"Are you OK?" asks the Duchess of Sussex; Donating eggs at 34; And measuring the impact of COVID-19 on fertility treatment outcomes.

Your newsletter on reproductive health.

Thanksgiving 2020 feels like something of an oxymoron. But while this year has been testing (forgive the pun) it has also reinvigorated something for which we can all feel grateful: humanity. Medical and non-medical professionals on the frontlines have shown selfless courage and commitment. As have the fertility doctors, nurses and other staff who adapted fast to keep caring for patients - in person and remotely - through uncertain times. Not forgetting anyone who has taken a moment to ask a simple “are you OK?” to someone struggling (as the Duchess of Sussex this week advocated). If that’s you, thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving to all ELANZINE readers.

Here’s what we’re covering in today’s newsletter:

  • The world reacts to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s personal essay on miscarriage

  • Lena Dunham deemed “patronizing” by people identifying as IVF Warriors

  • Rebooting research into contraception

  • Why one woman decided to donate her eggs aged 34

  • COVID-19 delays reduced IVF success rates, according to new research


What’s New

Writer and HBO star Lena Dunham’s recent essay in Harper’s, “False Labor,” reveals her personal story of infertility after having a hysterectomy. While many welcomed Dunham using her platform to shine a light on endometriosis and infertility, the article also provoked anger and disappointment from some people struggling with infertility. Multiple social media posts and blogs in response called out her portrayal of people undergoing IVF as being “patronizing” and “mocking.” Dunham wrote:

“In their photos—shared early in the morning, after perfunctory ultrasounds, and late at night, after trigger shots or missed periods, always with the hashtag #IVFwarriors—they appear triumphant, running marathons with their estrogen cranked up to ten times the average of an ovulating woman, flushed and flashing pearly teeth; or bereft, bloated with yet another needle in the curled fat of their bellies. They make charm bracelets from the caps of medicine bottles and display the dozens of syringes needed for the project of making a person.” 

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The Duchess of Sussex has revealed she had a miscarriage in July, sharing in a special article for the New York Times that she felt "an almost unbearable grief".

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Scotland has become the first country to commit to providing free period products for all. The legislation to tackle so-called “period poverty” came after a four-year grassroots campaign.

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It has been announced that IVF will be publicly funded in Québec, Canada. Women between the ages of 18 and 40, regardless of whether they already have children, will be eligible for one round of publicly funded IVF. 

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The European Parliament has declared that Poland’s de facto ban on abortion puts women’s lives at risk and will lead to more unsafe abortion.


From The Experts

  • Miscarriage is still taboo – which is why Meghan's words are so powerful. Dr. Zeynep Gurtin / Guardian

  • “Welcome back to global health, America.” An open letter to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The pandemic is deepening existing inequalities, including gender inequality, but the US can help build a more equal world, say women’s health leaders. Roopa Dhatt, Samira Ouedraogo, Sarah Hillware, and Ann Keeling / BMJ Opinion

  • Why we need to reboot contraceptives research — which has been stuck for decades: There is a huge global market, and exciting tools are ready to help develop what women want. Sarah G. Chamberlain et al / Nature

  • Using AI to select human embryos in fertility treatment and improve success rates: An interview with Harvard’s Dr. Hadi Shafiee. The Naked Scientists

  • Trans men’s reproductive health needs more research, says the chief medical officer at the period tracking app Clue. Dr. Lynae Brayboy / Thomson Reuters


From The Patients

  • “I froze my eggs in Europe to save money. Then, the pandemic hit.” What do delays brought on by the coronavirus mean for women who are trying to freeze their eggs or get pregnant? Anna Louie Sussman / Elle

  • The twins born two YEARS apart - a couple welcome a baby girl from an IVF embryo conceived at the same time as their two-year-old son and frozen to use later. Nicole Conner / Mail Online

  • How does it feel to be “cut adrift” after IVF? Half of women who undergo fertility treatment experience PTSD, but most pregnant women are left to suffer alone. Rachel Moss / Huffington Post

  • “I finally became a mother, on my own terms: Why I decided to donate my eggs at the age of 34.” Milly McMahon / Glamour

  • Why Muslim women dealing with infertility need far better support. Sadhbh O’Sullivan / Refinery29


Science & Ethics

  • A delay in starting IVF reduces success rates in all couples, according to a prediction model using data from the UK that estimated the impact of COVID 19 related delays in starting IVF or ICSI in different groups of women. For the first time, researchers have shown the delay resulted in fewer babies in older women and those with a known cause of infertility. However, it had a less detrimental effect on couples with unexplained infertility, some of whom conceive naturally whilst waiting for treatment. The researchers conclude that post COVID 19, clinics planning a phased return to normal clinical services should prioritise older women and those with a known cause of infertility. Siladitya Bhattacharya et al / Online PDF

  • A study has found that gay men are attracted to fertility cues in the same way as straight men. Homosexual men view both highly fertile women and men as more attractive compared to women and men who are less fertile, according to new research. Robin Rinn et al / Personality and Individual Differences

  • IVF and other reproductive technologies do not increase the risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new Dutch study published in the journal of the National Cancer Institute. However, the findings suggest that not bearing children does appear to do so. Mandy Spaan et al / Journal of the National Cancer Institute

    Thought for the day

The actress Jennifer Saunders will discuss ovarian cancer research and launch an appeal for Wellbeing of Women, a non-profit that invests in groundbreaking research in women's health on Sunday 29 November | 13.25 PST; 18.25 EST; 21.25 GMT | BBC Radio 4

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Written by ELANZA Wellness. All things reproductive health, healthtech and patient experience. You can find us elsewhere on Twitter and Instagram.