August 2015

Dr Nicholas Clark is a fertility specialist and director of Medfem Fertility Clinic, which offers a holistic approach to helping infertile people start a family.

What makes Medfem Fertility Clinic different?
Medfem Fertility Clinic has been helping people build families since 1980. Our specialists are accredited reproductive medicine specialists and have over 100 years of collective experience and are responsible for some of South Africa’s first IVF babies. We are proud to have played a role in bringing more than 16,000 babies into the world.
Our fertility specialists are recognised throughout the world for their ability to achieve pregnancies in a diverse group of patients, many of whom have failed prior fertility treatment cycles.
At Medfem, we offer comprehensive fertility testing and customised fertility treatments. Working closely with our patients, we map out a strategy and infertility treatment plan to achieve the desired outcome for a healthy baby. To help keep treatments on track, each of our specialists cares for our patient’s personal treatment plan themselves. Also, we host weekly patient care meetings to review every protocol plan, ensuring our patients undergo a well-coordinated, well-executed, holistic experience with some of the best success rates achievable.

You specialise in cases where patients have a less than optimal chance of pregnancy, and you provide fertility services for same-sex couples. What are your success rates?
Many patients may have had failed treatments or a complicated path on the way to Medfem often feeling pressured into a specific action. Where alternatives exist we will reassess and optimise with a view to offering a patient centred approach and choice.  Success rates depend on many factors and they reflect the highest achievable in a given scenario when compared with our standard setting peers across the world.
Our success rate with same-sex couples is extremely high. Typically same-sex couples face few if any infertility problems. They are more likely to face problems with finding a clinic who will work with them, as well as social, emotional and legal issues. Medfem has long worked with same-sex couples since we began operating, and our entire team is experienced and focused on helping these people to realise their goal of building a family.

What are your goals for Medfem Fertility Clinic?
We would like to continue to expand our practice to help more people conceive and build their families. One in six couples in South Africa faces some sort of infertility problem.  Many fail to get the information and appropriate management they need. However, our personal touch and holistic approach to treatment is very important to us and providing a caring and comfortable environment for our patients is our priority.
We are also working with SASREG and IFAASA to canvas the medical aid schemes regarding financial support towards infertility treatments. At present infertility is not seen as a PMB and, therefore, many people are denied access to treatment for what is recognised as a disease.
We are also working closely with IFAASA to help create more awareness in the South African community about infertility and the challenges couples face when dealing with it. Infertility still carries a huge stigma in our community which causes enormous social and family problems.

By building awareness of infertility, we hope that more people will seek advice and treatment earlier on which will allow them to build the family they have always dreamed of.

Was there a defining moment when you just knew you wanted to be a physician? Why did you decide to become a fertility specialist?
I became aware of my interest in female health whilst studying medicine. I was exposed to the world of fertility in a pioneering clinic in London where my early interest began.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Educating couples or individuals to address general wellbeing and lifestyle beyond the immediate issue. Acknowledging and nurturing the whole is far more likely to restore balance and result in a favourable long-term outcome. Delivery of a healthy child is the beginning, it is not an endpoint.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Assisting people to achieve their goal. For many this may be the delivery of a healthy baby however for others it may be understanding and acceptance of their state. Serving others in the way we know how is always a privilege and pleasure as well as a fundamental human drive to achieve equilibration.

What would you advise a patient to do first when dealing with a fertility issue?
Once a patient finds out that they are experiencing a challenge with their fertility we encourage them to educate themselves on the diagnosis. Fertility problems are very common, and it is important for patients to know they are not alone. Also, knowledge is power, and an educated patient will gain a great advantage in their pursuit of building their family.

What should patients expect when they first meet with you?
In our experience at Medfem Fertility Clinic, most of our patients have already been through a great deal by the time they see us. We understand and care, which is why our patients can expect highly competent and compassionate care from everyone at Medfem.
During the first appointment, both partners will spend between 30 minutes and 1 hour with one of our fertility specialists.

The first visit is dedicated to an extensive review of the couples medical history, a comprehensive infertility work up and in-depth explanations and answers to all their questions. Reaching a diagnosis is paramount to subsequent success, and as such this consultation is a very important first step in treatment. It is necessary to determine whether the infertility is of male or female cause although commonly a joint picture emerges. It is important for the specialist to know such aspects as how long the couple have been trying to conceive, cycle regularity, fluctuations in weight, previous abdominal surgeries, or a history of hereditary disease. At this consultation we will:

  • Take a detailed history
  • Review any previous tests
  • Do a physical exam
  • Examine a broad range of fertility treatment options with the patient so we can develop a personalised fertility treatment plan that fits best
  • Often arrange blood tests
  • Answer any questions or concerns
  • Order additional testing

Can alternative therapies help infertile people?
There are several alternative therapies that have been shown to improve certain fertility treatment success rates. I believe that a discussion of those and an integrated approach is valuable. Both males and females can benefit greatly from this holistic approach even though it often not well understood or managed efficiently. Structured programmes have been examined in various trials and should form the basis of an evidence based approach.

What do you do outside of work?
I enjoy the company of loved ones two legged and four. I have many interests including horse riding, music and photography.

What is something people might not know about you?
I live primarily to learn new things daily so there is no danger of boredom! Western style horse riding instruction has opened up a new world.  “Ride With Your Mind” as well as the pursuit of improved communication and connection has been truly liberating and thrilling.

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