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Book Review: Fertility and Infertility for Dummies

3 August 2009
By Caroline Gallup
Author:  Making Babies the Hard Way - living with infertility and treatment
Appeared in BioNews 519

Fertility and Infertility for Dummies

By Jill Anthony-Ackery, Dr Gillian Lockwood, Sharon Perkins and Jackie Meyers-Thompson

Published by John Wiley and Sons

ISBN-10: 0470057505, ISBN-13: 978-0470057506

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'Fertility and Infertility for Dummies' by Jill Anthony-Ackery, Dr Gillian Lockwood, Sharon Perkins and Jackie Meyers-Thompson

Fertility and Infertility for Dummies

Dr Gillian Lockwood; Jill Anthony-Ackery; Jackie Meyers-Thompson; Sharon Perkins

Wiley (2007) ISBN 978-0-470-057506

According to the blurb, this book from the well known '...for Dummies' series claims to provide: 'explanations in plain English; 'get in, get out' information; top ten lists and a dash of humour and fun'. By and large it does what it says on the tin. A comprehensive reference book, it is overall well written and carefully thought through. The mix of scientific information, personal experiences and 'Tips' - all indicated by easy to identify symbols - make it easy to use. The four co-authors are honest about the impact of infertility and the process of fertility treatment.

The book is structured using seven sections. Parts 1 and 2 deal with the psychological, social and cultural aspects of planning a family, plus contain useful explanations of male and female biology and fertility. Parts 3-7 take the reader through all the tests and procedures available in fertility treatment and complementary medicine.

Early chapters emphasise the relatively low prospect of success (which is only currently around 30 per cent with IVF, suggesting the reader take time to consider the emotional and financial impact of fertility treatment and the addition of a baby to their lives. Unfortunately the format requires that a comedic 'bomb' with a smoking fuse is the symbol flagging up such sensitive matters as: 'Your child will not and should not be your antidote to a bad job, bad marriage, bad childhood or bad life... A baby will not solve your problems, and such an expectation has a negative impact on your child's emotional development.' Warnings like this appear disingenuous and out of place in a light-hearted reference book – and, since a couple or single parent are likely to experience physical and psychological health checks at any good fertility unit, these aspects might be better dealt with on an individual basis and in a more sensitive setting. The book also attempts to put a cost on the raising of a child - which, to my knowledge, never discouraged any potential parents from trying, making its inclusion a little pointless.

Unfortunately, the information given in the book is sometimes incomplete and contradictory. As one example, when reading the chapter outlining causes and understanding of recurrent miscarriage I would question whether any distraught reader would gain clarity from a paragraph which cautions that sex is not advisable too soon after a D & C (Dilation and Curettage) procedure as it is a: 'surgical procedure (albeit minor) that needs time to heal', whilst also stating that: 'some evidence suggests that women are 'extra fertile' in the period just after a miscarriage and many couples find it very upsetting to not even be allowed to 'try'. You are not risking anything by getting pregnant straight away after a miscarriage, so keep on making love as soon as you feel able to!'.

Sections on seeing your GP or 'Dr Specialist' for the first time are helpful, giving indication of possible questions that could be asked by both patient and doctor. However, it wouldn't be advisable to wait until you've followed all the lifestyle changing advice before seeking medical help. Any couple denying themselves all the red meat, dairy, white flour and processed sugar, whilst trying to add in yoga, acupuncture, multivitamins and Chinese herbs, plus giving up booze and fags, will doubtless not only end up rattling with pills and craving a more varied diet, but also be too exhausted for sex!

Male factor infertility accounts for over 30 per cent of sub-fertility and infertility problems but whilst the chapters dealing with female factor causes are dealt with in a very 'plain English' style, advice on dealing with intimacy and relating to the man in your life, suddenly changes into a writing style that is somewhat coy. Women are encouraged to get our 'chap' to 'check out the troops' - i.e. sperm. This attempt to lighten the tone of the information and help a reader approach sensitive matters with their assumedly embarrassed and resistant partner is no doubt well meant, but comes over as patronising at times.

Despite the emphasis on low success rates for pregnancy, ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) or natural, only one page lists any benefits there may be in remaining childless. The information is scant, possibly because there still isn't a great deal of support for couples not wishing to foster or adopt

This guidebook is great for anyone first entering into this complex and largely elective area of medicine, or as a resource and aide memoire following consultations. What it cannot, nor should not do, is replace individual relationships built with the specialists at your surgery or fertility unit, and it should not be seen as the answer to all questions for all people. Like any resource, it is a tool and all tools need to be used in the right way.

Buy Fertility and Infertility for Dummies from Amazon UK.

Caroline Gallup is author of Making Babies the Hard Way: Living with Infertility and Treatment (buy this book from Amazon UK).

28 November 2011 - by Rachel Lloyd 
'All I want is some bodily fluids, are you really going to begrudge me that?' - 'Donor', the third episode in BBC One's contemporary daytime drama series 'Moving On' tackled issues of infertility, sperm donation, parenthood and the societal expectation on women to become mothers...
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