On Saturday I attended my first ever health conference as the editor of JFHC. Organised by the RCN, there was a mix of fertility workers, as well as a handful of midwives, who willingly gave up their free time to listen to top experts and advisors speaking at this Midwifery and Fertility Nursing Forum. Rona McCandlish kicked off proceedings with a talk on Midwifery 2020, but there was mixed feedback from the hall. One midwife from Kent said she felt there was plenty to say about how midwives should care for their patients. However the pressures placed on midwives (staff shortages, a lack of resources...) meant there was often "no care for the midwives"; a view many in the hall appeared sympathetic with.
Dr Ingrid Granne, a Clinical Research Fellow at Nuffield, followed up with an interesting talk on Pre-eclampsia, a condition which affects 2.5-3% of pregnancies. She said that in Oxford they're offering pregnant women a selenium supplement, through a trial programme called SPRINT. We will keep our ear to the ground as if this does help reduce the number of women getting this horrible - and sometimes life-threatening - condition, we will let you know.
Changes in the 20-week antenatal screening programme were next on the agenda (see our news story on the home page).
After lunch, Dr Pauline Brimblecombe offered an often amusing take on why it's vital to offer accurate fertility care information from day one to both partners in a relationship, not just the woman! Men tend to steer clear of the initial appointments, she said, which isn't always helpful. She also advocated that the message to conceive earlier, rather than leaving it to chance later in life (mid 30s onwards), should filter down to young teens, too. As a GP she sees far too many couples facing the strain and pain of fertility treatment - a huge not just financially, but in terms of emotional and physical health. "Sex is not just for fun, but for looking after yourself for the future," is the message she wants to convey.
Next, Professor Henry Leese told the forum that "the issue of nutrition and pregnancy is critical for the health of the mother and child; long and short-term." He warned that the smaller you are as a baby, the greater your risk of heart disease in later life. He also said there needed to be randomised clinical trials of midwife/nurse-led monitoring of gestational weight gain, which can also have an adverse effect on maternal health.
The conference concluded with talks by specialists on egg and sperm donation and the criteria for eligibility and costs of fertility treatment.