4 Reasons Why The Czechs Are Medical Pioneers

Golden Czech Hands And Clever Czech Heads

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Dallas Wiens, 25, was severely injured when his head touched a high-voltage electrical wire while working inside a cherry picker.

Zlaté české ručičky a chytré české hlavičky is an old Czech proverb, meaning “golden Czech hands and clever Czech heads.” In 2011, a team of surgeons gathered around an operating table in Boston, Massachusetts to perform the nation’s first (and world’s third) full facial transplant. Lead by renowned plastic surgeon, Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the patient’s nose, palate, upper lip, and facial skin, muscles, and nerves was successfully replaced with those of a deceased donor. Born in former Czechoslovakia, Dr. Pomahac’s groundbreaking achievements in plastic surgery are celebrated universally and abroad. As for the rest of the medical community, the newly named, “Czechia”, is setting the bar extra high when it comes to performance and innovation.

In a country known more for its medieval castles, hockey, and of course, beer, the Czechs are just as serious about their medical contributions. Check out 4 ways the Czechs are ahead of the game:  

1. The “Heart” Of Europe

Faithfully beating more than 100,000 times a day, the heart is unquestionably one of our most vital organs. Landlocked between Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia, the Czech Republic is often referred to as “The Heart of Europe”

Appropriately, the Czechs are world leaders in cardiac surgery; performing the country’s first successful heart transplant in 1984. Recognized for their excellent system of healthcare for those suffering from acute coronary symptoms- especially the treatment and prevention of heart attacks- the Czech Republic is also home to state-of-the-art cardiovascular centers as well as some of the world’s top cardiac specialists.

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Da Vinci Xi. The widely universal word “robot” was first coined by Czech brother Karel and Josef Čapek.

Since 2005, Prague’s Na Homolce hospital has been using robotic technology to assist in various surgeries, including cardiac. In 2016, they added a new, upgraded member to their surgical team. His name? Da Vinci Xi. Controlled by a human surgeon, Da Vinci Xi’s mechanical arms offer precision that would not otherwise be possible.

2. Second Chances 

In 1932, the Czech Republic became the first country in the world to recognize plastic surgery as an independent branch of medicine. Many Czech surgeons, including Dr. Pomahač, have received international acclaim; and their success is no accident. After a minimum of 6 years at an accredited university, medical students must pass a rigorous series of exams followed by a two years residency with an experienced practitioner. It can be nearly a decade before they ever perform an operation.

While working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Pomahač became increasingly interested in the subject of face transplants. In 2009, the first partial face transplant was successfully completed in France. Four years later, Dr. Pomahač and his surgical team performed a 17-hour operation to reconstruct the severely disfigured face of James Maki, age 59. In 2011, Dr. Pomahač led a team of 30 physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists for more than 15 hours to complete the first full transplant in the USA (see photo above).

3. Fighting Infertility

Since 1978, nearly 5 million babies have been born thanks to infertility treatment- specifically IVF. In
1984, the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) became one of the first countries to pioneer In Vitro Fertilization and facilitate a successful birth.

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As of 2017, the Czech Republic is home to over 30 fertility clinics and centers.

According to NHS, 1 in 7 couples will have difficulty conceiving. Determined to help millions of men and women realize their dream of starting a family, the Czechs continue to invest a fortune in comprehensive IVF centers and extensive reproduction procedures. Today, they rank among the highest IVF success rates; 70 % in cases involving donated eggs. Czech legislation also plays a critical role in the rapidly growing field. It permits anonymous donation and the option to choose the physical characteristics of the donated egg or sperm in order to prevent serious genetic diseases.

As a result, the Czech Republic attracts thousands of couples from around the world coming for “IVF Holidays”. Significantly cheaper than treatment in the United States or the UK, IVF prices can start as low as 2500 Euros and egg donation from 3800 Euros. The Czechs offer affordable options without compromising safety and quality.

4. In Utero 

Approximately 1 in every 5,000 women is born without a uterus, cervix, and upper vaginal canal. The rarely-discussed, devastating syndrome, MRKH, makes it impossible to carry a fetus to term.

Historically, women with MRKH have had very few options, one of which being a uterus transplant from a live donor. In 2016, Czech doctors from the Prague-based Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) performed the sixth of now thirteen worldwide uterus transplants. Czech experts say that the next step is transplanting from dead donors. For thousands of women, this means the opportunity to carry and give birth.

What Men Really Think About A Mommy Makeover

In a recent poll, men were asked how they felt about their wife getting a ‘Mommy Makeover’ after having children. Out of nearly 300 men, about 52% agreed that if it was something she needed to feel confident in her body again- then yes, go for it! It may also be the reason behind how so many Hollywood starlets seem to snap right back to their pre-baby bodies. 

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Kim Kardashian 2016 post-baby body is nearly unrecognizable compared to 2015 when she was pregnant with her second child. Many speculate that she had a Mommy Makeover to help her transformation.

What exactly does a Mommy Makeover entail?

A little bit of everything. A Mommy Makeover is not cosmetic surgery procedures in and of itself. On the contrary, it consists of a series of smaller procedures which the surgeon performs at the same time. Case in point, meet Angelia.

Angelia (Liverpool, UK) is a mother of 3 young boys, and at the age of 38 decided that she was not happy with her body.

“Motherhood is the most beautiful, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m proud of what my body has endured over the past 7 years but, I’m still human. I still have insecurities. When my girlfriends, who are also mums, and I get together for a chat, we always talk about how fantastic our bodies were before children. Things sag and giggle now were they didn’t use to, and even with diet and exercise, non of us have completely fit back into or skinny jeans. It’s totally normal, but I don’t want to spend the next 15 years raising my boys and worrying about my muffin top. That’s why next month I will be having a ‘mummy makeover’. It will include a breast lift, tummy tuck and liposuction of my buttocks and thighs.”


“Motherhood is the most beautiful, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m proud of what my body has endured over the past 7 years but, I’m still human. I still have insecurities.”


After speaking we Angelia we asked her husband, Paul, 42, what how he felt about his wife’s decision to have cosmetic surgery.

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“It’s her body, and her decision. Of course I told her what all good husbands do, ‘hun you’re perfect the way you are’. And I mean that. But I could tell she was insecure about her body after having the boys. She started opting for clothing that’s sole purpose was to cover her up. That’s not the confident, bold, sexy Angelia I met 10 years ago. So if this makes her feel sexy, and beautiful again in her own skin, then I support her.”

Thinking About A Mommy Makeover? Get Unlimited Free Quotes Today 

Paul is not alone. In fact, another 12% of men polled actually said they would encourage their wives to have a few tips and tucks after pregnancy. Andy (Tampa, Florida), 36, even surprised his wife with a Mommy Makeover for their 5th wedding anniversary.

“[My wife] Kate complained for years after our daughter was born that she hated her breasts. I hardly noticed a difference, but after breast feeding and losing the baby weight, she said her breasts had actually shrunk. Like I said, from looking at Kate it was hardly noticeable, but what mattered was that she noticed. It bothered her to the point that she stopped wearing bikini tops, or changing in front of me. So as a gift for our 5th wedding anniversary I got her breast augmentation. I actually offered it, and she was over the moon about, thinking we couldn’t afford it. Kate is now a full C, slightly larger than her pre-pregnancy breasts, and she loves them. I do too.”

Which Procedures Should I Have Done? 

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Mommy Makeover tummy tuck, before and after.

A standard Mommy Makeover targets the following 3 areas: 

  1. Breasts According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, one of the most common issues after childbirth is a change in the size or shape of breasts. To treat this issue, woman can choose from several different types of procedures. While breast implants are the most well-known, many mommy’s opt for a breast lift or breast augmentation instead. This helps change or enhance the shape of the breast after childbirth. 
  2. Tummy- After 9 months of pregnancy, a the shape of a woman’s stomach may change a lot. Although natural weight loss can occur with diet and exercise, many women have problems with sagging, excess skin left over. In this case, a tummy tuck is often suggested, rather than liposuction, restoring a more natural, thinner appearance.
  3. Lower BodySimilar to excess skin, women are often left with stubborn fat deposits after childbirth. Even intense diet and exercise may not always solve these changes. For these patients, Liposuction is one way to target and remove unwanted fat from the stomach, thighs or buttocks. Other women may choose to have a lower body lift, which tightens sagging skin around the thighs, hips or buttocks.

I’m Worried I’ll Have Trouble Getting Pregnant, But I’ve Never Tried Before

What If I Can’t Get Pregnant?

Have you ever asked yourself this question before? Many women have, but don’t like to talk about it. In our baby-bump obsessed culture, conceiving seems as about as easy as binge-watching your favorite Netflix series. We obsess over the pregnant celebrities, ohhh and aahh over gifts at our friends baby-showers. Push presents are even a thing now. Rarely do we talk about the fears and anxieties surrounding conception. And while we’re aware that infertility exists, many women worry silently if they will become another statistic.

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So why are women, specifically young women, worrying that they’ll have trouble getting pregnant?

Well, as it turns out, women are only born with a finite amount of eggs- one to two million to be exact. Naturally, as women age, eggs are released, and over time, the numbers begin to drop. After age 30, the chances of having a baby begin to decrease by 3-5% each year. After 40, fertility reduces by an even greater extent.

Over the past 25 years, many women are steadily starting families later in life. In the United States, the average age of first time mothers is at an all-time high of 26 years. In the UK, it is even higher, at 28.5 years. As a result, women are more open about infertility and IVF treatments. It’s a major step forward in its own rights, but is also perpetuating some unnecessary fear in young women who have not even tried getting pregnant yet.

Is There Anything To Worry About? 

Yes and No. In an interview with Bustle.com, Julianne Zweifel, a clinical psychologist and Obstetrics and Gynecology professor said, “‘[If you’re young], the odds [of getting pregnant] are still dramatically in your favor…But if you’re the person on the negative end of that percentage, it’s bad. When you are 30 years old and you have fertility problems, you are even angrier than when you’re 36.”

She adds, “You have a backdrop in society of women having kids later and later…You think, ‘Maybe this is more possible’ and you’re lulled into a false sense of security. [But] we weren’t just created in 2014 with bodies that were created in 2014. It really might work out, but the older you get, the less likely that is.”

While this may ease the minds of some young women, for others the fear of infertility is very real.

Emily, a 27 year old, Australian school teacher had this to say,couple

“I just got married this summer. Since then, my husband and I can’t talk about anything else besides babies. It’s our dream to start a family, but privately I worry, ‘what if I can’t get pregnant?’. At the moment we are not trying, and I have never tried before, but I always have this reoccurring feeling that for whatever reasons, my body just won’t be able to conceive.”

Fortunately, Emily is not alone. In a recent survey of 50 hopeful, future-mothers (ages 21-30), 36 reported having similar fears, despite never having tried to conceive before.

“Of course I think about. I think most women do, but we don’t like to talk about it. Not even to or girlfriends. Instead of, ‘When I get pregnant…’, more and more young women are wondering, ‘If I can get pregnant…’. (Joanne, 24, Grad Student, U.K.)


Instead of, “When I get pregnant…”, more and more young women are wondering, “If I can get pregnant…”


“It’s so weird, and my husband and I never talk about it. When I was a teenager I know I had unsafe sex a lot, and nothing ever happened, so I just feel like their must be something biologically wrong with me. Like either I was very lucky, or I have to be infertile.” (Sara, 28, Realtor, U.S.) 

How Easy Is It To Get Pregnant, Really?

Well, statistics actually show that 85% of all couples trying to conceive will get pregnant within 12 months. Those numbers are pretty high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 94% of American women are fertile and 89% will not have any trouble getting pregnant. Similarly in Great Britain, where according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, 90 percent of women age 19–39pregnant will conceive after two years of actively trying to have a baby.

According to recent statistics from Baby Centre UK, out of 100 couples trying to naturally conceive naturally:

  • 20 will conceive within one month
  • 70 will conceive within six months
  • 85 will conceive within one year
  • 90 will conceive within 18 months
  • 95 will conceive within two years

While taking up to two years to get pregnant is normal for some couples, it may feel like a long time. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a fertility problem. If you are already trying, remember to keep trying. Half of the couples under 35 who don’t get pregnant within a year, will likely conceive the following year.

What Do New Mothers Fear Most About Their Post-Baby Body: ?

Post-Baby Body 

Conception is the miracle of life. For centuries, pregnant bodies have been marveled at, celebrated, and even worshipped. Nowadays, baby-bumps still never cease to amazes us. Just ask any expecting mother if they had a dollar for every person who asked to touch their bellies.

However, women today (especially young mothers) face more body and beauty standards than ever before. The constant pressure to have the “perfect body”, both pre- and post- pregnancy, is even enough for some women to forego pregnancy altogether.

In an interview with several soon-to-be mommies, we asked: what worries them most about their postpartum figures?

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The average woman gains approximately 12.5kg (27.6lb) during her pregnancy.

 New Mommy Worries

“I’m worried about stretch-marks. I appreciate all of the women who says, ‘stretch marks are battle wounds’. Confidence is important, but personally I don’t look forward to them.” (Michelle, 26, UK)

“Saggy boobs, for sure. I’ve always had large breasts, and since getting pregnant, they’ve gotten even bigger. At first I loved it-so did my husband-but now I just worry about the shape and size they’ll return to after the birth.” (Mary-Kate, 28, UK)

“I’m actually about to have my second child, can I tell you, I still worry about my post-baby body. I’m naturally quite thin, workout several times a week and maintain a sensible diet, but after my first child, my physique totally change. I noticed more fat migrating to my tummy and thighs. Now I have a little pouch that I just can’t get rid of. No matter how much I exercise or how healthy I eat.” (Julia, 27, U.S.)

Would You Have Cosmetic Surgery? 

In a recent poll, young mothers were asked if they would ever undergo any kind of cosmetic surgery (invasive or non-invasive) to help get back to their pre-baby bodies. 46% agree that they would be open to some minimally invasive or non invasive cosmetic surgery if it meant improving their self confidence and increasing their overall happiness. 12% admit that they’ve already had some work done, or are interested in a more invasive procedure.

When we asked our mommy-to-be’s, they had the following to say:

Michelle, UK

Michelle, 26, UK, opens up about her post-baby body fears.

“Sure, why not? I am proud of my body. Giving birth is beautiful. But I want to feel sexy too! I am young and I don’t want to spend the next 50+ years hiding my tummy.” – Julia

“I’ve thought about it, but I’m not sure. I think if it was something minimally invasive or noninvasive, I’d totally be open to it. Maybe a laser treatment for my stretch mark. I wish we didn’t have to have this discussion, but it’s a real fear for many young mothers. We should support one another and do what’s best for us and our bodies.” -Michelle

Read More: 6 Brave Women Share What Pregnancy Did To Their Bodies 

In Vitro Fertilization: The Great Debate

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In 1978, the first “test-tube baby” was born. Since 1981, more than 5 million babies have been born thanks to infertility research and the science of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Since its infancy, IVF has been highly scrutinized, criticized and has stirred up plenty of moral controversy and debate. While the opposition has softened, with every advancement comes new resistance. To better understand the evolution of IVF, we’ve highlighted some of the benefits and drawbacks, as well as addressing the big questions.

1. Helping Couples Start A Family 

1 in 6 couples need medical help to have a baby. Millions around the world have realized their dream of having a baby through the process of IVF. It is becoming more and more common for women to start a family later in life. In the United States, the average age of new mothers is at an all-time high of 26 years. In 1970 it was 21.4. The average age of first time mothers in the UK is 28.5 years.

As women age, it is natural that fertility rates decrease. The proverbial “biological clock” begins to tick, and fertility rates decrease by 3-5% each year after age 30. After 40, fertility reduces to an even greater extent. Male infertility is also a major contributor. Nearly half of couples who cannot conceive experience infertility as a result of poor sperm quality. For couples who suffer from infertility, IVF is often the best and last solution to start a family. For many, what was once a dead-end road is now full of new possibility.

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2. Scientific & Medical Progress 

Another benefit of IVF comes from a scientific standpoint. IVF involves retrieving and fertilizing a woman’s eggs in a special laboratory before introducing the embryos to the uterus. By studying fertilization and early embryonic development outside the womb, scientists are learning more about the earliest stages of human life and possibly how to prevent certain birth defects. The mind behind the first IVF baby, 2010 Nobel Prize Winner, Laureate Robert Edwards, was extremely outspoken about the far-reaching medical and scientific benefits of IVF.

In 2003 he told the London Times: 

“[IVF] was a fantastic achievement, but it was about more than infertility. It was also about issues like stem cells and the ethics of human conception. I wanted to find out exactly who was in charge, whether it was God himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory…Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children.”

While Edwards was undoubtedly on one end of the spectrum, there is no arguing the scientific and medical ‘miracles’ IVF continues to pioneer. The Human Fertility & Embryology Authority (HFEA), also plays a large role in the development of reproductive medicine. In 2004, HFEA granted the first license to a clinic to screen embryos for diseases they might develop as adults.

3. Too Much Risk  

For those against IVF, objections began well before the first test tube baby, when no one even knew if the science would work. Critics feared the possibility of deformed babies and terminal illnesses. Even DNA co-discoverer, James Watson, warned Edwards, “You can only go ahead with your work if you accept the necessity of infanticide. There are going to be a lot of mistakes. What are we going to do with the mistakes?”

Today we can dismiss many of the most extreme concerns from half a century ago. However, like any medical procedure, IVF doesn’t come without some risk. We know that Multiple Births (Gestation), increases with IVF. If a transfer to the uterus includes more than one embryo, the risk of a pregnancy with multiple fetuses increases. Often this results in a higher risk of premature labor and low birth weight. Even if only one fetus develops, IVF slightly increases the risk of a premature delivery and low birth rate.

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4. Destroying The Traditional Family

Another popular concern was that IVF would ultimately destroy the nuclear family. Many believed that traditional marriage would be replaced by laboratory breeding, or something resembling a science fiction novel. The most conservative feared and opposed the creation of new, non-traditional families, while some feminists worried that the pressure on women to have children would increase. Others worried that so-called, “test tube babies” would be rejected as social outcasts. Biologist, Lee Silver argues:

“Here’s a technology which is almost always used to allow a married man and woman to have a child, to form a family…IVF facilitates a very, very traditional outcome, which is a mother and a father and children.”

Today this concern is diminishing, and so is the concept of ‘traditional’ altogether. With the aid of donor sperm and eggs, and sperm and egg banking (preservation), it is possible for same sex couples, and single women to have a baby. New, ‘alternative’ families are more common and accepted.

5. Playing God 

Not all IVF criticism hangs on bad outcomes. Others considered IVF innately wrong because it is ‘unnatural’. These critics have silenced over time, but many still argue that IVF scientists are attempting to “play God”. In a statement from the Vatican, the Catholic Church states, “Fecundation must be carried out according to nature and through reciprocal and responsible love between a man and a woman.” 

Recently, a technique called Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) has been the topic of much debate. PGD allows scientists to test and correct genetic disorders while the embryos are outside of the body, before transfer to the uterus. IVF specialist at the University College Hospital London, Dr Paul Serhalat, addressed the issue:

“Of course some people feel uncomfortable when doctors start to interfere with nature and others wonder where it will end. Where does society draw the line-at the colour of a baby’s eyes?” 

As it stands, choosing the sex of a baby is against the law in the UK. However, it is legal in other countries, such as the United States. HFEA states that the use of PGD may only for certain severe or life-threatening disorders at a limited number of clinics. As of 2008, HFEA also banned sex selection for non-medical reasons.

6. The “New Normal” 

Each year, thousands of babies are born with the help of infertility treatment, such as IVF. Like all new technology or scientific advancements, people are often ‘skeptical’ at best, and fearful at worst. Today IVF is a mainstream medical procedure. Traditional couples, same sex couples, and single women all over the world are pursuing the dream of starting a family and for many, IVF is the best solution. To deny any human the possibility to procreate is a moral controversy in itself. 

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John and Marie’s Heartening Journey Through IVF

We never thought it would happen to us. Infertility was “other couple’s problem”-not ours. John and I were in our early thirties, fit, active with absolutely no health problems. We were career driven and had spent the better part of our twenties working hard to achieve some kind of financial security in order to start a family. Yet, after nearly a year and a half of trying to conceive, we had nothing to show besides our sheer disappointment.

Dreams Of Starting A Family

Growing up in a family of five children, I had always pictured myself as the modern day mum with a gaggle of screaming child running around the house, food and paint splattered on the walls and ceiling. John (35) and I (34) met in law school and one of the things that helped solidify our relationship, and later our marriage, was the shared dream of having a big family. John, like myself, came from a large family (the oldest of four boys) and becoming a father had always felt like part of his destiny. We were used to working hard at school and in our firms, but starting a family had always seemed like something that would come easy, and naturally when the time was right. Neither of us could have imagined that infertility would soon become one of the most challenging, exhausting, yet rewarding journeys of our life.

Our infertility journey began in Cardiff, Wales, were John and I lived and worked at the time. We first visited our general practitioner and he recommended we visit a fertility specialist in town and begin discussing our options. John and I knew from the start that we might not be able to rely upon our national healthcare system, NHS, to help fund our treatment. One year prior, friends of ours (both 34 at the time) were approved for IVF treatment under NHS, but were only covered for two full cycles and placed on an 8 month waiting list due to a lack of approved Welsh clinics. Even for women under the age of 35, it may take up to 3-4, sometimes 5-6 full cycles of IVF until successful. After two unsuccessful cycles they ended up seeking treatment from a private clinic in London, where each round cost north of £6,000, and this did not include the initial consultation, necessary STD testing or hormone stimulation medication.

The NHS state that around 32.2% of IVF treatments for women aged 35 or under result in live births, this percentage declines with the age of the woman being treated, by the time a woman is 44 there is just a 1.9% chance of success.

Eventually John and I were approved under NHS and put on a 6 month waiting list. In the meantime, I joined numerous online forums, investigated clinics, and read every infertility book I could get my hands on. It was amazing how quickly my life became consumed with the topic of infertility. John used to tease me about the ridiculous amount of knowledge I had about IVF, even before our first treatment, but I think we both knew my information obsession was a distraction from my fear of maybe never becoming a mother.

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We we finally began our first treatment cycle at a clinic in Wales where our physician explained that the case of our infertility was due to contributing factors- from both John and myself. For women, with each passing year of ovulation the number and quality of available eggs diminish. By age 30, the chances of having a baby begins to decrease by 3-5% each year. After age 40, fertility reduces to an even greater extent. After a semen analysis, it was also revealed that John had a below average sperm count- likely due to environmental factors such as “gender-bending” chemicals and or other lifestyle influences.

We proceeded with the first cycle, and our physician was able to extract several healthy embryo to be fertilized and transferred. At the time, and according to other IVF patients I’d spoken with, it’s common to go into your first cycle with an “all-or-nothing” mentality. Any fertility specialist worth their salt will tell you that 3 or more full IVF cycles may be required before becoming pregnant, but this is easy to forget when you’re in the physical, emotional midst of it all.

When the cycle was complete, John and I waited the necessary two weeks before taking an at home pregnancy test. The results? Negative.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I was crushed, but John encouraged me to stay positive and that we’d keep trying. Typically after the first cycle it is possible to begin a second cycle after one or two complete menstrual cycles, however, with the long wait times we knew that time was not in our favor be staying in the UK. That is when I hopped back on the web and started to do some research. It was time for a new plan.

Within days I had posted on every IVF discussion board I could find, joined online support groups and exchanged dozens of emails with other patients in search of a better solution. To my surprise, an overwhelming majority recommended I look at clinics abroad. I was not convinced. Surely people were going abroad for lower prices, but didn’t this mean quality would suffer? Luckily many other former patients (many of which are now happy parents) had this same concern in the beginning. A woman named Ava from Germany, who became an IVF pen pal of sorts, wrote me the following:

“Don’t feel alone Marie, my husband and I had the same worries about quality and the state of the clinics abroad. We needed something affordable, but also with high standards and success rates. To help ensure that we find a trustworthy clinic we began working with a medical travel facilitator. This changed everything. We were able to compare quotes, explore each clinic and their accreditations, speak with our physician directly and in addition, all of our travel and accommodation was arranged for us. It helped eliminate a lot of stress during the process and we finally felt like we had someone on our side.”

Still hesitant, I didn’t see the harm in reaching out to a medical travel facilitator myself. It didn’t take long until I started to see why Ava was so keen on her discovery. I was immediately provided with quotes, clinic profiles, step-by-step treatment guides, booking dates and travel options. It was full-service, and exactly what any (already stressed and mentally drained) IVF couple could ask for. John was on board and in 3 weeks we were on our first trip to Prague, Czech Republic.

Setting Our Sights Abroad

As soon as we arrived we were greeted at the airport by our medical travel representative. After being escorted to our hotel to check in, John and I had our initial consultation at a state-of-the-art clinic, lasting about 90 minutes. Before leaving Wales, we’d been prepped on what medical documents to bring from our previous IVF treatment, so everything was prepared. Our physician discussed the treatment plan with us in detail, completed the standard testing and administered my hormone stimulating medication. At this time some couples chose to travel home and divide their treatment into two trips, but after the strain John and I’s relationship had been under the past few months, and with the help of our full-service facilitator, we decided to turn this IVF cycle into a mini-holiday.

For about 6 days we enjoyed Prague’s stunning views, cobblestone streets and old world charm, relaxing in our hotel and finally spending some quality time together that didn’t involve appointments and clinic waiting rooms. During this time one ultrasound was performed to monitor the stimulation and assess the outcome.

shutterstock_153759038After 7 days John and I returned to the clinic for the second phase. Once again, this included an embryo retrieval, sperm collections, fertilization period and embryo transfer. Our physician and I agreed to transfer two embryo- a standard number to increase success rates. An hour after the procedure, John and I were free to go. In all, our full-cycle (testing and medication included) cost £1944. With flights and accommodation included our total trip came to about £2900, still £3100 less than our friends in the UK. 

Two weeks after arriving home, John and I finally prepared ourselves for the second pregnancy test. The results: Positive! We were overwhelmed with joy. All the stress of the past two and a half years faded away in an instant and just three months ago we welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world, Jenny.

Since IVF our lives have changed (for the better), and I’ve had a lot of people tell me how “brave” and “strong” John and I are for enduring the IVF process- but I think it’s more than that. IVF isn’t about bravery or strength, but instead at the core, about the unwavering desire to start a family, and the lengths you will go to make your dreams of parenthood a reality. It is a difficult process to undergo as a couple, both physically and emotionally, and we are eternally grateful for our families, the skills and knowledge of our talented physician, the clinic staff for making us comfortable. And above all, we are appreciative for the assistance and excellent service of our medical travel facilitator. Without their help and organization and we would have never connected the dots and made our trip, treatment, and new family possible.

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Why The Infertility Blame Game Is So Last Century

For centuries, woman have been the subject of infertility blame and scrutiny. But is it actually a man’s problem? And seriously- should it matter?

Fertility Of The Gods

Infertility is a tale as old as time. Literally. Difficulty with conception has been a major social and medical fixation throughout human history, dating as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Medicine at the time was steeped in magic, and infertile women had their own fertility god, Nephtys. However, problems conceiving were not considered divine punishment, but an illness that needed to be diagnosed and treated. Women underwent thorough examinations based on the idea that the genital organs were in continuity with the rest of the body. This way of thinking was adopted by many medieval physicians and practised for hundreds of years. Male infertility was also often discussed in ancient medical records.

Centuries later, Jewish medicine would dominate, and embrace a more biblical view from the Old Testament. Religion was science, and sin was believed to be the reason women were not fruitful to “multiply and replenish the earth”. Problems conceiving were considered a divine curse, and male infertility was not recognized. This belief and fear prevailed throughout the Middle Ages.

Coming Of Age

It was not until the Renaissance that magic and the gods were replaced by the first real concepts of modern medicine. Breakthroughs in medicine and science soon resolved many mysteries of the human anatomy and in particular, the female body. By 1562, very primitive forms of artificial insemination emerged as husbands were being advised to put their finger in the vagina after intercourse to promote conception. Although great advancements were being made, infertility was still synonymous with women. It was rare the man was considered as the cause.

During the next several hundred years the world would witness the first “test-tube baby”, born in 1978, and in 1981, the first baby via IVF. Today more than 5 million babies have been born thanks to fertility research and the science of in vitro fertilisation.

Click Here For Your: Full IVF Treatment Guide 

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So Who’s To Blame?

The short answer is- no one. Today nearly 1 in 6 couples need medical help to have a baby. Yet, despite incredible achievements in modern medicine and the knowledge physicians and scientists have about fertility, society as a whole still points the infertility finger in one direction.

Women

Women may face infertility problems for a number of reasons, most notably being age.

Women are born with a finite number of eggs- one to two million to be exact. These eggs are stored in the ovaries and released throughout the reproductive years, usually beginning between the ages of o10-15 years old. With each year of ovulation, the number and quality of eggs diminish. By 30 the chances of having a baby begin to decrease by 3-5% each year. After 40, fertility reduces to an even greater extent. For women who wish to begin a family later in life this can be a major issue, and IVF is often a last resort.

Other leading causes include damage to the fallopian tubes, which can be caused by pelvic infections, endometriosis, and scarring from previous pelvic surgeries. The fallopian tubes carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, and damage may prevent contact between the egg and sperm. Hormones may also be the culprit. Some women experience problems with ovulation and the synchronized hormonal changes which promote the release of an egg from the ovary and the thickening of the uterine wall. The changes simply do not occur.

Men

Of the 1 in 6 couples who need help conceiving, nearly half of them are experience infertility as a result of poor sperm quality. Unlike women, men produce a constant supply of sperm, producing about 1,500 per second. During a single male orgasm, millions of sperm may be released, but only one will successfully fertilise the egg. Thanks to semen analysis, fertility specialists are able to determine a males sperm count, quality and motility. Many young, otherwise healthy, men are being affected and researchers believe it is a combination of diet, lifestyle and “gender-bending” chemicals. In other 1-5% of cases, the cause of male infertility may be due to a blocked duct, obstructing the semen from ejaculating fully.

While the lack of knowledge about male infertility is prevalent throughout society, the frightening part is the ignorance about infertility some healthcare systems continue to demonstrate. Often without hesitation, focus is put on the woman when couples seek help. This could led to many invasive, complex (and costly) fertility treatments.

In an interview with Mail Online, UK couple, Dennis and Kelly Robinson, open up about their experience with the NHS and male infertility.

When Dennis and his wife Kelly, 33, went to their GP after struggling for 18 months to conceive, the doctor referred them to a gynecologist- by definition a specialist in women’s problems, despite the fact Kelly must have been fertile because she already had a son, Edward, from her previous marriage.

Kelly was subjected to half a dozen invasive examinations and tests which continued for more than a year and at one stage left her with a dangerous post-operative infection. Unsurprisingly, they all the showed she was fully fertile.

It was only then that medical attention was directed towards Dennis. Two straightforward and quick tests performed two months apart showed he had a very low sperm count.

The problem with male infertility is not that it exists, but that no one, including some medical professionals, is willing to talk about it. More and more studies also suggest that the male infertility epidemic is not a personal problem, but a major public health crisis.

Sedentary lifestyles and obesity can sabotage the reproductive capacity of men, as well as long-term harm from cigarettes. It’s even been found that by-products from some plastics mimic the effects of female hormones in the male body and are damaging to sperm.

Read More: IVF Explained In 5 Easy Steps

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Can Infertility Be Prevented?

Infertility may occur for a number of reasons, so their is no fool proof way to ensure prevention. However, to protect fertility, specialist strongly encourage both men and women to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes:

  • Avoiding smoking cigarettes and marijuana
  • Avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Avoidong excessive alcohol use
  • Limiting sex partners and using condoms to reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection
  • Stay at a body weight that is close to the ideal for your height

Infertility is not a “woman’s problem”- or a man’s

When partners find themselves having trouble conceiving, the first step is not to point fingers, but to consider both parties. Often times infertility is due to difficulties from both sides. It is necessary to find a medical professional or specialist who promotes testing the fertility of the man and woman before proceeding with any further procedures.

Also, and possibly more import, infertility can be emotionally draining. For couples who have dreamed of starting a family, experiencing infertility problems can be devastating. Furthermore, the testing and treatments themselves can be exhausting and frustrating. Instead of looking to the gods and playing the century old blame game, couples should approach infertility together-as a team.

Having Trouble Getting Pregnant? Talk To A Fertility Specialist Today About Your Options

 

IVF Explained In 5 Easy Steps

Light is finally being shed on the once “hush-hush” infertility conversation, but the IVF process is still relatively unknown.

Not so long ago, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel, coining the term, “test tube baby”. Today, advances in science and technology have long since turned the dream of starting a family into a reality for millions of couples and single parents. To better understand how IVF works we’ve broken it down into five easy steps.

1. Stimulation

After the initial consultation with a physician, which includes a standard STD test, sperm sample, and treatment plan, the woman is given a daily dosage of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This stimulates the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. During a woman’s natural cycle, several eggs develop in the ovaries but only one will reach maturity. Stimulation hormones are used so that several eggs in the ovary develop and mature. (7-10 days)

2. Egg Retrieval

Approximately one week after the first dose of hormone stimulation, a final dose of HCG is given to help promote egg maturity. Once the eggs are sufficiently matured, ovulation is induced and the egg retrieval process is safe to begin. This is generally done under general anesthesia and anywhere from 5-15 eggs may be removed. A fresh sperm sample may also collected from the male it this time. (approx. 30 minutes)

To complete one full IVF cycle it usually takes patients between 15-21 days. If travelling for IVF, patients may consider dividing their treatment into two trips. 

3. Fertilisation In Vitro

After the retrieval, the eggs are immediately taken to a lab where they are introduced to the sperm. Only some will become fertilized, and they will then be left to develop for 1 – 5 days. While waiting, the woman is typically given a special medication (progesterone) to help thicken the lining of the uterus and prepare for the embryo transfer. This is intended to increase chances of an embryo adhering to the uterine wall and developing naturally.(1-5 days)

Are you and your partner thinking about IVF? Check out the full IVF Treatment Guide

4. Embryo Transfer

At last, the embryos are ready to be transferred. It is not uncommon that two embryos be transferred in order to increase the success rate- however this is at the patient and physician’s discretion. Any fertilized embryos that are not used during the transfer can be cryopreserved and used for further transfers (cryo-embryo transfers). An hour after the embryo transfer is complete, the process is complete and the woman may go home. (5-10 minutes) 

5. Pregnancy Test

Two weeks after the embryo transfer, the woman is required to take a pregnancy test. This will reveal if the IVF cycle was successful or not. It is not uncommon that couples go through several cycles of IVF before successfully getting pregnant. Patients are usually asked to wait one or two complete menstrual cycles before beginning another IVF cycle.


Travelling For IVF

As the demand for IVF continues to grow, many patients are looking abroad to schedule their treatments- keeping quality high and costs down. Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Greece have become popular destinations for hopeful couples. If you are thinking about travelling abroad for IVF, it is important to consider the time frame you are working in. If manageable, patients will sometimes split their cycle into two trips. For those travelling further distances, one trip is usually preferred. 

Trip 1: (1-2 Days)

With the help of a medical travel platform, patients are easily put in contact with their clinic and physician, and can go ahead and schedule the initial consultation. During this consultation routine testing, possible sperm sample and treatment plans are completed and the hormone stimulation medication is administered. After this the patient may stay or go home. 

Trip 2: (about 5-6 days) 

After taking the stimulation medication for 7-10 days, the patient will return and prepare for the rest of the cycle. This includes the egg retrieval, sperm sample, fertilisation period and embryo transfer. After the transfer is complete the patient is free to leave. The two week pregnancy test may be taken at home. 

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