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We meet Dr Meena Choudhary who transforms hundreds of women’s lives who struggle to conceive

We caught up with the senior consultant in reproductive medicine and Newcastle Fertility Centre’s egg donor program clinical lead to see how she makes motherhood miracles happen.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 18.03.2023

As women, one of the most special gifts that mother nature gave us is the ability to reproduce. But sadly, this is something that many of us take for granted.

1 in 7 couples struggle to conceive but this doesn’t mean that your dream of having a family won’t become a reality.

That brings us to Newcastle Fertility Centre an internationally renowned centre of excellence that gives hundreds of women hope and provides life-changing fertility treatments to help women get pregnant.

And one member of the team who is leading the revolutionary fertility advancements is senior consultant in reproductive medicine and Newcastle Fertility Centre’s egg donor program clinical lead, Dr Meena Choudhary.

We caught up with Dr Choudhary to find out what goes on behind the scenes to make these motherhood miracles happen.

 

Talk us through what a normal shift is like for you.

A normal shift would involve providing the best possible care and support for women and their partners going through their fertility journey through a mix of clinic consultations and fertility-related procedures. Just recently when I was seeing a couple in my clinic, I had a woman in tears due to fertility problems. It is one of the top six neglected dimensions of safe motherhood and can have a huge impact on the physical, social, mental and economic well-being of the patient, NHS and society.

Why did you want to get into this area of expertise?

Infertility is still regarded as a social stigma in several countries and many people suffer silently from this. During my medical school years, I discovered my polycystic ovary syndrome. Although I was able to have three lovely children without any issues, I have seen how this common condition can cause fertility problems and diminish self-confidence in young girls and women of all ethnicities. This prompted me to focus on reproductive medicine as my key area of clinical expertise. This field is dynamic with an eclectic mix of ever-evolving science, research, and new technologies to help women (and men) with fertility problems.

In what ways do you support women to conceive?

We try to support women throughout their fertility journey with personalised care ranging from clinical treatments to emotional support. We answer patients’ questions, allay their anxiety, help them understand what can be done once a diagnosis is made, offer treatments and signpost them to relevant patient focus groups and offer counselling support too.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ in fertility treatment. They are tailored for each individual and may range from simple advice, for example how frequently to have sex to a range of treatment options, such as helping a woman who is not ovulating regularly by prescribing some tablets, to more complex assisted conception treatment, IVF.  Our stats show only a quarter of those couples referred to our fertility clinic proceed to have IVF, most of them may just need reassurance and conceive whilst waiting.

How long do fertility treatments take?

Overall, from the start of the first injection in an IVF cycle to a pregnancy test, can take anywhere between four-six weeks.

 

How successful are fertility treatments?

It is most important to break the myth that IVF cycles result in a hundred per cent baby rate. We are really proud that we are able to provide three cycles of IVF to eligible couples living in the North East giving them a much-deserved chance to conceive. Although the success rate of a live birth from one IVF cycle is around 1 in 4, it is important to note that a cumulative chance of success after three cycles is significantly increased to around 63%.  However, this is very age-dependent and the older a woman, the chance of having a baby with IVF drops.

However, at Newcastle, we are an internationally renowned centre of excellence striving constantly through our research programs to address the gaps in fertility knowledge, the effect of ageing and trying to find answers to improve fertility outcomes.

 

What advice would you give to women who are trying to conceive?

The key message I would like to give is reassurance. Most couples may take up to a year and longer to achieve a pregnancy and it is fine to wait for the ‘two lines’ to appear on a urine pregnancy test kit.

The advice I would like to give to women trying to conceive is to be ‘FertFit’

  1. Seek early fertility treatment at the right time.
  2. If you suffer from fertility problems don’t suffer in silence, seek emotional support, be open.
  3. Improve your own reproductive health as well as safeguard and optimise your future baby’s health by taking pre-conception steps to minimise the risk of problems during pregnancy. Such as, following a healthy balanced diet, lifestyle improvement by regular exercise, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  4. I also advise taking preconception supplements of folic acid and vitamin D tablets. Ensure if you have any health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, they are all well-controlled and stable prior to the start of your pregnancy.
  5. We live in a modern society and there are a lot of different routes to motherhood and to forming a family.

When do you recommend that women freeze their eggs and why?

Speak to your GP for a referral to a fertility specialist if you wish to consider freezing your eggs because it is very important that you understand the perceived benefits, risks, and limitations of this. Studies have shown that the most common reason a woman chooses social egg-freezing is a lack of a partner. However, when exploring the views of women considering elective egg freezing for non-medical reasons in a clinical setting, I have realised that the other key, but preventable factor, is a lack of understanding of their male partners’ fertility awareness and knowledge about female age-related decline in fertility. Addressing this may help a couple in a committed relationship to plan their fertility at an appropriate time.

What are the success rates of live birth from frozen eggs?

I led a study looking at the chance of live birth from frozen eggs by analysing at the national database of HFEA in the UK. The findings suggest that although success rates using frozen eggs are on the rise, women seeking to preserve fertility should be made aware that freezing eggs is far from a guarantee that you will have a baby later with a likelihood of success as low as 1 in 5 chances of having a baby.

The age of the woman remains the strongest predictor of future fertility and as we get older, the likelihood of getting a sufficient number of eggs to give a reasonable chance of having a baby diminishes. It is our duty to use egg freezing judiciously ensuring first we do no harm but arming the women seeking egg freezing with the power of knowledge so that they can make an informed personalised decision, which is dynamic and changes with time as their situation changes. I believe in ‘Reproductive empowerment’ to make an informed reproductive choice.

How can we help?

The North East has an excellent reputation for being a renowned place to conduct research and North East people are very keen to help with research. We cannot overemphasise the need for healthy women under 35 years to come forward to become egg donors to offer help to further our pioneering research.

 

For more information or advice from Newcastle Fertility Centre, visit The NHS Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital Foundation Trust’s website

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