Galway Fertility Clinic has one of the highest success rates in Ireland when it comes to helping people start or grow a family.
Over the past year or so it has seen a 20% increase in pregnancy rates for clients attending the clinic.
This is thanks to their 20 years’ plus experience in fertility treatment as well as having two of Ireland’s three fertility experts in attendance and the clinic’s high-tech laboratory services.
Galway Fertility Clinic’s laboratory is the only one in Ireland to have two embryoscopes in constant use.
These are special incubators for the storage and development of living embryos. They include time-lapse cameras which allow clinic staff to monitor the development of embryos continuously and identify those which are most suitable for IVF.
‘The embryoscopes have advanced the success rates of IVF hugely here in Galway,’ says Dr Eithne Lowe, Consultant Gynaecologist, who has been with Galway Fertility Clinic since 2001.
‘This is great news for people who are having difficulty starting or growing a family, as we have this word-class technology available right here in our lab in Galway.
However, Dr Lowe points out that IVF is only one of a range of potential treatments for infertility available here.
‘There are many treatment options, ranging from simple lifestyle changes to detailed examinations including ultrasound scans as well as assessments of fertility in both partners before we would consider IVF.
One of the big changes Dr Lowe has seen in her 16 years at the clinic is the increase in age of women presenting for treatment and their lack of understanding of age-related decline in fertility.
There are many misconceptions about fertility in women and aging. Chief amongst them are:
‘I got pregnant easily the first time’.
‘My mother/sister got pregnant in her 40’s so I’ll be able to’.
Often women don’t realise that although they will continue to ovulate until their late 40’s that the older egg cannot produce a pregnancy at all.
Celebrities having babies in their forties – often thanks to egg donation.
Fertility is felt to decline from 38 years on average and 50% of women over 40 will not be able to conceive unaided.
However, these are averages and every woman’s fertility will be different. Some women may go through the menopause (when all eggs are gone) younger than 40 while some will be older than the average age of 52.
‘For social or economic reasons women are deferring starting a family until later in life and this can significantly reduce their chances of conceiving unaided,’ says Dr Lowe.
‘Trying to start a family in your twenties has a much higher chance of success than it does in you-mid thirties.
Galway Fertility Clinic offers a simple blood test as part of its first assessment which measures a woman’s egg reserve.
Even if a woman is not planning to start a family in the short term the AMH test will help her identify how many years of egg reserve she has and thus improve her ability to plan a family.
Dr Lowe cites the example of a couple who were planning to buy a house and start a family in three to four years and who decided to have the AMH test to give them some assurance that this was the right decision for them.
The woman, who was in her late twenties, had lower egg reserves than average for her age and so they decided to start a family first (successfully) and defer the property purchase.
This test costs €50 plus a consultation fee at Galway Fertility Clinic and can prevent a lot of unnecessary anxiety later in life.
It can also allow a woman consider other options such as egg vitrification If she is not ready to start a family right now.
‘Men have it easier’, says Dr Lowe.
‘Women have a finite number of eggs and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
‘However, sperm can regenerate, so while a man may have poor sperm quality a change in lifestyle can mean that this is rectified after three months or so.
Nevertheless, about 30% of fertility issues in couples relate to the male and a simple sperm assessment before the initial consultation can help identify these.
Galway Fertility Clinic was started by Dr Declan Egan in a corridor of the maternity department at the then Regional Hospital, Galway in 1994.
Dr Egan is one of three sub-specialists in Reproductive Medicine in Ireland as is Dr Nikhil Purandare who also took up a position as Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in Galway earlier this year.
The medical team is completed by Dr Lowe and Dr Una Conway who is also a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist attached to UHG.
The clinic also employs a medical registrar, seven specialist nurses, four embryologists and four or five administration staff.
It is now housed in modern premises in Knocknacarra in Galway city where they have consulting rooms and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.
The environment is friendly and welcoming with a professional air. All of the nursing staff have been trained in how to support people who may have fertility issues and counselling services are available.
The clinic operates seven days a week so that procedures can be carried out on the right day for the patient.
‘Ovulation cycles don’t recognise weekends’, says Dr Lowe.
What advice would she give to anyone who is thinking of starting a family, even in the medium to long term?
‘If you’re a woman over 30, take the AMH test to see where you are in terms of egg reserves. This will help you decide, in consultation with an expert, if you need to take more immediate action than you might have planned.
‘Don’t smoke. If you do, stop. Smoking damages the reproductive capacity of men and women’, she adds.
Good health and fitness is also a benefit but Dr Lowe warns that over-exercise and endurance sports can have an adverse effect on ovulation.
It can take two to three years for the male reproductive system to recover from over-use of steroids or sports supplements.
‘If you are having trouble conceiving then consult your GP who may decide to refer you to a specialist for immediate treatment, especially if you are a woman over 30,’ says Dr Lowe.
‘With increased knowledge and a wider range of treatments available, up to and including IVF, the Galway Fertility Clinic is well placed to help couples and single women address fertility issues in a professional manner with a higher proportion of successful outcomes.
For more information contact Galway Fertility Clinic here