Our Assisted Conception Unit
Helping you to create your family
The Assisted Conception Unit (ACU) at St Helier Hospital is run by a small, enthusiastic and professional team, offering a very personalised and sensitive service for clients who are having problems conceiving.
Located within the women's health building at St Helier Hospital, Beginnings is at the heart of women’s health with all related expert departments on-hand when needed, including the antenatal clinic, delivery suites and neonatal unit.
Following a referral from your GP or fertility doctor, treatment is available to you in one of two ways: either NHS funded or self-funded. Both options are, of course, subject to the necessary paperwork and tests to confirm the couples' suitability for treatment.
Assisted conception encompasses a wide range of treatments from ovulation induction, timed coitus, Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), Donor Insemination (DI), Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and fertility preservation.
An overview of what happens
The ACU at St Helier has been involved with transport IVF since 1996. Its own on-site laboratory was opened in February 2017 by Professor Lord Robert Winston and Mr RauI Margara. If you are a suitable couple for IVF, your initial consultation will be here at Beginnings. Here you will have the opportunity to discuss issues such as research, freezing of embryos, eggs and sperm, and the embryo transfer itself.
Your follow-up appointment will be with one of the fertility nurses at Beginnings to answer any queries you may have. The fertility nurse will explain the different types of drugs and teach you how to use them.
Reception: 020 8296 3860
Waiting list enquires: 020 8296 3861
Fertility nurses: 020 8296 3862
Embryology: 020 8296 3864
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 7.30am to 5pm (Saturday by appointment only)
IVF involves removing eggs from the woman’s ovaries and fertilising them with sperm in a laboratory. One cycle of IVF takes between four to six weeks to complete, and you will need to take fertility drugs to stimulate your ovaries. During your normal menstrual cycle you release one egg per month. By using fertility drugs to release more eggs, you increase your chance of pregnancy. Eggs are collected under ultrasound guidance, in theatre under either general anaesthetic or sedation (your choice). The eggs are then fertilised in the laboratory. The fertilised eggs are balls of cells called embryos. The number of embryos that are transferred will depend on your age and chance of success. If there are extra embryos they may be suitable to be frozen for future use. You will take a pregnancy test two weeks after egg collection, and your first pregnancy scan will be two weeks later.
Success rates are very much dependant on the age of the woman. Whilst none of us can make ourselves any younger you can improve your chances of success by being a healthy weight before treatment, keeping your alcohol consumption to no more than one unit of alcohol per day and stopping smoking (this includes your partner).
The final step of the IVF process is the embryo transfer; first one of our embryologists checks the embryos to select the healthiest one(s). A speculum (as used in smear tests) is gently placed in the vagina and a small soft plastic tube placed through the cervix into the uterus (there is a cartoon of how IVF works on YouTube).
Intra uterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment that involves directly inserting the sperm into the uterus. It can be performed by using the partner’s sperm or using donor sperm. Couples may decide to use donor sperm if the male partner is not producing any sperm at all or if there is a risk of passing on infection or a genetic condition. Donor insemination allows us to treat single women and same sex couples. It is not always necessary to take fertility drugs to undergo IUI/DI treatment, however fertility drugs are recommended if there are problems with ovulation.
There are two types of funding available to you: either NHS funding or self-funding.
The clinical commissioning group (CCG) where your GP is based is responsible for your NHS healthcare costs. Each CCG receives limited funds from central government, which means that each CCG has to set its own priorities.
Some CCGs do fund IVF, but usually to a limited extent. Others do not fund IVF at all. The CCGs set their own criteria for treatment to which Beginnings must adhere. If you live within the Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth area and are registered with a GP, you may be eligible for NHS-funded treatment, provided you meet their eligibility criteria.
You may wish to fund your own treatment if you are not eligible for NHS funding.
We describe the treatment as ‘self-funded’ rather than ‘private’ because the treatment is exactly the same as for patients funded by the NHS. The charges we make are non-profit-making, ie they are at cost price. All income from self-funded patients is put back into the IVF programme.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) provide clear and impartial information to all affected by fertility treatment. They are the UK government independent regulator overseeing fertility treatment and research.
HFEA website: www.hfea.gov.uk.
Having a child is a major life event for any individual or couple. When it proves difficult to achieve and requires some form of medical intervention people can experience a huge range of challenging emotions. Throughout the treatment process there is stress and uncertainty, and a host of unwanted feelings that can be hard to cope with. There can also be disappointment and loss at the end of the process if it does not result in pregnancy and a baby, and also, should no further options be available, other alternatives which may include life without a longed for family. All kinds of relationships, in addition to your partnership, can be strained and many aspects of your life are affected through these processes. Counselling also offers the chance to talk through decisions and find strategies for managing strong and sometimes confusing feelings.
We try our best to help you with any problems or questions you may have at any time before, during or after your treatment. If there is a particular member of the ACU staff you feel able to talk to, please approach them directly.
Sessions are conducted in a safe, quiet and private room in confidence either on site at St Helier ACU, by skype or at the counsellor's practice. Individuals and couples are welcome and your needs will be discussed by telephone prior to meeting. Each counselling session lasts for 60 minutes.
In the case of receiving or donating gametes, talking through legal implications or requirements, with an experienced counsellor is considered essential for informed consent. All patients using donor gametes MUST attend an implications counselling session.
- Self funding patients should contact our trained independent counsellor directly to arrange your session with the counsellor. Payment will be made directly to the counsellor.
- NHS funded patients are entitled to one counselling session. Should you require additional sessions they would be at your own expense.
St Helier ACU Counsellors
Jacqui Feld MSC MBACP (Senior Accred) AMBICA
Sandra Hewett MBACP (Accred), BA (Hons), FdA counselling, MBICA
Meet the consultants
Mrs Carolyn Croucher MBBS DFFP FRCOG
Mrs Croucher became a consultant at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in 2001 with a special interest in reproductive medicine. She is widely published and is currently our Person Responsible to the HFEA and Clinical Director for Gynaecology at Epsom and St Helier.
Miss Christina Ding MBBS DFFP MRCOG
Miss Ding was appointed as a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at St Helier in 2010, Miss Ding is an RCOG accredited sub specialist in reproductive medicine. She has published widely in international journals and has a research interest in ‘Fertility Preservation’.
Miss Krithiga Ilangovan MBBS, MD, MRCOG
Miss Ilangovan was appointed as Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at St Helier in 2014 with special interest in reproductive medicine.
Mr Stephen Gordon MBBS BSc FRCS
Mr Gordon was appointed as Consultant at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in 2008 and runs a specific male fertility clinic seeing men from throughout South-West London and Surrey.
Our fertility nurses
The fertility nurses are here to support you through your treatment cycle. We will guide you through completing your consent forms and help answer any questions that can arise from them; some of the forms can be a little confusing.
We will assist you in your drug regime and teach you how to self-inject or teach your partner to inject you. We understand this can sound a little daunting but please don’t worry; it’s not as scary as it seems!
We are here to answer any queries you may have along the way, nothing is a ‘silly question’ we would rather you ask and put your mind at rest and keep your anxiety levels as low as possible whilst going through your treatment cycle.
The laboratory team will guide you through the IVF process in terms of your eggs, sperm and embryos. We will keep you informed on the number of eggs we collect, the quality of the sperm, the development of your embryos after IVF or ICSI treatment and the storage of your samples.
Our brand new laboratory meets all high standards of patient care, quality and safety set by the HFEA. Our laboratory also boasts an RI witness system that electronically monitors each stage of your egg, sperm and embryo’s journey to act as a safeguard for both clinic and patient reassurance.
We understand that your IVF journey can be very daunting with a lot of information to absorb; we are here to help and will explain our procedures to you as clearly as possible. If you have any questions regarding your eggs, sperm or embryos the laboratory team are always here to help you.