Feature 2 (FLO)- How to Keep your IVF Journey Less Medical and More Magical-05

As part of our commitment to supporting women, we’re exploring issues that affect us at every stage of life. That’s why we’ve launched our new series of fertility features on the EDIT. Next up in this series, we get to know Dr Claudia Pastides, general practitioner and medical director at femtech company . More than 20,000 babies are born via in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the UK each year. But for every success, many journeys are grueling and can cloud the excitement of the process. Dr Claudia shares an expert opinion on how to keep your IVF journey less medical and keep the magic alive.

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Dr Claudia Pastides, GP and Medical Director, Flo Health.

Tell us your story – how did you come to work with Flo Health?

“I come from a family of doctors – generations and generations of them – so becoming one felt like the right thing to do!

“After completing my medical training at UCL and becoming a fully qualified GP, I worked both for the NHS and privately in London. Although I enjoyed the variety and felt so privileged to be treating patients, I was always shoehorning in my other passions – whilst balancing three kids under the age of four years old!

“To promote good health for new parents and babies, I was blogging for Babycentre, organising and advertising courses for new parents, actively posting on social media, and trying to creatively talk about all things pregnancy and health. I was offered the medical advisor role at Flo, to help with content creation – have you seen my debut as a ? No? You must go check it out! Just recently, I was promoted to the medical director role where I continue to be knee-deep in the content we produce.”

What do you love most about what you do?

“There is so much health information out there that it can be overwhelming. I believe that there is always a way to make health care information fun, interesting and memorable until the point someone needs it. My goal is to make health information as engaging and valuable as possible, whilst remaining true to science and evidence-based medicine too.

“Working as a medical director at Flo is the culmination of everything I’ve ever loved, all combined in one amazing job. The opportunity to promote health, prevent disease, and support women through innovative health tech and information is a dream. Being part of a team that is both creative and scientific, and explores and pushes women’s health tech ever forward is incredibly exciting.”

Let's get real about IVF. At what stage in their fertility journey do couples or individuals consider IVF and what are their main challenges?

“If you’re trying to conceive, bear in mind that various factors, like age, can shift the timetable alongside a host of lifestyle factors – so it’s important to be proactive, think about what your reproductive goals are, and then advocate for what you want.

“Guidelines state that you should speak to your GP and book a fertility checkup if you’re under 35 and you’ve been trying for a year; six months if you’re over 35; or immediately if you’re 40+ or if you have any past or pre-existing health conditions that might impact your fertility. If you’re at all concerned about your fertility, speak to a healthcare professional.

“For couples who have significant fertility problems and don’t respond to treatment over time or have unexplained infertility where no clear cause is found, solutions like artificial insemination (IUI) and IVF may be recommended. Of course, IUI and IVF are also options for single people and same sex couples. The best course of action is to see a healthcare professional first.”

What are the unexpected surprises IVF can bring? Do any particular stories of wonder or delight come to mind, from individuals you’ve worked with?

“A great thing about being a doctor is that people, wherever you may be – on the plane, in the supermarket queue, at the hairdressers – will often open up and tell you their stories. I’ve heard so many stories during my years working as a doctor and beyond. There’s one I heard recently, while at a conference, that I’d like to share:

“A really wonderful, inspiring woman was telling me about how she experienced ‘secondary infertility’. It’s something that’s rarely spoken about – it’s when someone has a child but then finds they aren’t able to have another. She told me how she had multiple miscarriages and eventually went through IVF, to find she had ‘just one egg’ to use. She spoke of how distraught she was, how low she thought her chances of having the second child she’d dreamed of had become. But she recalled her fertility expert’s words: ‘You only need one egg…’. And low and behold, she went on to have a healthy pregnancy and a baby using that one egg.”

How can someone considering or going through an IVF cycle keep the magic alive during what can be a complex, expensive and difficult process?

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to IVF and everyone’s experience is so unique. As well, each person and situation benefits from different support approaches. So it’s a good idea to explore many different coping mechanisms to find the ones that suit you best. And keep switching it up too – what worked for you in one cycle may not work as well in the next.

“Focusing on what you are able to control is important. For example, in the run up to or when facing that two week wait, really focus on yourself, your relationship and your feelings. Take care of yourself and each other every day in some way that makes you feel good.

“When I was training as a doctor, a consultant once told me: ‘What humans need more than anything is hope.’ And I have carried that with me always. The truth about IVF, and the human body generally, is that despite all the medicine and science we may know, we still don’t know everything and unpredictable things can and will happen.

“Throughout IVF, if you can stay hopeful, you’re more likely to feel happier and keep some of that magic alive. There will be highs and there will be lows, and this is important to accept. For this, counselling is very helpful, so I’d always recommend everyone going through IVF looks into therapy.”

And what can others do – their doctors, healthcare providers, partners, employers and support systems?

“The nuances here are different, but the common thread is breaking the taboo around fertility struggles, and increasing access to accurate information and support. I’m particularly happy to see that employers are beginning to incorporate fertility support into their policies. More and more, companies are starting to build a work culture that doesn’t penalise parents for taking time off, offer sufficient parental leave policies, subsidise the cost of fertility treatments and make it easy for parents to return to work.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“It’s important to remember that every body, every fertility journey and every pregnancy is different. Using an app like to track your periods and symptoms is a first step toward knowing what is normal for you. And as tempting as it is, try to avoid comparing yourself to other couples who are trying to conceive – everyone’s journey is different.

“There are support networks available for those who are finding that their fertility journeys are a bit more complicated, such as the. The is a great website to check out if you want to learn more about infertility treatments and do your research on NHS and private fertility clinics.”

To learn more about Flo Health and how they can support you on your fertility journey, head to .