Exclusive Interview: IVF Fertility Specialist Dr. Venkat Of Harley Street Fertility Clinic London

Dr. Venkat has over 20 years of experience but was a well-practiced obgyn before changing direction in her career. Since then, Dr. Venkat has become a well-respected peer in her field. She regularly speaks at conferences and has been published in many peer-reviewed articles. Keeping reading to learn about her personalized practice where she focuses on the woman, her needs, and wellbeing.

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BabyGaga (BG): Please take a moment to tell us a bit about your background. How did you get to where you are today?

Dr. Geetha Venkat (DV): I was an Obstetrician & Gynaecologist to start with and then moved on to Fertility Management. I worked in three high profile fertility clinic in the Harley Street medical area in London for 15 years. I gained experience in how best to manage a patient and offer fertility services. I was fortunate to be able to absorb the best practices from each clinic where I worked before setting up my own clinic. The aim of Harley Street Fertility Clinic is to offer the best care to the patients; we treat them as individuals and not a number. We tailor each treatment according to the needs of the individual case in order to maximize their chance of success.

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BG: Why have you dedicated your career to fertility and helping women have babies?

DV: When I worked in general Obstetrics & Gynaecology, I used to deliver babies by Caesarean section, forceps and so on. I used to get so excited about being able to bring life into this world. Meanwhile, the opportunity arose for me to work in fertility, a field in which I started seeing women who were desperate for babies. Some couples I have seen have been trying for over ten or even fifteen years without any luck. It was so sad to see such cases. When they were able to have a baby using IVF treatment, their happiness knew no bounds and it changed their lives. Seeing all these cases, I became passionate about helping women, it became my life. I do not consider this a job, it is my life!

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BG: What is the single most important thing a woman should know when first trying to get pregnant?DV: There are many factors when it comes to trying to get pregnant that women, and their partners, need to consider. While many people say they weren’t ready for a baby if you are seriously thinking about having a child, stop and ask yourself if this is what you really want and is it the right time? Being a parent is a huge responsibility and will change your life, so I would say, think about it and be as ready as you can. It is a good idea to have a fertility check-up for both partners to know everything is ok before trying.

BG: Are there any simple things that can be done to make yourself more fertile?DV: Making healthy lifestyle changes can help increase your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy baby. Caffeine, cigarettes and late nights will not do you any favors and while fast food and wine might taste great, they offer little nutrition, so swap for water, fruits, and vegetables and get lots of rest. It is also worth checking with your doctor about any medication you are taking as these can have implications when it comes to conceiving and as a rule of thumb, taking good care of yourself is really important. 

BG: At what age does a woman have the highest rate of fertility?DV: A woman's age is the most important factor affecting her fertility and her chances of having a baby. It is easier for women under 35 to get pregnant, and really the younger you are when you try, the easier it can be to conceive naturally. We know that this time frame isn’t always possible due to careers, not meeting the right partner, savings and a desire to travel, but we do suggest that women think about their fertility before their early thirties, because after that, it does start to get harder. If they are not ready to start a family at that time they could consider preserving their fertility by freezing their eggs.

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BG: What are the most common fertility issues couples face when trying for a baby? Are there any easy fixes?

DV: I don’t think you can think of anything to do with your health as a quick fix, and fertility is no different. No matter how healthy you are, or what age you are, sometimes it is difficult to get pregnant and this is a really hard thing for people to come to terms with. Looking after yourself, eating a balanced diet and cutting out cigarettes, alcohol and recreational drugs is a good starting point. Taking exercise is a positive step forward and something you can do as a couple to both get healthy and remain close. You also need plenty of rest, a decent night’s sleep and keep stress to a minimum. Work with your medical team to see why pregnancy isn’t happening and if they give you advice, take it and follow what they say.

BG: How big of a role does stress play when conceiving?DV: Like so many things in life, stress can play a massive part in not conceiving. While it is impossible to eradicate all elements of stress in your life, it is important to try to keep things as calm and relaxed as you can. Stress can increase the secretion o the hormone ‘prolactin’, which can interfere with ovulation and implantation.High powered jobs, volatile relationships, family demands and money pressures can all add stress to your life, so look at where you can make small changes that could have positive implications for your wellbeing across the board.

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BG: When do you recommend a couple seeks medical attention?DV: We would always suggest seeing your doctor if you think you have anything to be worried about, even before you start trying for a baby. Be it weight, medication or something like endometriosis or PCOS, it is worth making sure you are as healthy as possible before trying for a baby and knowing things are OK, or where to make changes as this can be really helpful and reassuring. After this, if you have been having unprotected sex for six months and nothing is happening, then go and see your doctor and get some help and support. If you are over 40 then you should seek medical advice straight away. There is nothing harder that battling on ahead, alone, so get the advice you need and take it from there.

BG: How does a visit to a fertility clinic begin? What needs to be done first?DV: I would suggest that people really do their research when it comes to fertility clinics. Ask family and friends, check out their websites and client comments as well as their social media feeds and talk to your regular doctor. Look at the practical aspects too: How easy is it for you to get to the clinic if you have to go to multiple appointments? What are their opening hours and does this work for you? What doctor will you see during treatment? Will it always be the same doctor? Do they offer all the services on site or will you have to go elsewhere for tests or procedures? Think about what is important to you. 

READ MORE: IUI Vs. IVF: The Pros And Cons Of Each Fertility Treatment

BG: What is the most common treatment done at your clinic?

DV: Our most common treatment is IVF. This is primarily because we are a specialist clinic and most of our patients are older or have had multiple failed attempts of treatment elsewhere.

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BG: What's the typical success rate for IVF treatments? How many treatments do most patients do and/or need?

DV: Typical Live birth rates for IVF, i.e. the percentage of women/couples who successfully give birth following IVF treatment are approximately 40%. Hence, most patients will need more than one attempt in order to be successful. Typically patients will require 2-3 embryo transfers in order to achieve a pregnancy but each case is unique.

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BG: What are some alternative options if IVF fails?

DV: It is difficult to generalize because there are multiple possible causes for IVF to be unsuccessful. It is important that one attempts to identify the cause of failure before looking at remedies. However, the most common cause is egg quality, primarily owing to maternal age, or sperm quality owing to history or lifestyle. Certain treatments can be provided to attempt to improve egg quality but these are not always effective. Similarly, sperm quality can sometimes be overcome by treatment or adjunct procedures such as ICSI or surgical retrieval of sperm.

BG: Fertility treatments are widely known to be expensive, is there any financial help available?

DV: In the UK we do of course have the NHS, so it is worth people looking at what is available and what help can be given. You can also talk to your healthcare provider as well as your fertility clinic who may offer payment plans. At Harley Street Fertility Clinic we are able to offer couples going through treatment the option of a payment plan to help spread the cost.BG: Can you share any insight into being a fertility doctor? How attached do you get in these cases? 

DV: I love my job, well, it is actually more of a vocation and one that I enjoy and am proud of. At Harley Street Fertility Clinic we take great pride in getting to know all of our patients and are very much a part of their journey. From the moment they contact us, to the point of giving birth, and beyond, we get to know them well and for me, that is very important. Yes, there is the science and procedures, but we are invested in their lives and families and there is something incredible about seeing a baby that you have helped to bring into this world. We ask patients to trust us, and in return, we like to be a part of their lives and families for as long as they not only need us but also want us.

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You gave so much insight and knowledge towards a difficult subject for many women. Thank you so much for speaking with us Dr. Venkat!

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