Bourn Hall IVF clinic offers free counselling to patients

Free counselling sessions are to be offered to people with fertility problems at Bourne Hall's two IVF clinics in Cambridge and Colchester.

The support groups are run by people with professional training, including two counsellors who have had fertility problems themselves.

Jackie Stewart, one of the counsellors, had IVF treatment for 10 years before having twins.

She said: "Unless you've been through it, it's very difficult to understand."

She added: "Ten years of fertility treatment is a bit crazy really. You feel like your life is on hold. You have feelings of desperation."

Pioneering clinic

Bourn Hall was the world's first IVF clinic and was established by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards following the birth of the first "test tube baby", Louise Brown, in 1978.

As well as offering private treatment, it has a contract with the East of England Commissioning Group. More than 500 babies have been born in the past two years following this NHS-funded treatment.

In 2009, Bourn Hall took over the Isis Fertility Clinic in Colchester.

The new evening counselling meetings are not only for people undergoing treatment. Those deciding if fertility treatment is the right option for their situation can also attend.

Image caption Trained counsellor Jackie Stewart had IVF treatment for 10 years before the birth of twin daughters

Speakers will give talks on a range of fertility treatments, and there will be informal, patient-led discussions.

Organiser Letty Denham said: "Fertility treatment can be an emotional roller-coaster and puts pressure on relationships.

"We are hoping that the group will give people an opportunity to talk with others who understand what they are going through."

But IVF treatment has low success rates. Figures from the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Authority show that conception rates per cycle range from around 30% for women aged under 35, to 3% for women in their early 40s.

Mrs Stewart said: "Even though I did manage to have the twins, IVF doesn't work for a lot of people and I don't want those people to be forgotten."

The first meeting in Cambridgeshire takes place on 3 November, while the first meeting in Colchester is on 10 November.

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