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Book Review: Smart Guide to Infertility / Infertility - The Facts

19 July 2010
Appeared in BioNews 565

Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality

By Professor Robert F Harrison

Published by Hammersmith Press

ISBN-10: 1905140231, ISBN-13: 978-1905140237

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality' by Professor Robert F Harrison

Infertility: The Facts

By Melanie Davies, Caroline Overton and Lisa Webber

Published by Oxford University Press

ISBN-10: 0199217696, ISBN-13: 978-0199217694

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'Infertility: The Facts' by Melanie Davies, Caroline Overton and Lisa Webber

Reading both of these books from the standpoint of a fertility patient, I now feel fully equipped to take on any challenge infertility may throw my way. That said, I'm not sure I would have felt quite so ready had I only read one of them.

In Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality, Professor Harrison focuses the majority of the book towards the more scientific aspects of infertility. He covers broad ground to ensure readers fully understand their own condition in terms of their biology, the factors that may have contributed and the effects that they may have. He begins with general problems within the uterus or fallopian tubes before exploring endometriosis, adenomyosis and even the effects of stress or sexual dysfunction. This is probably indicative of his decision to aim his writing not only at patients, but at healthcare professionals and medical students; all of whom would certainly benefit from this easy-to-digest scientific explanation. Although providing patients with an informed platform to understand the biological malfunctions preventing their natural conception, Harrison devotes little time to where to turn next.

This is really the forte of Infertility: The Facts in which Davies, Webber and Overton cover the basic science behind infertility before providing a comprehensive outlook of the avenues available following a diagnosis. The authors appear forward-looking and patient-orientated from the onset, offering advice on how to choose a suitable clinic and information on the legal position regarding fertility treatment. The book covers a range of options in depth including intra-uterine insemination (IUI), IVF, gamete donation, surrogacy, adoption and even the reversal of sterilisation/vasectomies - as well as important information on how to cope with pregnancy following treatment.

Both books include sections dedicated to coping with infertility and both attempt to add personal touches to appeal directly to the reader. Harrison adds a personal comment to the end of each chapter providing his own viewpoint on topics ranging from the philosophical beginning of human life to his medical opinion of 'adeonomysis as more of a phenomenon of age than a disease entity' to practical advice on the importance of seeking information. Davies, Webber and Overton add their individual touch using case studies to illustrate the problems of hypothetical patients that readers can hopefully identify with - such as Sameena, who overcomes her worries about ovulation by charting her menstrual cycle. Whilst both useful in their own ways, I feel that both books lack the input of actual patients who have had experiences of various procedures. A small subjective contribution from patients facing similar hurdles to the reader would complete the package.

In terms of writing style and format, Infertility: The Facts stands out. Beginning every chapter with 'Key Points' to summarise the upcoming information instantly makes the overwhelming task of investigating infertility more accessible. This is complemented by the frequent use of 'myth' and 'fact' boxes appearing sporadically to provide deeper insight into commonly held beliefs, question and answer boxes to address frequent queries such as 'how long should it take to get pregnant?' and lists of 'questions to ask your doctor', and 'questions to expect to be asked'. The authors helpfully use small, clearly headed sections to divide large chunks of information into digestible paragraphs. This is broken down even further by the frequent use of photographs to illustrate various procedures and the equipment used along with diagrams to depict everything from how to chart menstrual cycles, to the efficacy of various treatment methods (clomifene (Clomid) treatment and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) injections, for example).

Harrison also dissects Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality into smaller, more manageable chunks intercepted by the odd diagram, however, it is no match to the above. Unfortunately, the overall lack of colour or variation in the format does nothing to combat the daunted feelings of patients embarking on a quest for infertility information. That aside, Harrison's concept of beginning each chapter with a myth to then be refuted, such as 'Infertility is rare and unlikely to happen to me', does present an original, and interesting, starting point.

It is, however, the additional touches and attention to detail that really makes Infertility: The Facts special. The glossary ensures that all technical words appearing throughout are properly explained and understood and the book also provides a list of organisations which supply additional information and support (the Progress Educational Trust is amongst these) and the names and contact details of clinics offering varied treatments such as surrogacyor pre-implantation genetic testing. In Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality, Harrison also provides a list of useful websites along with tips on attaining further knowledge but fails to add a glossary. Harrison's redeeming feature really lies within his in-depth contents page which makes it exceptionally easy to locate relevant sections within the book; a tool very useful for patients looking to find information only pertinent to their own situation.

In summary, I was more impressed by Infertility: The Facts. Davies, Webber and Overton have managed to relay a wealth of key information in a simple and quick to understand manner providing not only an important academic insight, but general support for readers making the crucial decision of how best to progress. However, if you are looking first for a more scientific account of infertility to attain an in-depth understanding of your own biological problems, Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality fits the bill perfectly. As aforementioned, reading both in conjunction really does cover everything you will ever need to know about your situation.

Buy Smart Guide to Infertility: Myths and Reality from Amazon UK, and buy Infertility: The Facts from Amazon UK.

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