A patient's perspective

I am a doctor, 28 years old, but I am also a patient and have sat where you are today; either thinking or embarking on fertility treatment.

You’re in great hands, the team at Complete are brilliant

Firstly you’re in great hands, the team at Complete are brilliant and very supportive (don’t take my word for it there are other endorsers on fertility friends website of you want to check). If you have any questions, they want to help. Please forget the ‘hospital’ systems you have previously been in, you can phone in or just ask – no question is stupid. I asked so many questions and I’m medically trained, so don’t hesitate.

So coming up you are about to get on a rollercoaster: anxieties about tests, baseline scans, injections, 2 week wait, test date (and don’t expect if you get pregnancy it will be any easier I’m sure you’ll be a bit neurotic too). I wanted to offer a few words from my experience to hopefully help along the way, everyone is different, so you’ll probably reflect back after and draw your own conclusions.

Pretests

Blood tests and sperm samples for men are quite straightforward. At some point you may be asked to have a Hycosy (dye test) of your fallopian tubes or an ultrasound scan. For me the Hycosy was uncomfortable, they use the speculum, like a smear test but then put a tiny tube in the womb and shoot dye inside. I remember it lasting about 15 minutes and being glad I took the painkillers before as advised. You may want someone to drive you home afterwards.

Baseline scans

You will get very used to the internal ultrasound scans, they were never painful and after one or two you totally forget about shyness, particularly as the girls are so professional. I went on the fertility chat rooms and we were all experiencing anxieties beforehand “what if there’s a problem and I can’t start” type anxieties, you are not going mad this is normal!

Injections

Everyone dreads this bit, the mixing of the drugs is scary (even more so if you’ve paid thousands for them and every drop is £’s if spilled!), try and follow the instructions and if you’re too confused ask the nurses to show you first time (I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t mind).

The actual injection giving was variable, the needles are small and actually don’t really hurt at all to put in which surprised me! It gave me a new found respect for diabetics who do these 3-4 times a day. Well each time is different: I have had a lot of experience with them now: sometimes it stung, sometimes not. Sometimes it bled, sometimes bruised. There was no pattern I tried it all angle of injection, speed of push, type of drug – it didn’t make a difference. All these reactions are normal so don’t worry if one time it does something very different. The only thing that helped was leaving the needle in for a few seconds after injecting (I got the tip from a diabetic website and I had less bruises doing that).

The best thing about injections is that up until this point you’ll have felt out of control with your fertility system, no pregnancies, nothing happens etc. Whilst not loving the physical action of injecting, it was nice to finally be proactive in trying to make things work (there is a bright side!)

Hormones

You see it with us (women) anyway but everyone reacts differently to hormones or lack of them. You are suddenly working your body to reproduce harder than ever before, for me it was very tiring. Even if the drugs don’t make you emotional there is worry related to the outcome and patience can be shorter than before.

Husbands/wives/partners; please be aware the person you know and love is still in there, they just need extra love and support. Patients; you are not loosing your mind, depressed, going mad, you are going through fertility treatment and you’ll hopefully have a baby to show for the difficulties (if you get any you may not) at the end – hang in there! If you need support talk to the counsellor at Complete, have a look at support groups, I found it helpful, others may not but might be worth a look. And spare a thought for your other half, they might not have the physical stress, but they find it hard seeing us having to do the lion’s share of fertility treatment and they have the same worries about families too.

Oh and one last thing if you see other pregnant women and babies everywhere all of a sudden, it is nature playing a nasty trick, it’s just we’re more aware – deal with it as best you can, and if you find it too difficult being around pregnant friends or friend’s children, it’ll only be transient – you’re not a bad person!

Egg collection

I was terrified of the ‘sedation’, in fact it was quick and was as good in my mind as an anaesthetic (or what I imagine one is like). Everything was explained well before hand, and I was in and out before I knew it. I was lucky and never had much pain afterwards, but it did feel odd sitting for a few days afterwards. But it was nice to feel things were moving along.

Fertilisation?

Next worry – did they/how many were fertilised. Try not to think about it! The call comes the next day and like every step, I’m sure you’ll worry too. The golden rule is remember it only takes one! Hold on to that thought throughout.

Embryo transfer

Took 15 minutes and was fairly painless. You don’t feel much at all and you’re awake throughout. There are all sorts of rumours that fly around the internet; you must lie down, no (or some even say you should have!) intercourse, eating or avoiding pineapples, no exercise for two weeks afterwards. In my neurosis I have researched a lot of medical articles (rather than just Google) and I can safely say everything ‘Complete Fertility’ says has evidence for it, and the other bits above don’t. If you find any convincing new evidence I’m sure they’d be interested to see it.

Two week wait

No injections, but this was mental torture. You will analyse every twitch, twinge, bowel movement, cramp, your appetite, your mood. Simple advice is try to stay happy and positive, it’s hard. If you don’t keep smiling throughout, don’t panic, just be as happy as you can. Eat good healthy wholesome food, love your body during that time and focus your energy on that.

Women have become pregnant who have had period pains, spotting infections, you name it. It’s hard to interpret anything during that time, you are still clearing the HCG injection out of you, you’ll have changing oestrogen levels, increasing progesterone levels – if you had periods before IVF, its not a comparative cycle. Everything emotional and physical with IVF, has the potential to be normal, if in doubt ask.

So in summary

Good luck – you’re in the best hands
If in doubt ask
Injections really aren’t as bad as you might think
Don’t stress about not feeling yourself physically or mentally, just keep focused on the goal
Everything has potential to be normal in IVF, so don’t assume something’s wrong unless you’re told something’s wrong.

Resources

Fertilityfriends.co.uk was the only website I joined, it really helped me to keep cool at times. They were very positive people and people were surprisingly generous with their time and reassurances.