Fertility and IVF is a topic that’s been at the forefront of My Baba this past year, with Ellie documenting her journey with her husband Jamie in their video diary. What’s been great about the video diary is that we’ve heard from hundreds of readers going through similar journeys, and have been pleased to provide a platform for women and men to voice their experiences. Here’s an account of a fertility journey, written by one of our readers wishing to remain anonymous. For those of you going through the IVF journey, I think you’ll find this story an inspirational read.
It became clear in 2008 that my husband and I needed some help/advice as there was some reason I was not getting pregnant.
At the time I was surrounded by friends with children and a few without but there was no-one openly discussing any fertility problems. Chatting with my sister one day she mentioned a friend who she knew was having similar problems. I met with her and as a result we started on our IVF journey. She recommended Marie Wren at the Lister Hospital and also that I see the most wonderful acupuncturist Justine Hankin. She also recommended we get in touch with Foresight Preconception.
After a meeting with Marie Wren and some investigative work it transpired I had a very low AMH (AMH blood levels are thought to reflect the size of the remaining egg supply – or “ovarian reserve”), slight endometriosis and my husband had sperm with low motility. Marie calculated the percentage chance of successful IVF – it was low and so we talked about possible egg donation from my sister. My sister was happy for this but we decided to try IVF as we were frightened of the emotional complications of egg donation. Marie was happy to try IVF with us and a plan was devised.
A few months of fertility supplements (based on the results of my hair analysis with Foresight), laparoscopy, weekly acupuncture we were ready to start. The Lister Fertility Clinic was so supportive and it was a strange but comforting feeling suddenly being in a room knowing that everyone else around us was in the same position. Two weeks of injections to stimulate my follicles and regular scans resulted in some hopeful looking follicles. It was decided that ICSI would be best for us (where one sperm is injected directly into the egg post collection) and with 3 eggs that were collected, 2 fertilised (on our wedding anniversary). After three days I was back at the hospital having two embryos transferred. On the day after the egg collection I went to a very good friend’s wedding having heard that two eggs had fertilised. It was a very strange but uplifting feeling knowing that there were no eggs inside me and two embryos coming into me in 24 hours!
There was obviously the decision of one or two embryos to be transferred but Marie advised that it would be best to have the two transferred (much research on embryo ‘hand holding’). The long wait for the stick test and it gave the exciting answer we had been hoping to see for so long and then the scan was the next wait. We retuned to the Lister for the first scan and it was confirmed that we had one healthy beating heartbeat. Utter elation and then the next wait, each pang and ping exciting and worrying. In April 2010 we were blessed with the safe arrival of our son. Each stage is a waiting game and it was a roller coaster journey. Obviously the dream was for a baby but once on the journey you realise there are so many mini journeys within the big one. It was total focus on each stage, the anticipation, fear and hope that you would reach the next post, past that and then start on the next mini journey to reach the next post. Coping with negative thoughts whilst trying to remain positive, emotions pulled into an utter tangle compounded by all the hormones I was putting into my body. It was worth it.
October 2011 we returned to the Lister and Marie Wren to try for our second baby. Unfortunately the few eggs that were collected collapsed and there were none to fertilise. Strangely I had never felt as positive during this process as the last. My mother was very unwell with cancer and I think much of my energy was channelled in that direction. There is no question that you need to devote 100% energy to the IVF process and be completely in the right headspace to give yourself the best chance of success. I sadly lost my mother in April 2012 and it knocked me sideways but it was something she said on the day she died that made us determined that we were to try IVF again.
July 2012 – I had lost a little faith in the Lister so did some research and went to another clinic mostly because it showed good results. August 2012 the IVF journey started again but this time it was a very different experience at this clinic. It was like being on a conveyer belt with early mornings standing in a queue for a blood test then waiting for a phone call to find out the dose of drugs to take that day. I could not believe the concoction of drugs I had to take but went with it, anything to see the double line on the stick. I got pregnant and after daily scans picked up a weakening heart beat and more drugs the baby died at 9 weeks. I was then left to sort it out with little support and 2 days later was having a D&C. The clinic clearly get results but the mental and financial cost of the process was far greater than compared to the Lister.
February 2013 I returned to Marie Wren at the Lister with my tail between my legs asking for her help.
She asked why we had gone to the other clinic and I told her it was because of the results they posted. She explained to me that results are what people want to see but clinics have ways of getting those. In the case of this clinic, they will not offer IVF treatment to a woman with an FSH below a certain level, so increasing their chances of success. AMH levels cannot be altered but with a change in diet and lifestyle you can improve your FSH. FSH is essentially the quality of the egg (which deteriorates with age and hence the greater chance of miscarriage) and AMH is your egg reserve counter. My AMH was greatly reduced from when we had met in 2008 and therefore my chances of success, but she was happy to go ahead and put together an IVF treatment plan. I was on a much higher dose of drugs, and I found the process a lot harder this time but the team at the Lister are incredible. With only two more days of fertility injections and one follicle looking like it might produce something I was feeling down heartened and the hormonal tears would not stop. Marie was not available so one of the doctors spoke with me and I will never forget his words, ‘you only need one egg to make a baby’. At collection they were amazed to get three viable eggs and again ICSI was decided as the best route for fertilisation. The long 24 hour wait and the following morning we received the exciting news that two eggs had fertilised. It was like deja vu as that day we were off to a wedding (the same as in April 2010). The same doctor did the embryo transfer (there was no question that both embryos were to be transferred) and I had a very positive feeling about the outcome. The day of the stick test felt like a lifetime but the double line was there, if a little faint. A scan a few weeks later showed a strong heartbeat and a due date of Christmas day. In January 2014 our little miracle daughter arrived into this world.
We firmly hung up the IVF boots and every day love and enjoy our two incredible miracles and thank God and Sir Robert Edwards for the wonders we have.
My incredible acupuncturist Justine Hankin saw me through every round of IVF and supported me in the months in between and I can confidently say that I know that her needles, her support, her positivity played a huge part in the wonders we have. It was in my last round of IVF in the latter stage of the treatment that Justine was not able to treat me and so I got in touch with Emma Cannon. I had followed her and got much from her book and being London based was lucky enough to be able to get appointments with her and it was her needles that saw me through the latter part of treatment, collection, post collection and transfer.
We were very open with all friends and family about our need for the help of IVF in order to conceive, and I could not have done it without the support of them. It is very much a journey for ‘the couple’ but at the end of the day it is the women that bears the worry, fear, hope, exhaustion the most and their investment in physical, emotional, mental and dietary requirements that can impact the positive outcome the most. I also feel very strongly that too much emphasis is put on the women to be at fault when conception does not happen easily and too much pressure is put on women to correct the balance to improve the chances of conception; men have a part to play. Blame should not be apportioned, it is unhealthy.
Having spent many hours sitting in the waiting room of both clinics and chatting with other women threw up some incredible stories of the sacrifices couples / women make to hopefully get to the day when they can hold a baby in their arms.
IVF is a massive undertaking and the experience, I know, is different for everyone; the ability to cope with the emotions, the ability to cope with the hormones that are injected, the ability to cope with the effect that those drugs have on the physical appearance of your body, the reaction of your friends and family, the ability to inject oneself. You can read everything, do everything, listen to everything and everyone to prepare yourself for the process and essentially the outcome but ultimately you cannot control those daily feelings of utter fear of a negative outcome. Will the follicles develop, will there be eggs in the follicles, will the egg fertilise, will the embryo take, will we get a healthy baby at the end of the nine months to name but a few but the big ones!
If I were to give anyone the most important things to do to help you get through it they would be:
- don’t fight the hormones, accept you will be emotional and you will possibly blow up (physically and verbally!)
- know that every day you will be fearful of a negative outcome but everyday you need to practice positive visualization (Zita West does a wonderful set of CDs
- put as much of your diary as you can on hold. Really, most things can wait.
- Focus on ‘you’ and your husband / partner needs to know that they need to totally pander to you and accept your crazy moments (there will be a few!)
- Breathe deeply
- LAUGHTER is soooo important. Have your funny friends on tap and the comedy box sets on standby
The main things that I did prior to having IVF (Lister first time round which had a positive result) was:
- no cigarettes or alcohol 2 months prior to stim
- weekly acupuncture months prior but one month prior is enough I am sure
- no caffeine
- positivity and fun
- no fizzy drinks
- changed diet
- High protein diet
- Very early nights and reduced stress levels
- No gym, just light exercise (especially no swimming)
- I also did Foresight hair analysis and nutritional supplements for 6 months prior to first IVF
The Baby Making Bible, Emma Cannon
Fit For Fertility Paperback by Michael Dooley