It was fantastic to meet so many people involved in Assisted Reproductive Technology in Lyon, France when I visited the Federation Francaise d’etude de la Reproduction (FFER) as a guest of Laboratoires Genevrier.
People all over the world seem to be getting excited about the fact that IVF turns 40 this year and this month I visited Africa for the first time enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the Marrakech Fertility Institute in Morocco.
It was a fantastic few days where I appeared at a symposium dressed in Moroccan national costume, which included a tiara!
The IVF specialists attending made a real fuss of me and we celebrated with a massive birthday cake and I learned a few Arabic dances and songs. Our fantastic hosts, Dr Hassam Boudrar and Dr Fouad Bayane invited the media and there were discussions about how clinics are helping so many people overcome fertility issues.
To be on the continent of Africa at events to celebrate the 40 years brought home to me how truly global the impact of the work of Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards had on the world.
When my Mum, Lesley Brown, gave birth to me in 1978 more than 400 letters poured in from all over the world to the hospital where I was born and where I spent the first 12 days of my life while they figured out how to get home past the world’s media.
The vast majority of them were from other women with fertility issues. Some told their own stories of how they wanted to get pregnant; some asking Mum if she could pass on their names to Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe to see if they might be able to have IVF.
Most of all they wanted to reach out to someone else who had been through fertility issues; ask her advice and tell her about their own experiences.
Thankfully today through the internet women can find like-minded people and get the help, support and friendship they need in a much easier way.
The Pineapple Pin is a fantastic idea by website IVF Babble (www.ivfbabble.com) and I am really proud to be supporting the initiative and wear the pin. It helps women realise they are not alone on their fertility journey.
I hope lots of women wear their pin with pride and if you see someone with a pineapple pin tell them you noticed and start that conversation – you never know how much you might be helping someone.
The Autumn Symposium of Nij Barrahus ( www.nijbarrahus.nl ) took me to Holland for the very first time to meet people working in the fertility industry there, including doctors who had worked with Robert Edwards.
There were some fantastic discussions and I also had time for a quick visit to the clinic. My first visit to Holland lasted longer than planned after a problem with flights home meant I spent an extra day in a hotel near Amsterdam Airport!
It caused a few panic stations back home over looking after my two children, but all worked out OK in the end.
Surrogacy has made it possible for so many people to have children and I was fascinated to hear about the work of Surrogacy UK, which is the leading not for profit charity for surrogacy in the UK.
I went to their Autumn Conference and met many couples who have successfully used surrogacy to achieve a family and some of the women who have carried babies for others. Anyone who wants to know more about this aspect of IVF can look here: www.surrogacyuk.org.
I met literally thousands of people who work in fertility clinics all over the world at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine Scientific Congress and Expo is San Antonio, Texas.
Society President Richard Poulson was a great host and the two of us were surprised at the enthusiasm of the audience who rushed the stage after we did a little chat talking about my life.
I don’t know how many people took photos on their mobile phones and I lost count of the number of wonderful stories I heard about how people were inspired to take up a career in embryology as a result of my Mum’s story. It was a fantastic few days and I think my Mum would be amazed at how many people now have jobs in the field of IVF and assisted reproduction.