With more women putting off starting a family until well into their 30s, fertility issues and fertility treatments such as IVF, have become hot topics among career-minded women in Australia and elsewhere.
Dr Denise Nesbitt from Hunter IVF (pictured) is a specialist in Gynaecology, Obstetrics, Infertility and IVF. Dr Nesbitt and her colleague at Hunter IVF, Dr Andrew Hedges, are among the most respected fertility specialists in the country – so who better to speak to when wanting to know more about IVF.
Denise studied medicine at the University of NSW before returning to her home town of Newcastle to work in local hospitals and general practice. Recognising a need for a female gynaecologist in the area, Denise then undertook specialist training in obstetrics and gynaecology to become the first female gynaecologist/obstetrician in the Hunter Region of New South Wales.
Before moving to private practice, Denise spent 12 months in Darwin working in indigenous health, including developing the initial stages of the specialist gynaecology clinics now serving remote communities in the Northern Territory.
With the establishment of obstetric services at Newcastle Private Hospital, Denise began working as a fertility specialist and obstetrician in the area. She provides patients with continuing care from conception through pregnancy to the delivery of their baby.
Q: What do you do to investigate and find out what might be causing fertility issues?
“I begin by reviewing the medical history of the female and male partner – assess their general health and how long they have been trying to conceive, the timing and frequency of intercourse, her menstrual cycle, history of pregnancy or recurrent miscarriage, any known genetic conditions in the family and any relevant drug and occupational history that might be causing fertility issues.”
“I provide some simple tips to maximise their chances of conceiving naturally which can include some lifestyle changes such as stop smoking or reducing their Body Mass Index and provide education on the optimum timing for intercourse.”
“I will also conduct some initial tests and investigations which include blood tests for her to find out whether or not she is ovulating and an ultrasound scan to check for fibroids, polyps or ovarian cysts. Blood tests and a semen analysis may be ordered for the men.”
Q: What is the likelihood of a couple achieving their dream for a baby with medical intervention?
“The chances of natural conception for a healthy 25 year old couple is about 20% in any given month. As we age this chance rapidly declines. By the time you reach 45 your chances of getting pregnant naturally are about 2%.”
“Today’s assisted reproductive technology including IVF can increase your chances of falling pregnant. If you are aged 36 – 40 your chance of falling pregnant with IVF is 35%, compared with 10% if trying to conceive naturally.”
“Hunter IVF has a great Pregnancy Predictor tool that can provide you with an indication of your chance of natural conception based on your age and lifestyle in any given month compared to IVF.”
Q: Can you tell us about one of your most memorable clinical experiences as a fertility specialist and what made it memorable for you?
“Having been a GP then Obstetrician and Fertility Specialist, I have had the privilege to work with many women over the years and see them in some of their most vulnerable and elated moments.”
“Some of my most memorable cases are those that remind me of the strength of the human spirit such as when a women who has gone through significant health issues and emotional trauma, finally delivers a healthy baby.”
“Recently one of my patients, who had struggled with infertility and a still birth, went through further fertility treatment and finally delivered a beautiful healthy baby. You support these women all the way through what can be a very difficult and emotional journey and the ultimate reward is being able to deliver that healthy baby and see the joy in their eyes. It is incredibly satisfying to know I’ve helped create that family that they so desperately desired.”
Q: As a mother and busy medical practitioner how do you juggle it all? How many children do you have and what are their ages?
“Years ago we made a conscious decision that I would work under my maiden name so that my family life was kept separate from my work. We wanted our kids to have their own identity that wasn’t linked to me as a local doctor.”
“My husband and I have 4 children – 20 year old twins (a boy and a girl), and two older siblings. Two of my children have been elite athletes as a gymnast and a diver.”
“I have been able to juggle a busy work and family life with the amazing support of my husband. I am also one of nine children myself so I have plenty of family support.”
“While I have always worked, for me the children come first. One of the benefits of working in a small community is that I work very closely with my colleagues and we all support and help each other out so you’re not doing it all on your own.”
Q: What do you do in your down-time to relax?
“Downtime for me is definitely being with the family – but I don’t think any of us would call it downtime. We have always been incredibly busy. That’s just our life. I’ve always been heavily involved with the children and their respective sports. I even had the chance to be an official at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne for Diving.”
For more information visit the Hunter IVF website: http://hunterivf.com.au