The culmination of National Fertility Awareness Week in the UK was the Fertility Show at London’s Olympia Exhibition Centre. We were excited to attend, although Amy had reservations about whether there would be anything there that applied to our circumstances.
So, after a long trek there thanks the the District and Circle Underground Lines being out of action (thanks weekend works!) we headed into the centre. We were quickly directed to the second floor, where the show was taking place. When we entered the giant hall, we were unsure where to start, but we eventually developed a plan of how to see the most we could in the time we had. There were many seminars and talks to attend, but we hadn’t booked any this time as we didn’t know what we would have time for. The show was 10am until 6pm and we arrived at about 1pm, so had plenty of time to take a slow mooch between stalls as the show clearly had a lot to offer – or so we thought.
A vast majority of the stalls were for fertility clinics. This is all well and good, but most of them lost interest as soon as we said we weren’t looking at IVF in the near future. I guess these shows are a sales pitch for some clinics and I felt treated as so. One clinic that we found was incredibly friendly was the Herts and Essex Fertility Centre. First they asked if we were trying to conceive. Not who was going to carry or anything else, just “are you both trying to conceive?”. No judgement. We mentioned to them that we weren’t yet looking at IVF, but they invited us along to their open evening anyway. They also spoke to us about how they are pioneering a weight loss programme to help couples (any couples!) be the healthiest that they could be before starting treatment. They also furnished us with free pedometers, promising that 10,000 steps a day will mean a baby at the end. They were a joy to deal with.
We also had a great interaction with the lovely ladies from The Stork Home Conception Aid and although we were fairly clear that we found the apparatus terrifying, they demonstrated it for us and told us about some of the pros and cons. No hard sell, just information. We declined to buy the product, but they sent us away with the leaflet anyway, recommending that we take a look on their site and contact them again if we want to try the product.
The one product that we did purchase was Balance Activ Fertility Spray. We were looking for some kind of fertility gel/spray/lubricant to try this month and this stall was having a half price offer, where the spray was £8 instead of £16, so we snapped that up! They also gave us a feedback form which, if returned to head office, would furnish us with yet another free fertility spray! That’ll keep us stocked up for a few cycles, which is fantastic and great value too.
Other companies that we enjoyed chatting with were Natural Fertility Expert, who send out a fertility related newsletter monthly, Fertility Road Magazine and Progress Educational Trust, who also send out an informative and helpful newspaper and drew us in by complimenting Amy’s hat. I love when people are personal! We had a great chat with the lady manning the European Sperm Bank booth and she confirmed that, should frozen sperm ever become an option for us, they have plenty of blonde haired, blue eyed donors that would allow our child to resemble both me and Amy. They also gave us a hilarious pen that has a window showing sperms transforming into babies via an egg, which cracked me up!
Writing it up, it seems that there were more positives than I first thought. We came out of the show with a very bad taste in our mouths and the man on the Inofolic stand was the first part of the reason. He started out by asking if Amy was my “friend who has come along for moral support?”. Amy replied that no, she was my wife. He said “so friend then.” And carried on with whatever he was talking about. He then asked me what treatment I had had already, and when I told him I was on metformin he asked if I was “over the shits yet?”. Those exact words. He then told me that this product is, basically, better than metformin, He badly explained what PCOS is – which as a sufferer of PCOS I am more than aware of – and then talked no end about the fact that I hadn’t heard of the product because it was new and my GP probably wouldn’t hear about it for the next ten years. THEN he started talking about how insulin makes you want to eat more. He said something along the lines of “You get hungry, you eat, you get hungry, you eat and then, you know *looks me up and down~* well you know what I’m talking about.” Thanks for the reminder that I’m overweight, fella! This complete charmer then went on to talk about how people with PCOS can’t control what they eat and how the condition means that they constantly have to eat. Right, so now I’m fat and eat uncontrollably. Doing great so far. Then, just before we left, he pointed out to Amy “well, she’s not stubbly!” before laughing himself into a stupor. So fat, but not stubbly. All things you need to hear from someone that you’ve never met and who is not your doctor.
One of the things that amused me was that he asked me if metformin had helped. I said I think it has, but I haven’t had bloods done to see whether it has affected the strength of my ovulation. He said “would you be testing for HCG?”. I mean, really?! Don’t talk about things you don’t know about! Progesterone shows ovulation. HCG shows pregnancy. This guy told us he was a drugs rep, and I thought, to be honest, that next time he should probably just stay inside the lab and not be allowed to speak to people. The company would have had an easy customer here, but he never once told me what the product contained and he insulted me not once, not twice, but three times. He single handedly made sure that I never, not in a thousand years, not if it was the last product on earth, would buy this product.
Infertility Network UK was another stand that I felt let us down. As soon as I saw their stand I hot footed it to their bright pink logo, telling Amy about what a great charity they are and how I’ve found so much useful information on their website. They were conducting a little survey entitled something along the lines of “What is the hardest part of infertility?”. Amy said that the options did not apply to us as she would have gone with “lack of emotional support”, but the option was “lack of emotional support from my clinic”. As we are not using a clinic, this didn’t apply to us and Amy suggested that maybe the survey should be more inclusive as not all people suffering with infertility are involved with a clinic. The lady on the stall was disappointingly dismissive and said “oh yeah… I’ll feed it back.” before asking if we had a copy of their “blurb”, whatever that means, and then walking away. I found this quite upsetting as I really had raved about them, but the impression given was that if you’re not with a clinic or seeking clinic treatment, you’re not worth speaking to.
Donor Conception Network had a great little stall that was packed with useful information. They even had children’s books about different families. We had a little read of the “two mummies” story and were disappointed to see that it, like most of the things at this show, involved a clinic. Amy asked if there was an “at home insemination” option, but they were dismissive and said that there wasn’t and it was unlikely there would be. They said we could maybe use the clinic story as a base and have conversations from it, but as far as I am concerned we could buy any book at all and do this. Not useful.
My main issue with the show was that as soon as home insemination was mentioned, a lot of noses were turned up. We weren’t seen as potential customers because of our choice of method. As home insemination is a popular and successful method in this day and age, I think people in the industry should have a little bit of respect for that. But, apart from anything, I don’t understand why clinics find it so easy to dismiss people. Yeah, we don’t need IVF at the moment, but I know from research that many of the clinics also do fertility testing. Why was no one discussing that? This was “The Fertility Show” and not “the IVF show” after all.
My other issue, and this is controversial, was that a lot of people had brought babies. BABIES! TO A FERTILITY SHOW! Talk about a kick right in the ovaries! And I’m not talking about children or toddlers, I’m talking about teeny, tiny babies that make your ovaries hurt and make you feel like you’ve been kicked square in the uterus. “Here’s what I have! Look what I have!” Bitter infertile? Maybe. I just felt that it wasn’t entirely appropriate. One of the clinics had clearly invited ex patients, as the stand was surrounded by pushchairs. Funnily enough, they didn’t have many people stopping to look at what they offered. I don’t know. I just thought it was inappropriate. There were babies at the Alternative Families Show (Our review here) , but that was ok because it was the Alternative FAMILIES Show. It just felt wrong here, and you could tell that we weren’t the only ones who thought so.
I also didn’t enjoy that it was mostly clinics. I thought with it being “The Fertility Show” and not “The Assisted Conception Show” that there might be a prevalence of stalls about how to help yourself get pregnant. Support groups, vitamins, classes, that kind of thing. I saw one yoga class booth and a couple of stands selling vitamins, but nothing that was about how best to prepare your body for pregnancy. I definitely thought the show could have done with more of this. Nowhere (aside from talks) was there any information about fertility friendly food, exercise or anything like that. I also didn’t see any stands about miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or such. I really did think that The Miscarriage Association or Tommy’s The Baby Charity would have been there, but no sign of them. Considering miscarriage is one of the biggest hurdles in the fertility journey, I really felt this was under-represented.
Final verdict? We got some tidbits of useful information and met some lovely people, however I have to say that I would be very unlikely to visit this show again unless we were looking at clinic treatment. It should be renamed “The Assisted Conception Show” or similar, so that people will at least come prepared for the kind of thing that they are signing up for. I left feeling deflated, like a freak of nature thanks to “Inofolic” guy and like I had wasted the money we paid for the tickets and our time too. This would be great for a couple looking at IVF, but I would give it a miss otherwise.