Cheshire’s The Fertility Pharmacy offers support for women undergoing assisted fertility treatment
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Women going through the complicated, often confusing process of IVF and assisted fertility have a new resource to call on, in the shape of Kelly Saynor and Wendey Munroe
Kelly Saynor founded her new business, The Fertility Pharmacy, in January of this year, after learning about the additional complications met by women
‘Like the majority of mums I conceived with no issues at all. Sadly, my sister wasn’t so lucky and told me about the various challenges she was going through. It amazed me how fragmented the whole process was, in particular the process whereby women were prescribed and then had to self-administer the fertility drugs at the start of the programme. I started my career as a paediatric nurse. I had established a company with my husband and we worked with a pharmacy that also worked with IVF clinics. I did a lot of research about this, learning that the processes can vary dramatically from clinic to clinic, with gaps that often left women undergoing assisted fertllity programmes feeling very alone. My friend Wendey comes from a patient-led clinical background, and was well aware of how emotionally challenging and confusing a time this can be, so together we decided to see if there was something we could establish that would smooth the path for women both practically and emotionally.’
Wendey jumps in: ‘It’s been our mission to establish a company that works to remove elements of the stress in the IVF journey and how this journey differs depending on where women live and whether they are going though NHS or private treatment. Every clinic has their own protocol when it comes to the initial stages of the process – the boosting of the woman’s fertility to encourage the body to produce multiple eggs, whether these be for freezing or for IVF.’
Like Kelly, I was lucky enough to conceive naturally. I am quite stunned therefore when Kelly tells me that very often, women are given a single ‘teach session’ about how to self-inject the drugs needed to boost the hormones that trigger the release of multiple eggs.
Karen is quite indignant about it all. ‘They are given, usually, a single session with a nurse, who talks them through how to inject themselves. They are then sometimes handed a box of prescribed drugs and equipment, or sometimes handed a prescription. The injection process can’t until the first day of her next period, so you could be asking women to wait up to five weeks before they start the process at home. It’s very daunting just to be handed a package and told to come back in six weeks. In fact, market research has shown that of all the things women have to deal with during this time, 67% said that their greatest fear was doing that first injection at home, worried that they might make a mistake. If you make mistakes in the delivery of these hormones, your body may not do what the consultant anticipates it will do, and you won’t maximise your fertility, but nobody will know because nobody sees you inject.’
Wendey adds: ‘It was shocking to us that so many ladies were feeling so abandoned.’
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In an effort to catch at least some of these women in a net of reassurance, Wendey and Karen established The Fertility Pharmacy. It’s not a complicated concept, but it could be the difference between feeling alone and anxious and feeling cared-for and supported at a difficult time. In short, The Fertility Pharmacy will not only complete your prescription, but will send you a nurse so that, on that first self-injection occasion, you can be watched, reassured and confident that you are doing it right.
‘We offer this service regardless of whether you are using us for the prescription or not,’ says Kelly. ‘Some clinics prescribe there and then, whereas some send their patients away with the prescription to take to their local pharmacy, or of course to send to us. Regardless, we can send a nurse to your home on that first occasion, and we have possibly the most comprehensive guide to the procedure – what to expect, how to deal with the changes you will experience, etc – you can imagine. We also offer a ‘call us’ service, where we can answer questions or refer the patient to the best support available.’
Interestingly, there are a group of women who truly fall between the cracks in the UK fertility process – those women who choose to go abroad to start their fertility journey.
‘There are quite a lot of women who, usually for financial reasons, choose to use clinics abroad for treatment, and these are truly abandoned once they return to the UK. We are working hard to build better relationships with these clinics, to support the women as far as is possible on their return home. We had one lady recently who had been prescribed a drug that hasn’t been available here for ten years. Our pharmacist was able to suggest an appropriate alternative, which was then re-prescribed by her consultant overseas. We can call the clinics ourselves or the patient can manage it, but either way she knows she’s getting best advice from a UK pharmacy dedicated to her needs. It feels like we’re actually educating clinics out of the UK as to what’s available here, which makes it better for all concerned.’
The team are working closely with clinics in the UK too, some of which already refer their clients direct to Kelly and Wendey.
‘Some clinics prescribe drugs and then supply from in-house, which means that they can put a mark-up on those drugs, costing those patients more, this is something we would like to change! Others direct clients to us, which makes the whole process smoother for both clinic and patient, and others we work with hand-in-hand so that the ladies aren’t even aware that it’s not standard across the industry.
‘Those ladies that are simply handed a prescription and left to get on with it – well, they’re the ladies still falling though the gap that we are trying to plug. We have ladies come to us through online searches, through word-of-mouth, via online forums – word is spreading! It’s important to us that we grow slowly and carefully, however. At the moment, we have nurses available and working across the north, from Birmingham up to the North-East. We also cover some parts of London. We need to be really careful though, not to over-promise – it’s such a complicated and emotive area, we can’t get it wrong, not once.’
The Fertility Pharmacy and Covid-19
Wendey says: “Whilst many of us feel like our lives have been on hold for the past 3 months, for people undergoing fertility treatment, their lives can feel like this permanently so it was a huge relief for those waiting to start treatment that UK clinics were given the go ahead to reopen from 11 May. We have been following Government guidelines at all times and have invested heavily in PPE clothing for our nurses. The safety of our clients and staff is of paramount importance at all times.”
Kelly adds: “ As well as delivering medications directly to patients’ homes, we have actually seen a surge in clients wanting to use the Nurse at Home for blood tests and injection support - because many people just don’t want to leave the house to sit in waiting rooms as, they may be anxious about any illnesses bringing treatment to an abrupt halt. Infertility treatment is a stressful time without adding in the complexities of a global pandemic. Having professional medical staff coming to your home can make the process a little bit easier.
Learn more about The Fertilty Pharmacyon their website.
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