Contact Foresight before you want to get pregnant.
The low success rates of IVF don't compete with that of a tiny British charity in Goldalming, Surrey, run by a feisty 70-year-old named Belinda Barnes. Foresight, the Association for Preconceptual Care, believes that most infertility stems from poor nutritional status. Her pregnancy preparation programme, which lasts from four to six months, analyses and treats specific individual problems before a couple tries to conceive.
Based on Foresight's experience, except for mechanical problems such as blocked tubes or infertility stemming from chemotherapy, some 70 per cent of people going for IVF actually don't need it (www.foresight-preconception.org.uk).
In 1999, Foresight had a 78.4-per-cent overall success rate, or 846 pregnancies among 1076 couples treated, of whom 1061 had previous fertility or miscarriage problems. There were four cases of malformations and terminations (0.47 per cent) and 28 miscarriages (3.2 per cent), which were confined to women who'd previously miscarried.
Among the minority who do need IVF, Foresight improves a couple's chances of success, with a 43.5 per cent pregnancy rate.
Follow the Foresight programme
* Eat an organic wholefoods diet, with filtered water, no refined carbohydrates, no artificial additives and no microwaved foods. Alcohol, smoking and drugs are prohibited.
* Check your levels of trace minerals and toxic heavy metals, using hair analysis, sweat and blood tests for excess heavy metals, or tests that look for deficiencies of essential trace minerals.
* Correct all deficiencies with vitamin supplements.
* Have both you and your partner checked out for often symptomless genitourinary infections, which cause infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth.
* Get any allergies, poor stomach acid, parasites or other food absorption problems identified and treated.
* Use natural family-planning methods, such as barrier contraception, until you are given the all-clear to start trying for a pregnancy.
If you find you do need IVF, opt for the kinder, gentler approach.
* Use 'natural-cycle treatment', where ovulation is allowed to occur naturally. The chances of having a baby this way are virtually the same as with drug-stimulated treatment, according to a King's College Hospital study in London (Hum Reprod, 2001; 16: 259-62). It's also safer, less stressful, results in fewer multiple births - and cheaper, at around 20 per cent of the current cost of drug-stimulated cycles.
* For blocked tubes, try acupuncture.
* Consider adoption. Don't limit yourself to domestic children or to babies. UK adoption agencies maintain arbitrary anachronistic practices, such as lower age limits, whereas agencies handling adoption of foreign babies are more flexible. (Indeed, Chinese and Russian agencies prefer older parents.) Contact American foreign-adoption law firm Greenberg & Green
berg, 3 Sierks Lane, Roslyn Harbor, New York 33711, USA, for information on American adoption agencies who may work with British couples (see Viewpoint, p 5).