SLEEP AND FEMALE FERTILITY
It is well known that adequate sleep in terms of duration and quality is important for general well-being. It is recommended that adults aged 18-64 years should have 7 to 9 hours of sleep in 24 hours-time period (US National Sleep Foundation). Short sleep duration is defined as sleeping for less than 6 hours in 24 hours time period. It is estimated that 30% of adults do not have adequate sleep at night. Sleep disorders including insomnia are said to be more common in women than men.
Circadian rhythms, often referred to as “body clock” regulates many physiological processes. Many hormones that regulate reproduction, e.g. luteinizing hormone, Thyroid stimulation hormone, testosterone show circadian rhythms under normal sleep conditions. It stands to reason therefore that prolonged disruption of the circadian rhythm (body clock) can lead to altered hormone patterns and result in reproductive disorders. Such disruption of the circadian rhythm can occur in people with sleep disorders and in shift / night workers.
There is growing evidence that sleep disorders including short sleep duration
and poor sleep quality
can have adverse effect female fertility. A review of available research papers suggests that disruption of the normal circadian rhythm as occurs in sleep disorders such as insomnia, shift and night workers can affect female reproductive function. The effects include:
- Menstrual cycle irregularity, defined as having a cycle of less than 21 days or greater than 35 days at least once over a six-month period
- Women with a sleep disorder have a higher risk of subfertility compared to women without
- Flight attendants experience constant circadian disruption through jet lag. One research study found that flight attendants have an increased risk of subfertility
- There is some evidence that shift work especially at night may be associated with increased risk of spontaneous miscarriage
- Short sleep duration may reduce the number of eggs produced in women undergoing IVF cycle
- Circadian disruption may impact negatively on embryo quality
Shift work especially at night is an occupational factor that can have adverse effects on fertility. Fertility care providers and women on TTC journey should be aware so they can manage their situation appropriately.
Mr J. Adeghe PhD, FRCOG.
ST JUDE’S HOSPITAL
Committed To Quality Care
We are pleased to publish our recent patient satisfaction survey for the period January to June 2019
- Excellent feedback
- No Negative comments
- POSITIVE COMMENTS AS BELOW:-
“Staff have been excellent, we have already recommended St Jude’s
to friends of ours”
“The staff have been amazing through a difficult time”
“Everyone is lovely. Always smiling, everyone looks very happy to be here.
I love the waiting room. I wish my room was that big! Staff always answer our
questions. Always so helpful. Never make us feel like there is a time limit” I
really like all the staff. They treat us like family and friends. Thank you from the bottom
of my heart”
“I cannot fault St Jude’s Hospital. All staff are so lovely. Always a very comfortable
environment. Thank you to all xx”
“Pleasant, welcoming staff. Relaxed atmosphere, making it as comfortable as possible
“Nice meeting everyone and it has been a wonderful experience here”
“I have always been treated with respect and dignity. All staff have been helpful
and thoughtful during my treatment. I wouldn’t go anywhere else”
“We have been made to feel very welcome and have had everything explained fully.
Everyone is lovely, making the experience easier”
- FRIENDS AND FAMILY TEST: All Patients surveyed would “DEFINITELY” RECOMMEND ST JUDE’S.
St Jude's Women's Hospital - Rating as shown on HFEA Website on 26-11-18
St Jude's Women's Hospital has been licensed by us since 2002. It is a small clinic offering all fertility treatments.
Inspection rating :
Our inspectors' rating of how the clinic meets our standards: 5 / 5
Patient rating :
Patients' and donors' rating based on their experience of care: 4 / 5 based on 10 ratings
IVF birth rate :
Birth rate per embryo transferred for women under 38 having fresh, stimulated IVF using their own eggs: Consistent with national average
HEALTHY EATING AND VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS IN PREGNANCY
This information is for you if you want to know more about eating healthily in pregnancy. It also gives you advice about using vitamin supplements before you get pregnant and during pregnancy.
Keeping healthy when you are having a baby depends on both the amount and the type of food you eat before you become pregnant and during your pregnancy. Simply being a correct weight for your height does not necessarily mean that you are eating healthily. Some foods are best avoided if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant, as they may contain substances that could affect your unborn baby’s development.
To eat healthily, you should aim to do the following.
• Base your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing wholegrain if possible. These foods are satisfying without containing too many calories.
• Eat at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables every day rather than foods that are higher in fat and calories. Potatoes do not count towards your five-a-day target, and a portion of pure fruit juice only counts as one of your five-a-day, no matter how much you drink.
• Eat a low-fat diet and don’t increase the number of calories you eat. Eat as little fried food as possible and avoid drinks that are high in added sugars, and other foods such as sweets, cakes and biscuits that have a high fat or sugar content.
• Instead, eat fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds, as well as wholegrain bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.
• Eat some protein every day; choose lean meat, and try to eat two portions of fish a week. Lentils, beans and tofu are also a good source of protein.
. Eat dairy foods for calcium but choose low-fat varieties such as skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt.
• Watch the portion size of your meals and snacks and note how often you eat. Do not ‘eat for two’.
• Always eat breakfast.
• Limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams (mg) per day, for example two mugs of instant coffee. Be aware that other drinks such as tea and energy drinks also contain caffeine.
Most women do not need any extra calories during the first six months of pregnancy. It is only in the last 12 weeks that they need to eat a little more, and then only an extra 200 calories a day, which is roughly the same as two slices of bread.
What is a ‘healthy’ weight?
You can find out your healthy weight from your BMI (body mass index). This is a measure of your weight in relation to your height. Your healthcare team can work it out for you. A healthy BMI is above 18.5 but below 25. Being overweight carries risks for you and your baby (see the RCOG patient information Why your weight matters during pregnancy and after birth: information for you, which is available at: www.rcog. org.uk/womens-health/clinical-guidance/why-your-weight-matters-during-pregnancy-and-after-birth). The more overweight you are, the greater the risks. Being underweight increases the risk of your baby not growing as well as he or she should.
Is it safe for me to diet while I am pregnant?
Trying to lose weight by dieting during pregnancy is not recommended as it may harm the health of your unborn baby. If you are concerned about your weight, your midwife can advise you and may refer you to a dietician.
Is it safe to eat fish while I am pregnant?
In general, eating fish is a healthy option during pregnancy, but the current advice from the Department of Health is to eat no more than two portions of oily fish, such as mackerel or salmon, a week. This is because too much of a substance found in oily fish (mercury) can be harmful to an unborn baby’s development. Also, pregnant women should not eat more than two fresh tuna steaks or four medium-sized cans of tuna a week, and should avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin.
I have been told not to eat liver while I am pregnant. Why?
Liver can contain high levels of vitamin A, which in high doses can harm the development of an unborn baby’s nervous system. It is rare for women in developed countries like the UK to be deficient in vitamin A so you should avoid eating foods such as liver and liver products like pâté.
Is it safe to eat peanuts while I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
You can eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) while pregnant or breastfeeding. Eating peanuts does not appear to affect your baby’s chances of developing a peanut allergy. Don’t eat them if you’re allergic to them.
How can I reduce the risk of infection from food?
You can pick up some infections, such as listeria, salmonella or toxoplasmosis, from contaminated food. These can harm your unborn baby.
To reduce your risk of getting listeriosis:
• drink only pasteurised or UHT milk
• avoid eating ripened soft cheese such as Camembert, Brie or blue-veined cheese; however, hard cheese varieties such as Cheddar, cottage cheese and processed cheese are safe
• avoid eating pâté
• avoid eating undercooked food; make sure that ready-prepared meals are cooked as per instructions, paying particular attention to making sure that they are piping hot when reheating.
To reduce your risk of getting salmonella:
• avoid eating raw or partially cooked eggs or food that may contain them, such as some types of mayonnaise or mousses; check the packaging of the food to see what is in it.
• avoid eating raw or partially cooked meat, especially poultry and shellfish.
To reduce your risk of getting toxoplasmosis:
• always wash your hands before and after handling food
• wash all fruit and vegetables, including ready-prepared salads
• cook raw meats and ready-prepared chilled meats thoroughly
• wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after gardening or handling soil
• avoid contact with cat faeces (in cat litter or in soil) – or, if you must handle it, wear rubber gloves.
Do I need extra vitamins (vitamin supplements) when I am pregnant?
Vitamins are needed for growth and development. There are 13 important vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E and K and the vitamin B series. Apart from vitamin D, which we get from sunlight, most vitamins come from our diet. In the UK, it is quite common for people to be low in vitamin D and folic acid (vitamin B9). These vitamins are important in pregnancy and you can boost your levels by taking a vitamin supplement. Supplements of other vitamins are not usually advised since they may actually be harmful in pregnancy. The various vitamins and whether they are recommended in pregnancy are detailed below.
Vitamins that are recommended
• Folic acid
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins and helps to reduce the risk of your baby having spina bifida. Taking extra folic acid may also reduce the risk of heart or limb defects and some childhood brain tumours. The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms (µg). Ideally, you should start taking extra folic acid before you conceive and continue to take it until you reach your 13th week of pregnancy. If you did not take folic acid before you became pregnant, start taking it as soon as you realise you are expecting a baby.
Some women take a higher dose of folic acid. Why?
If your risk of having a baby with spina bifida is higher than normal, you will be advised to take a daily dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid. This is higher than usual and it will need to be prescribed by a doctor. You may be advised to take an increased dose if:
-you have had a previous pregnancy affected by spina bifida
-you or your partner have spina bifida
-you are taking certain medications for epilepsy
-you have coeliac disease or diabetes
-your BMI is 30 or more
-you have sickle-cell anaemia or thalassaemia; the higher dose of folic acid will also help to prevent and treat anaemia if you are in this situation.
• Vitamin D
All pregnant women are advised to take a daily dose of 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D when pregnant and breastfeeding. This is because it is common in the UK for people to have low levels of vitamin D. Taking supplements can improve your baby’s growth during his or her first year of life, and can reduce their risk of developing rickets.
You are at particular risk of having low levels of vitamin D if:
-your family origin is South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern
-your BMI is 30 or more
-you stay indoors a lot
-you usually cover your skin when you go outdoors or usually use sun-protection cream
-your diet is low in vitamin D-rich foods such as eggs, meat, vitamin D-fortified margarine or breakfast cereal.
If you are in one of these situations, you may be may be advised to take a higher daily dose of vitamin D.
When may I need extra vitamin K?
Vitamin K is needed for our blood to clot properly. Newborn babies have low levels of vitamin K, which puts them at risk of bleeding . To prevent this, you will be offered vitamin K for your baby after birth. You do not need to take vitamin K supplements yourself during pregnancy unless it is thought that your baby is at particular risk of bleeding. This could be because you are taking certain medicines for epilepsy or if you have liver disease.
When may I need extra vitamin C?
Although routine supplements of vitamin C are not specifically recommended when you are pregnant, this vitamin helps iron to be absorbed. This may be of benefit during pregnancy, at a time when women are at risk of becoming anaemic.
Vitamins that are not recommended
There are many multivitamin tablets for use in pregnancy that contain a small amount of lots of vitamins. These are safe to take, but avoid taking large doses of the following vitamins unless a doctor prescribes them for a particular reason.
• Vitamin A
Too much vitamin A can harm the development of your unborn baby’s nervous system. During pregnancy, avoid any supplements that contain more than 700 micrograms (µg) of vitamin A and don’t eat foods such as liver, liver products (pâté) or fish liver oils that may contain this vitamin in high levels.
• Vitamin E
There is currently no evidence to recommend additional vitamin E during pregnancy.
• Vitamin B supplements (other than folic acid) You do not need any other vitamin B supplements in pregnancy. Sometimes, pyridoxine (vitamin B6) is prescribed to help you feel less sick early in your pregnancy although it will not stop you from being sick.
What about extra iron? Most women do not need to take extra iron during pregnancy. Taking routine iron supplements will not necessarily benefit your health and may cause you unpleasant side effects such as heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea. Your midwife will check your blood at your booking appointment and at 28 weeks of pregnancy. You will only be advised to take iron if you are found to be anaemic or are at increased risk of becoming anaemic in pregnancy, for example if you are carrying twins.
Can I get help to buy vitamins? If you are on certain benefits and/or are under the age of 18 years, help may be available to provide you with free supplements. You can buy folic acid or pregnancy multivitamins from any pharmacy or supermarket. There is no evidence that expensive brands are any better than cheaper ones.
Where can I find out more information about healthy eating?
The following website can give you information about healthy eating before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding: NHS Choices – Your Pregnancy and Baby Guide: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancyand-baby-care.aspx#close.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: The above information was published by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) in October 2014.
KERRY AND TIM'S FERTILITY JOURNEY
Kerry and Tim are ex-patients of St Jude’s Fertility Clinic. They have kindly agreed to share their rollercoaster of a journey to becoming parents, in the hope that they can inspire others currently experiencing fertility problems. Kerry (age 40) is a dental nurse and Tim (age 38) is a carpenter with his own business. They have been together for 20 years and married for 10 years this August. They had been trying for a baby for 12 long years, before finally conceiving via treatment here at St Jude’s.
We asked Kerry several questions about her and Tim’s fertility story – read her answers in this special interview feature below. When did you first start trying to conceive and how long was it before you decided to seek help through fertility services? I knew before I met Tim that it would be a struggle for me to conceive and before we got too serious I made sure he knew that I might never be able to have children. I was about 18 when Mr Adeghe, my then gynaecologist, told me that I had 18 months approximately if I wanted to have a family. At the time I was not ready to settle but was aware of the effect this would have on my future. We started trying after a few years together but knowing the problem beforehand didn’t wait too long before seeking help through fertility services. This was the start of a very long road!
How did infertility affect you in your personal life?
It had a massive impact on both of us and our relationship. I felt like I was a failure, that as a woman I couldn't even do the only job I was made for. I couldn't understand why Tim would want to be with me when he was so desperate for a child, and I couldn't give him one. This caused tension in our relationship as we struggled to deal with not only the treatment but also the grief that came with each loss and each failed attempt. Tim always told me “I don’t want any baby, I want a baby with you, our baby.” I loved him for that. I come from a large family, and so does Tim. The whole time we were having treatment, people and family members were getting pregnant, and we seemed to be surrounded by babies. Sometimes I was envious, not because I wanted their babies but because I wanted my own with my husband's smile. My sister got pregnant just after we had a failed course of IVF and asked me to be her birthing partner. Of course, I agreed to do it which may sound strange but what an amazing experience; to see a new life come into this world was mind-blowing and made me more determined than ever to have one of our own. I was happy for people when they said they were pregnant but our hearts ached for a child and every failed attempt was heartbreaking. I just kept thinking, when will it be us? Will it ever be us? Will we ever be mommy and daddy? People and even family members behaved very strangely when they had to tell us they were pregnant; it was almost like they were afraid to tell us, like we were going to break down or attack them. Looking back it’s quite funny really.
Tell us about the sort of fertility treatments you had - what were they like to experience?
We had IVF and ICSI. I also had other procedures beforehand. IVF is hard, really really hard. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, not only from the medication but from the stress of wanting something so much. This put a massive strain on us. Financially, this is a huge part of the stress. When you are having IVF, the medication makes you feel all over the place. Even the slightest comment can make you run for the hills crying or ready to tear the house down. People walk on eggshells around you which makes you worse. I suffered from headaches and sickness from some medication, so it's not for the faint-hearted.
How long did it take for you to get pregnant after starting treatment?
We got pregnant on our second course of IVF with twins. We lost them at 9 weeks. We had previously had a miscarriage of a natural pregnancy which we lost at 7 weeks. We had another miscarriage after that and many failed attempts but then, finally, we had another positive test. How did you feel in that moment you realised you had a positive pregnancy test? Over the moon but nervous at the same time. Worried that we may lose the baby and knowing the heartbreak that would bring. We had already agreed that after 12 years of treatment this would be our last attempt. I was far more relaxed than Tim, he was a nervous wreck!
Did you face any challenges or worries during your pregnancy?
I had gestational diabetes which I was checked frequently for and so was the baby. I was quite relaxed all the way through, terrified of scan dates. We worried about a lot of things but nothing major. Tell us about your baby! His name is Carter, he is 4 now, and he is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen! He is funny and clever and loving and totally amazing. He weighed 7lb 2oz. No one can prepare you for that rush of overwhelming love and protectiveness you feel when you see your baby for the first time. To see his little face, his eyes wide staring at us, is like no other feeling in the whole world. Tim held him before I did as he was born via c-section. We couldn’t believe we had finally done it; we were parents to our very own little baby. What is it like being a mum after the long-awaited journey that you had? Exhausting ha! But worth every second. I used to sit looking at him and holding him from one feed to another; he was so perfect. I kiss him constantly, and he loves it! He looks at us like we are the best people in the whole world and he makes us want to be better and do better for us and for him. His love is unconditional, as is ours for him. The first time he called me mommy I thought my heart would burst. The first time he put his arms out for me was the same. Every milestone was a miracle.
What advice would you give to couples going through their own fertility journey based on your experiences?
Stay together as a team. This is the most important thing. Don't lose sight of what you want or who you are together. The stress of IVF or any fertility treatment can make you forget what you're fighting for. Yes, you want a baby, but without each other's support, the struggle will be endless and never ever give up until your mind and heart agree with one another that it’s time to stop. Be ready for heartache and stressful times. This may not be the case for you, and you may be lucky the first time, but if you’re not, get back up and carry on the fight. You will get there in the end.
We’d like to thank Kerry and Tim for taking the time to share their very moving and inspirational fertility story.
It just goes to show that sometimes, even when it looks like there is no hope and that it's time to give up, that's not necessarily the case. We hope that this story inspires others in a similar situation. If you’d like to talk to someone about our fertility services and how we could help you, please get in touch by calling 01902 620831.