Creating life: From fertility to parenthood

Posted on: 5th August, 2016

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

In the first of a three-part series, Dr Mary McCaffrey looks at the factors affecting fertility and the tests that can be carried out by a fertility clinic.

Starting a family is not always straightforward; becoming pregnant does not happen easily for everyone. Approximately 1:6 will experience difficulties in conceiving. There are many reasons why this can happen. Thankfully, modern medicine means that investigations can identify the cause in many cases and treatments can be offered in most cases.

Factors affecting fertility

Ovulation may not occur in about 30 pc of cases of fertility issues.

A woman’s ovaries contain her lifetime supply of eggs when she is a born. This supply of eggs reduces throughout her life. In some women this may happen more quickly than in others. This supply can be affected by surgery on the ovaries such as for cysts or endometriosis, certain medical drugs, for example cancer medications, cigarette smoking or genetic factors.

In recent times we have become more aware of environmental factors such as exposure to toxin and BPAs.

In some circumstances adequate eggs may be present but may not be released each month causing “anovulation” to occur. Hormonal problems such as PCOS may cause this. Equally, being overweight or underweight can affect ovulation. Stress can affect hormones so reflecting on a busy life may be all that is necessary.

Sperm problems can occur and may account for fertility problems in approximately 30 pc of cases.  An inadequate number or quality of sperm can arise due to childhood issues such as undescended testes or mumps.

Adult problems such as previous injuries, cancer or surgery in the male genitals can affect sperm.

Certain medications may impact on sperm quality or numbers.

Lifestyle is now known to have a significant impact on sperm quality. Factors such as cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and the use of cannabis, steroids and bodybuilding substances can all affect male fertility.

The testes are not meant to be exposed to excessive heat. Issues such as keeping mobile phones in trouser pockets, heated car seats, and excessive use of saunas can also be detrimental.

Damage to the fallopian tubes can prevent the egg and sperm meeting thus, fertilisation may not occur. Such damage can occur due to previous pelvic infections such as a complex appenditis or chlamydia/ gonorrhoea.

Gynaecological problems such as fibroids or polyps can interfere with otherwise healthy embryos implanting (latching on) in the womb. Conditions such as endometriosis can cause inflammatory problems in a woman’s pelvis.

However, in about a quarter of cases no reason for failure to conceive is identified. Thankfully, as medical advances occur this situation is becoming less.


Nowadays most tests can be carried out without being admitted to hospital. It is important that both partners are investigated simultaneously as it is not uncommon to encounter situations where both male and female issues arise together. Where possible a Fertility Clinic will endeavour to carry out all investigations quite quickly.

Female blood tests are performed to look Ovarian Reserve and ovulation. The most recent test AMH ( anti mullerian hormone) helps to assess the egg potential for the future. It is no longer an elite test but part of our normal assessment of women’s ovaries.

There is now a wide range of tests to assess the fallopian tubes and womb. This may be a specialist ultrasound scan (hysterosonogram), an X-ray or a laparoscopy and dye test. Where possible we will try to avoid exposing women to X-rays.

In recent years specialist 3D/4D ultrasound is becoming a routine part of fertility investigations as it can identify abnormal shapes of the womb not always seen on regular ultrasound scans. Woman can expect that their scans will be ‘internal’ or transvaginal scans as such scans provide better quality images.

Male fertility is assessed by a semenalysis which assesses sperm numbers and the percentage of sperm moving.

As medicine advances we now offer Sperm DNA Fragmentation testing which assesses potential DNA damage in the sperm; this cannot be assessed on a routine semenalysis.

Complex tests such as Immune bloods/Chicago bloods or endometrial testing are usually only performed in very specific cases such as a past history of failed fertility treatments.

September 2016 – Part Two: First Steps of Fertility Treatments

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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