

Connect with us

Call us on 0207 224 0017 or email us at clinics@zitawest.com

 

Do I need to rest after an embryo transfer?

The IVF process is not a quick or simple one, and so after the embryo transfer has finally happened, it’s natural to worry about ruining it. A lot of the time, women feel anxious about getting up and moving around in case the embryo ‘falls out’. The natural instinct is to want to rest a while after the procedure, and this is completely fine! The most important thing to do is to listen to your body and do what it dictates. Read more