Pregnancy after IVF by Nicole Robinson
This is my story. It’s not simple or straightforward. But then thinking about it whose is?
Let’s start from the beginning. I met my now husband when we were at school, coming up to 13 years ago.
We got married on a gorgeous beach in Turkey in front of our nearest and dearest 3 years ago. It was such a happy, simple time.
Shortly after the wedding and honeymoon, we were ready to start trying for a family. It was something we had both really wanted. We were so exciting at the prospect of becoming parents in the near future, as any innocently minded person would be.
Well, my bubble was burst within the 6 months of us starting to try. I came off the pill and assumed my body would return to normal pretty swiftly. I was wrong. My periods did not return for months! When they did return, I would bleed for around 6 weeks with my whole cycle being about 9/10 weeks long and I was picking up no ovulation. This is a problem if you are trying for a baby, as NO OVULATION = NO BABY.
I decided to try my luck at the GP. Luckily, I saw a lovely doctor in the summer of 2018, who said I was showing signs of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) after some bloods, and a scan, the results were conclusive, I did have PCOS.
At the time my GP also ordered a semen analysis to be done to test Mark's (my husband) sperm too. This first test also showed a low motility rate in his sperm.
The GP referred us to the fertility specialist/gynaecologist at our local hospital for further investigations and to see what else could be done to help us.
I underwent several more tests and Mark also had another semen analysis done 3 months later too, luckily that was all back in order (We believe a change in diet/lifestyle and also taking wellman conception tablets helped with this).
One of the tests I had to have done was called a HSG test, where they check if your fallopian tubes are clear or not. My world came crashing down the day I found out both of my tubes were blocked. They tried to flush them several times, which was not comfortable. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful. I was told by the doctor that day that the only way I would be able to have my own children will be via IVF. That for me was one of the darkest moments in this journey. It’s never what you think will happen to you.
In July 2019 our IVF referral got sent off from our local hospital to the main fertility clinic in which the NHS offer their treatment in the Birmingham area. Birmingham women’s Hospital. Little did I know that place was about to become my second home.
In preparation for my IVF, I lost 2 and a half stone to be in the BMI bracket to be eligible for the NHS funded IVF. On my journey to lose the weight, I fell in love with weight training and fitness, I have now lost just over 4 stone in total. I am so proud of myself, I feel like I put my self in the best possible position I could for my treatment. I believe that exercise truly helped me be able to cope with everything I was going through.
It was a way for me to switch off, and have another thing to work on. Instead of my life being consumed by infertility and IVF, which it so easily does.
I am truly fortunate to live in an area to have NHS funded IVF. As fertility treatment Is a huge postcode lottery. I was eligible for 1 round. Some areas offer up to 3 and others offer non at all. I personally think this is a disgrace. The fact that infertility is a medical condition, that cannot be helped, I can’t believe people are being denied treatment to be able to do one of the things we are on this planet to do!
For those that are unaware what the IVF process is like, I’ll quickly explain as simply as I can.
I had to inject myself with hormones(well actually, My husband, Mark did them) morning and evening, one was to switch off my system to ensure I did not ovulate and to allow the drugs to essentially take over my system and do their job effectively.
The other drug was a follicle stimulating hormone. When you have a “normal” cycle and you ovulate monthly, you will grow and release 1 egg, from one of your ovaries. In IVF, the aim is to stimulate your follicles (this is where the eggs grow) to grow multiple eggs at once. It can get pretty uncomfortable by the time you have several large follicles on each ovary. Weighing you down like golf balls.
Whilst injecting these hormones, you have to go into the clinic every few days to have scans so they can monitor your progress and know when the optimum time is for you to inject the last trigger shot which matures all of the eggs to where they would normally be at the time you ovulate. But in IVF we have the eggs collected during an operation, known as egg collection. You are sometimes put under heavy sedation, you don’t feel or remember anything or via general anaesthetic, that’s what I had. Best nap I’d had in ages.
Whilst you’re under, your partner will be off having a whale of a time doing his business into a cup, ready to fertilise the eggs that have just been collected from you. When the egg has been fertilised with the sperm, most of the time people will call it an embryo. Looked after by an amazing team of embryologists. They will make sure the embryo is growing as it should. Some people then have that embryo transferred back within 5 days of the egg collection. This is called a fresh embryo transfer.
I, myself had to freeze my embryos for a few months to allow my body to recover after the egg collection procedure, as I had 18 eggs collected in December 2019, I was at risk of what they call OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome) This is one of the joys of PCOS. To be honest I was thankful to have that time to allow my body to recover. As on day 5, my vagina was still pretty sore.
I went back in in February 2020 to start the process to have my Frozen Embryo Transfer. I had the consultation where we signed all the paperwork, I had an injection to shut down my system, and I had been on the drugs for 8 days, I was 1 week away from my transfer when COVID19 hit and cancelled my treatment. Just like that I had to stop my drugs (which was horrendous, withdrawal from them was not fun) and I had to just wait. It was a “how long is a piece of string” scenario. Nobody had any idea how long the virus would be around foror when we would be able to resume treatment. We were in purgatory. It was the worst time.
We campaigned to raise awareness that fertility treatment had been cancelled. Even though on the news, all we heard was there was about to be a baby boom due to this lock down and everyone being at home with their partners. It was hard to hear as someone with infertility issues.
I appreciate everything the NHS does for us, and I was happy that our fertility nurses were able to be reallocated to help in the crisis. But like I said as someone that was just sat here in purgatory. Like the thousands of other people in my situation, we were lost.
In April, there was an announcement to say clinics could apply to reopen in May. The infertility community were overjoyed! But as time went on, I had not heard anything from my clinic, There were rumours going on that they needed building work to meet the criteria set by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation & Embryology Association, the governing body for fertility treatment in the UK) at one point we were told they would be restarting treatment with the older patients first, I was 1 week from transfer and the thought of being put at the bottom of the pile was so upsetting.
After much deliberation in June 2020, Mark and I looked in to moving our embryos from Birmingham women’s hospital to a private clinic, as they were already up and running. Obviously, the private sector had a little more incentive to start than the NHS. Which was fair, it’s all business to them at the end of the day. As a business person myself, this was understandable. Business is business but it’s just so hard when it’s peoples lives and futures that are hanging in the unknown, including my own.
I was all ready to give up on my NHS round to finally get my chance at becoming a Momma elsewhere, I was prepared to do ANYTHING at this point. I felt desperate. I felt like I needed to do what ever was in my power to get this show on the road. But right at that moment I ended up speaking to someone that the Women’s Hospital who seemed to actually know what was going on. He assured me, that I am at the top of the list due to my treatment being cancelled. And that they had applied to the HFEA to reopen. They were hoping to be restarting treatment within the following 2 weeks. This seemed to be my little beacon of light in such a dark and confusing time. We decided to ride out what we had started at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital.
On the 25th July 2020. I had my little embryo transferred back into my uterus. I had to attend this appointment on my own which was a little upsetting, but like I said, by this time Mark and I just wanted to get it done, so if I had to do it alone to get it done, so be it.
We went out for Pizza following the transfer, I was PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) I was in the dreaded two week wait. This is the time after transfer or ovulation if you’retrying to conceive naturally where you’re in limbo again. Just waiting to take a test or see if your period shows up.
For me I just wanted to keep busy. I stopped everything you shouldn’t have when you’re pregnant like sushi/raw fish, undercooked red meat, alcohol, caffeine. I did what I could to stay positive and busy in this time. We had booked a little staycation in the middle of the wait. We stayed in a gorgeous Shepherds Hut in Milford On Sea. It was just the break we needed to get away from all the “how are you feeling” questions and just to keep us busy. A change of scenery is always good for the soul I believe, especially if it’s by the seaside.
2 days before our official test day that our hospital has given us, when we were still in the Shepherds Hut, we decided to test. It was 9DP5DT (9 days past 5 day transfer) The day prior we scrambled around the few pharmacies that were still open on a Sunday afternoon, trying to find a pregnancy test with pink dye. We didn’t bring our tests with us as we assumed we would wait until we got home to test.
At about 6am on Monday 3rd August 2020 I did the test. We flipped it over together and saw those magical 2 pink lines. I was overjoyed! There were many tears, mostly mine. I could not believe my luck! It had worked. After the round taking 10 months to complete, I was one of the lucky ones (in the infertility community) that had flipped the coin and it landed the right way up for us!
The chances of becoming pregnant from a round of IVF is between 20-50%. Those are not great odds. But we all take the gamble. Because we have to. If we want children and IVF is our only option, we have to do it.
We filmed our reactions, see the video here on my YouTube Channel.
We drove home that day, thinking of the ways we could surprise our families and friends. IVF generally takes the surprise element away from you in announcing your pregnancy. We wanted to take back the power. Our family and friends assumed we wouldn’t be testing until the Saturday, that would have been a full 2 weeks from transfer. So when we told them through the course of that week that the treatment had been successful and we were finally pregnant, they were so surprised, and obviously thrilled for us all! We also managed to catch their reactions too, keep an eye at the end of the pregnancy test video for that.
Since the test, life has been a mixture of the torturous 3 weeks waiting for our viability scan. I had one booked in at the Women’s Hospital, but Mark wouldn’t be allowed to come in. So, we booked a private one for a few days prior. This was the best thing we could have done in my opinion. I wanted to be with Mark when I found out if the pregnancy was viable and in the right place or not. I couldn’t imagine that moment without him. As we went to a private clinic too, after the lovely lady confirmed the pregnancy was there and everything was OK, She showed us the heartbeat, and also put the sound on too for us to hear it. What a moment that was. It made it feel so real. Until that moment I had been finding it so hard to believe it was real and this was actually happening to me! I have so many unfortunate things happen to me, I couldn’t comprehend, something finally was going right for a change.
I am currently 9 weeks pregnant. I am sharing my journey throughout, openly and honestly. I want the world to have the opportunity to see the taboos like infertility and the first trimester. The things that are often not spoken about. I don’t really know why that is the case. I understand there can be this stigma of shame surrounding infertility issues. But I wanted to use my voice and my platforms to raise awareness to the fact, INFERTILITY DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. It can literally happen to ANYBODY.
Also, the first trimester is sometimes kept secret in case you have a miscarriage. In my opinion I would want to be surrounded and supported by my family and friends if I had a miscarriage. Not locked away to deal with that in secret. I totally understand that some people are more private than me. But I am an open book. It works for me to be this way. Not to mention how bloody hard the first trimester is, to deal with that alone. Pretending to not be exhausted, and nauseous is a whole other level of acting!
There is so little education surrounding the subject, so naturally people back away from talking about it. Especially with family and friends as unless they have been through it themselves, you will have to explain every single thing to them, and they may come back with unhelpful comments.
I believe if we were taught at school about having babies, and what happens if you want a baby and you struggle to conceive more, so we knew it was a thing that can happen. Rather than making girls in particular, fear that they WILL get pregnant as soon as they have sex with a boy, so they should go on the pill. Without being told all of the other risks and side effects in full. I am totally aware that protection is so important, but I also believe proper education regarding tracking our cycles more naturally and listening to our body is so important. From the age of 15 my hormones were masked by the pill. I may have known about my PCOS so many years earlier if I was taught more about my cycles in more depth.
For so many years I assumed contraception was super safe for us, as you are taught about it from a young age and offered to go on it as soon as you are sexually active. My opinion is that throughout the 10 years I was on contraceptives (I was on the pill, injection and implant at various times over a course of 10 years) I truly believe this played a part in my fertility issues. I have had no explanation as to why my tubes are blocked. I may never know.
But what I do know Is I won’t be going back on to contraceptives. Even if my tubes were not blocked, I would not go back on hormonal contraceptives. I will encourage anyone to do more research in to the pill/ hormonal contraceptives. And to not be afraid into looking at tracking your cycles naturally. You only have a small fertile window per cycle, and if you know the signs, you can monitor when you can have sex to prevent a pregnancy without interfering with you bodies natural cycle.
I am overjoyed to finally be pregnant. We cannot wait to become parents. But being pregnant following IVF is much tougher than I thought it would be. Even though we have now had the scan and I know my risk of miscarriage is very slim. I just really struggle to believe this is actually happening.
We have been trying for a baby for 3 years. And now it’s finally happening, it feels so unreal. We talk about the baby (we have nicknamed it Pippin at the moment) we talk about the nursery and the names we like. So, in respect it feels real. But when I go into shops and see baby things, I don’t feel ready to buy anything yet. I don’t know when that will change, maybe after 12 weeks? I don’t know.
IVF makes you not hold on to the hope too tightly in case you get let down, again. You prepare to be disappointed. It’s only natural.
Don’t get me wrong I am so so grateful to be in the position, I really do feel like one of the lucky ones. And I’m trying to not let it pass me by and so that I don’t take it for granted because that’s not what I want at all.
I think when I hit that 12 week scan, I may start to feel a little more comfortable in believing this is actually real, and when I see something I like in the shops (which I have done a handful of times now) and put it back, this time it’ll be straight in my basket!
It’s a roller-coaster. I’m ready to get off this ride and start the next one into parenthood.
Infertility will follow me my entire life. Just because I’m pregnant now, the chances are this won’t unblock my tubes and when we want more children in the future, we will have to have IVF again. Like I mentioned previously I have now used up my NHS IVF round, so going forward we will have to pay (thousands of pounds) for a shot at another baby.
Infertility isn’t fun. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I have connected with some incredibly strong people in the community. This is my life, I can’t change it, I’m just rolling with it, riding the highs and lows as they come.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope my story has been helpful to you. We all are on our own paths, I just hope that in sharing my journey I will comfort some, educate others and generally put a smile on your face. Showing that even through you can be going through some dark times, to try and find the positivity and happiness where you can.
I have found an outlet in my social media, but now also in helping other by creating my own positivity cards and IVF milestone cards. These are both available from my Esty shop. I would love for you to check them out HERE.
Love & Light,