I.V.F

Quickly – I think I have done this before; but a quick reminder of the differences between IUI and IVF.

IUI – Intra-Uterine Insemination

With IUI, the women stimulates her ovaries (in my case I injected Gonal-F) to grow follicles (sacs which contain the eggs). Ideally no more than 3 follicles will be stimulated, or treatment will be cancelled and re-attempted the following cycle. This is because if 3 eggs mature and ovulate, and then all 3 fertilise and implant, you have yourself some non-identical triplets… If any (or all!) of those fertilised eggs then split… you got yourself a lot of babies and a potentially high risk and dangerous pregnancy for Mum and babes. A split egg (identical multiples) can happen to anyone, any pregnancy, whereas non-identical multiples are likely to be either a result of fertility treatment, or is something which genetically runs through the female side of a family. Once follicles are stimulated to the right size, a trigger is done to conduct ovulation, at which point you will then be invited back to be “inseminated” with sperm directly into your womb. The idea being the sperm will meet the egg(s) almost immediately in the womb, ready to fertilise and implant. I believe the success rates are around 16-21%. It obviously didn’t work for us, however I do follow a lady on twitter who it has worked for – so some faith is restored! IUI – I believe – is not used for couples where the “problem” is Male Factor Infertility (MFI), as its likely then that sperm have poor mobility and still won’t fertilise an egg.

IVF – In-Vitro Fertilisation

IVF is different in that, in a way, you are stimulating your ovaries with the intent to make them produce as many eggs as possible… within reason..! For us, I wanted a lot so we didn’t have to go through the stimulation part again, yet too many means discomfort, pain, potentially dangerous {OHSS} and may also mean you cannot proceed with a fresh transfer… for those going through the painstaking hell of infertility – any delay is bad! At school you are constantly told if you have sex you’ll get pregnant – & I’d have been in major trouble with my parents as a teen mum (not that I would have wanted to have potentially had children with different Fathers!). However, I have been with now husband 10 years, I wish I’d known contraception was a waste of time – I might then of been a mum already 😰 but I guess everything happens for a reason..!

After completely shutting down ( including inducing a fake menopause!) and having the IVF “take control” of your cycle, you once again stimulate your ovaries (in my case I used Menopur) and are again monitored for quantity and growth, before moving onto Egg Collection. After egg collection your eggs are then fertilised in a dish (!) and watched daily for development. Just a little side note here – if your infertility stems from MFI, then your eggs will probably be fertilised using ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) where basically the sperm is injected into the egg directly, rather than them meeting together in the dish and fertilising on their own. This wasn’t used for us, as we all know my husband is Mr. Perfect and has such top quality sperm seemingly everyone loves it!! Either way, the best sperm are selected to either be injected or placed in the dish with your eggs. From what I have seen, some people have a 3 day embryo transfer, but the ideal stage is to develop your “babies” to blastocyst stage and have a 5 day blastocyst transfer. NOTE; not all collected eggs will fertilise/not all fertilised eggs will develop properly.  Now, if less than 20 eggs have been collected, and you’ve had any develop to the right stages, you will likely proceed with what is called a “Fresh” Transfer, within 5 days of egg collection. This happened for us. If more than 20 are collected, it is likely you will have a “freeze all” approach until the risks of OHSS have reduced….. I think that is enough for now.. If anyone has any questions though feel free to ask if you haven’t quite made it to the “experts” stage (by this I mean the actual trained infertility doctors/nurse/embryologists/HCA’s ETC!)…

Apparently I bruise easily!! Cannula bruise 6 days after it was removed!!

Firstly – obviously no one ever thinks the process of infertility and all that goes with it is going to be easy, I’m sure. But never for a second did even I think it was going to be this HARD. For someone that struggles severely with mental health issues I thought I could handle this a bit better after everything else, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sheer anxiety is there every step of the way – they collected 15 eggs? Cool but what if none fertilise? 12 fertilised? Great! But what if none develop? 11 developed? So happy! But what if they don’t develop enough! We finished with an incredible 5 great quality blastocysts (so yes, I am *technically* a mum of 5..!) – the best of the best of which was transferred, the other 4 are frozen for future (hopefully siblings, not because we’ve failed) – but oh! It means nothing whatsoever if they don’t stick and become your healthy, happy baby! And what then if you miscarry? Or get further but then have a stillbirth? And what if, that tiny thought that you daren’t think about – but what if your baby survives everything – against seemingly all the odds – and makes it? Your dreams come true and then you keep worrying some more for the entirety of your life for every single step of the way!  I’ve been writing this blog as we’ve gone through the process, because as I said after our first IUI fail, I just couldn’t keep posting live information… despite the fact that if anyone asks me anything then I’ve provided full honest updates.. so basically all my friends and family knew exactly what is going on, when. I’m posting it now, because I do think it’s important to share. Not everyone feels they can be or even wants to be open about what they’re going through, for whatever reasons, and sometimes coming across someone else’s story can just… help… I found solace in interacting with strangers on twitter some days, and others with “old” friends who have been through IVF – “openly” (some friends I didn’t know about until they contacted me off the back of seeing one of my blogs..) or not.. IVF, infertility is NOT an easy process. It is long, and painful and hard to remain positive, and much like everything else in this world, unless you have physically experienced the heartache of something, you’ll never truly know how it feels.

15 soon became 12…

12 soon became 8…

And 8 soon ended up as 5 (hopefully dad doesn’t get eliminated too?! 😂)

It is quite a long blog, but then we were also undergoing “long process” IVF.. I hope you will stick with it and read it through…

I feel like I should add a caviat that I’m not sure my mental health was great.. November appears to be a notoriously bad month for me (3rd year running). I had not had a proper, decent, unbroken nights sleep since we had been on safari in SEPTEMBER, and even then, I didn’t get a long enough sleep. This is the longest in one go I think I have struggled with insomnia. A mix of being unable to fall asleep (in fact, the bulk beginnings of this blog, was started off the back of a 4 hour sleep night, I was exhausted but couldn’t stop writing down all the thoughts in my head – because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sleeping..!), or having entirely insane dreams/nightmares meant I was waking multiple times throughout the night. Or some nights, I’d have the joy of experiencing both in one night. Sleeping tablets don’t always work – in me if I start taking them too regularly then they stop working, so I tried to only take them on nights when I really needed to be “on form” the next day. Fortunately, as I don’t work, that wasn’t often.. at best, the ones I have only seem to knock me out for 5/6 hours at a time. Some people survive off that, but I can’t.. particularly within a long period of time of a mass lack of sleep. I was consistently exhausted and feeling run down, but I do think the medication heightened all that.

I also was convinced that it wasn’t going to work. Despite one lovely dream that I was pregnant – on the same night my best friend had the same dream – with 3(!!), healthy babies, I just could not see myself getting a positive result. I couldn’t imagine being happy or celebrating because I honestly believe it isn’t going to work – after all, the ovulation induction/IUI didn’t..

After a slight hiccup with our hospital, (as we needed to start treatment the NHS funding was removed from BCRM and in true lack of consistency in care, it looked like we were going to be transferred out elsewhere… but, very gratefully, it was sorted by one of THE BEST nurses on earth which relieved a lot of extra stress and anxiety) we were slotted in and began our IVF treatment. I started with Norithisterone tablets on day 19 of my cycle to induce a period. On day 21 I started the Buserelin nasal spray. I’d heard from others, and our nurse did state that it really affects your mood in the second week.. she did mention that as my mental health is such a disaster (NOT in those words!!) that perhaps it would have the opposite affect and make me happier… safe to say that DID NOT happen, and bang on time (although I only noticed in hindsight a day later), I became extra crazy. Easily irritable, emotional about being emotional, in tears for no reason… followed by two days where I was high as a kite, before going back to easily irritable. Up and down up and down.. not entirely dissimilar to my mood on the norm but it did feel faster and more rapid in its changes.. having said that, in an attempt to start weaning myself off citalopram at the same time, I completely lost track of when I had and hadn’t taken it and ended up doing 5 days without. I may only be on a mild dose, but I do feel me missing it so drastically all of a sudden (I had been generally managing to take it every other day, and was easing into every third) made me extra insane in my irritability..

Team IVF Stronger Together 💕

Then I started Menopur. I have only ever heard or read bad things about Menopur, and that, coupled with it feeling like absolutely ages since I had last injected myself (negative IUI was early September, started injecting Menopur late November) left me super anxious and dreading it. I had heard it bloated you, was painful and burned when you injected and left small bruises all over your tummy at the injection sight, but I was lucky to have no bruising or bloating (in fact, I actually felt like my stomach was slimmer and flatter, which for someone who constantly feels fat is saying something!). Our lovely nurse had made it look super easy in our personal planning meeting to open the glass vial of liquid, but we seemed to struggle every night. For the first three nights we shattered the lid into the liquid which only added to my anxiety of potentially a tiny bit of glass also being sucked up into the syringe and then injected into me (yes, I am that paranoid/mental/anxious to essentially imagine absurd scenarios). On the fourth night, I managed to get the lid clean off after much force… only to shred 3.5 of my fingers on my left hand when the force of my right arm pushed the raw glass edge of the lid right across them.. it wasn’t pretty, and was very painful.. and meant the entire vial was wasted spilt all over myself..

However, as at day 5 of injecting, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d heard. I had no needle entry-site bruises on my tummy, and had found the injecting itself quite similar to Cetrotide or Gonal-f (but without it being a pre-filled pen). I felt a slight light burn at the injection site once the needle is pulled out and I start moving around, but it soon passes.

It’s hard to say what is what, especially as my mental health is quite erratic anyway, but I’d say I had only a few mild side effects. I noticed I had a light headache that wouldn’t properly shift and kept returning for a few days, and I felt like when I washed my hair a lot more was coming out than “normal”. At one point I felt like I had diahrrea – but again, is it the meds or did I just eat something funny? My head insists that I have an intolerance to some foods which make me feel uncomfortable, bloated and have diahrrea so who knows if it was just that?! I also noticed both arms felt like I had done some serious weightlifting (I really should!!) for a couple of days, which I later read aching muscles can be a side effect – but again, I’m unsure if that was from doing a bit of painting of a unit, or because I’d had blood taken from both arms after the first refused to give any out on my day 21 bloods, or if it was truly a side effect.. I did also notice I was having to “stretch” and contort my limbs/body a fair bit trying to get comfy in bed, and I found myself with a fair few bruises on my thighs and no clue where they’ve come from (which isn’t unlike me to forget but there seemed to be a lot?!)

The last, but biggest side effect is the additional knock on to my mental health. I have read somewhere before that those with anxiety and depression have a tendency to really feel – more so than those that don’t suffer, and I’d say that was entirely true for me. The simplest of things can overwhelm me and have me in tears – tiny bits of kindness from strangers (I recall an incident when I was signed off sick when still working where a couple gave me the extra 25p I needed to park to walk Rufus, and it both sliced through me and made my day). On the flip side something – that I even acknowledge as being fickle – as an unfollow or unfriend from someone I considered a friend or just generally felt a connection with, also hit me hard – harder I would say, whilst on the meds. There were days when age-old suicidal thoughts returned, alongside some self harm, and I questioned if I even wanted to bring a child into this hideous world with an absolutely insane mother who frequently, literally lost the will to live.. I finally recognised that the restriction and tightness in my chest I had noticed a couple of weeks previously, was indeed the return of panic attacks and nothing to do with my asthma.

I find myself quite often struggling to distinguish between dream and reality, but there seemed to be many more times whilst on meds that this seemed to be happening. With the buserelin nasal spray, you have to take it every four hours (twice at bedtime), one morning, 40 minutes after I *think* I took it, I had no recollection whatsoever if I had or hadn’t.. in part I blame the extra exhaustion. I figured it was better to potentially take too much and took the dose at 8.40, rather than have missed that dosage entirely..

It is safe to say the meds made me crazy. Crazier. I lay awake one night unable to sleep thinking about everything and nothing, in tears, then not in tears, feeling fat and disgusting and telling myself I was not to eat any longer, to find my mind telling me I needed to run. At midnight, after I’d taken a sleeping tablet [which failed to work]. It had been a long time since I felt the need to run like that, at that time of the night/early morning.. nevertheless, by 1am I gave up and found myself outside in the pitch dark of the night, under clear skies and not quite feeling as cold as the 6 degrees it was, running 5 miles. It was so peaceful, so oddly calming and beautiful, that eventually it cleared my head, and I found myself back home at 2am stripping my running gear off, throwing my pjs back on, and falling straight to sleep… I guess I need to listen more to what my body is telling me, because although I doubt anyone wants me running at that time of day, it worked. I’m 30 and I still can’t just trust myself.. I may have got an extra hours sleep if I’d just got up and gone at midnight rather than 1am!!

Everyone says to be kind to yourself, but no one thinks running is being kind to me and would rather I didn’t, but at the end of the day, you need to listen to your own body. Running when I needed to was – is – being kind to me. There is no evidence either way to say running is good or bad when trying to conceive, although I do agree too much (for me at least) isn’t conducive, and I had continually said I would stop in the two week wait (tww), but up until then if I needed to, I needed to. I think it is important to remember that being kind to yourself isn’t atypical and “same size fits all”, it isn’t just spa days and sleeping in and watching all the TV and films and eating everything and anything you fancy – being kind is listening to yourself and what you need. Sometimes I needed a lie in, sometimes I needed a (ok all!) the doughnuts, and sometimes I needed to run at 1am. Although, I will say that I didn’t realise *quite* how dangerous that could have been running with mild OHSS, AFTER egg collection – I stopped when I felt serious pain, but essentially ran right up to our transfer day…!

And what about James, I hear you ask?! I can’t even begin to describe how much of a rock he was throughout all of this.. give or take the odd fuck-up-morning alarm situations/inability to have a clue what was going on despite being at the same meetings as me (#men 🙄😂) – I am the “expert patient” after all…!! I know I am lucky to have him, and he is a true gent always, but throughout all of this he was incredible. He worked so hard to try and “keep the peace” – to keep me calm and sane. He cooked, he cleaned, he worked, he shopped. He was quite consistently in touch with me and checking in. He prepped meds or injected me when I couldn’t. He walked Rufus, and literally held my hand all the way, figuratively as well as literally. He made me laugh, and cracked me up with coining terms (alongside an IVF friend) like “Dildo Cam”/”Fanny Vision”/Uterus-tube/Womb-with-a-view for the transvaginal ultrasound you are subjected to as a woman throughout fertility treatment. I think this stolen image best sums up his part in it all (& quite literally how I am with him after!!) – seriously these illustrations are a perfect sum up of it all!

And so, we did indeed go through with a 5 day transfer with a top quality blastocyst…. there is another blog to come on the outcome (this one is already long enough!) but what I will say, is that, IVF, just like any other fertility treatment we have tried, I felt had failed straight away. As soon as I trigger ovulation my boobs get sore, literally straight away, like they do about 2 weeks before I have a period. The evening of our transfer I had some cramping, and the following day I had some huge cramping just trying to walk the dog and I was constantly light headed. About 4 days after transfer I awoke in the early hours to horrible agonising lightening bolt like cramps flashing across my tummy. Was this implantation cramping? I hadn’t expected as much pain for that – and who knows even now what it was!

EggCollection

Before I start, I feel the need to announce – as a bit of a disclaimer – that I am a real big wimp. Aside from a bit of light self harm (don’t ask) I generally do everything I can to avoid pain or situations where I might end up in hospital/on a drip/cannula/needing surgery… whilst at the same time being a bit of a “I’ll try anything once” daredevil… I guess I enter into things cautiously.. cautious Karen.. my mum has always found it hilarious that I want four children, because I am the biggest wimp when it comes to pain, she thinks I’ll stop at one!!

But, I have to say, throughout our entire fertility journey, pain has really been limited – or really, really manageable. I know of course that everyone is different, but from the worlds biggest wimp to anyone else reading this in fear of pain… it’s ok.

I was super anxious for egg collection. I think it is really why we bothered with IUI before IVF. But mostly I was anxious for the general anaesthetic that comes with egg collection, purely because I’d never had one. Rationally I knew I’d be fine – my mum, dad and brother have all had GA and been fine. But I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up (not that I’d know!) or that I’d be one of those horror stories where you’re seemingly knocked out but you can see (?) and hear and feel everything. I was also anxious that despite plenty of eggs being there, that none would be collected. It was literally the first thing I said when I came round and I was in tears asking because I was scared the answer would be a devastating none. I believe this happens in LESS THAN 1% of cases… so it was pretty unlikely but I became absolutely beyond convinced it would happen to us. Initially I was just sure the IVF just wouldn’t work, but that we’d collect plenty of eggs to keep trying.. then my delightful (anxiety?) brain decided egg collection would fail too… I’m pleased to report, it didn’t 🙃 we were lucky enough to have 15 eggs retrieved.. although I can’t help but keep wondering where the other 10+ I had have disappeared to!

Coming round after surgery!

I’ll add a laugh.. on the evening after our egg collection, I had to stay at a friends for a bit whilst James closed up at work. [All fine, you just aren’t allowed to be alone for 24 hours after GA.] Along with her 2.5 year old son, we sat down to watch “Sing”… there wasn’t really much watching going on because, as much as I love him to pieces, that kid is NON-STOP! Anyway, we did happen to glance up at one point and see this image on the screen – and we were in hysterics because it looks like James and I with our 15 eggs 😂😂 if you look closely, there IS actually 15 piglets in this image 🤣🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷

Back to the egg collection – like I said, it was fine, but here is some more detail.. I was anxious (standard 🙄) about traffic in Bristol, particularly as snow was forecast, so we left early and of course arrived ridiculously early. We were at the hospital for 8.20am, James’ participation was due at 9am… 🙄 – I’d always rather be earlier than late though ☺️. After James had completed his arduous task (🙄🙄🤣) we continued to just wait around at the hospital for my 10am admission. I was nil by mouth from midnight the night before (I’d had an oatcake at about 10pm to “help me sleep” (total fail; I eventually got 3 hours, then woke suddenly just after 2am & couldn’t get back to sleep 😢) and keep my blood sugar even… it is also recommended that you avoid strong smells on the morning of egg collection as they can harm developing embryo’s. So a coffee for James was off the menu too!

We were taken through to theatre on the dot at 10am and settled in nicely.. what we didn’t realise and hadn’t ever had mentioned is that we were looking at another 2 hour wait from there.. I had thought I was going into theatre for 10.15am, so although we were well looked after (the staff at BCRM are all really, really lovely; we adore them) it kind of just added to my anxiety about the upcoming cannula and sedation.. I don’t know if that is normal or if there was some sort of problem/delay. Either way, the time was passed with me snuggled up in the big comfy chair, flipping through a magazine, chatting to James and meeting our anaesthetist/surgeon/theatre staff etc (frustratingly I can’t actually remember everyone’s names.. sorry 😬)… James as is standard even managed to fall asleep briefly despite being sat bolt upright on a hard wooden chair…!!! I started to get hungry (ironic given I’d spent the two weeks prior on meds finding myself never hungry!) but the time did pass fairly quickly and before we knew it it was time to strip off and put the gown of fashion dreams on!! The only other thing I would add – and I don’t know if this is just an NHS thing or if it’s the same privately, but we didn’t ever see my “named nurse”, or even any of the nurses we have previously seen, know and love – other than a brief passing of one of our favourite’s (I have 4) getting a coffee whilst we waited in reception! So everyone that morning was new to us. Like I said – everyone is so super lovely that it’s fine… and maybe (definitely!) it’s just me needing some extra reassurance and love from those that I know 🙃😂

As always, all the staff were lovely, and when we had seen the anaesthetist she had mentioned I looked terrified – so I told her I hated drips/cannula’s (after an awful experience as an ill 14/15 year old with collapsed veins on a drip in a foreign hospital!) and was scared of general anaesthetic.. in general!! So when it came to that, it felt to me like a lot of effort was going into keeping me engaged in conversation whilst they put that in my hand in theatre. Of course I still knew what was going on and could feel it, but conversation was a great distraction! When they popped the sedation meds in, they mentioned I might be able to feel a discomfort as it ran down my arm – and they weren’t wrong! It was a really horrible, odd, uncomfortable feeling. I think I would describe it as slightly painful, but once again all the theatre staff were great at trying to distract. It helped that I had my fab Santa Christmas nails (Thanks Claire!) which everyone loves and my body was sparkly all over from the glitter bath bomb the night before as that engaged lots of chatter! I remember speaking to someone about making their own glittery bath bombs and then ping! Asleep! I don’t remember the last thing anyone said – but I do remember a mask being placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths.. I think I managed maybe 3 before my memories stop for sleep..!

I came round from surgery with a bit of a start. I think I came round earlier than expected as there was a nurse stood next to me when I came round who also seemed surprised I was awake – what a shocker, the insomniac still doesn’t sleep properly even with serious sedation!! – I remember saying hello to her (& her back!) and then just wanting to cry. She disappeared (I think to notify James I was awake so he could come through) and when she returned I was sobbing (I must be the only person not to be giggly coming round from sedation 🙃 – and believe me I am GUTTED – I wanted to feel that kind of tipsy-drink, girlie, giggly happiness!!) I managed to choke out asking how many eggs they had collected, to which she went off to check. I wonder now if I was so anxious that the number would be zero that it caused the tears. I was still a bit tearful when James appeared, but it soon ended, and I just felt exhausted and annoyed I’d woken up so quickly!! Frankly I would have welcomed more sedation meds at that point!

I think I took the maximum amount of time they expect to recover and be discharged. A lady in the bay next to me came out after me (I was awake so saw her being wheeled out!) and was up and about and had left before I even had my cannula out! I wondered if she had done that part before as she seemed aware that she had to pee before they’d remove the cannula, and did so quickly! Whereas I asked for it to be removed and was told I needed to pee first – to which I started inhaling as much water as I could to get the hideous thing out of my hand!! It seemed to take forever before I felt the need to pee – and even when I thought I was ready I felt like I was sat on the toilet for ages waiting!

This made me laugh - I’m rubbish at decisions anyway!
Side effects – I struggle to make decisions at the best of times as it is!

I felt bloated, tender and uncomfortable after and like I needed to “pass wind” but nothing was happening! You could clearly see bloating from my pubic bone to my belly button. I hadn’t initially noticed any pain when I was in the hospital until I shifted my legs slightly as James arrived and then it hit me. I was given some paracetamol which didn’t even touch the sides, before having some codeine which sorted everything. I wouldn’t say the pain was horrendous though, much like strong period pain. I took some more of my over-the-counter paracetamol & codeine tablets later at home but they didn’t help – the best thing for me was warmth, and fortunately, my friends who were watching me have two “doodles” – and the warmth from them snuggling into me was nice (two doodle heads resting on my ovaries was lovely!)

Doodle hot water bottles!!
Doodle-warmers!

I also felt nauseous and the longer I stood up for the more sick, shakey and faint I felt. But the worst for me (and I am NOT a big poop talker…) was being constipated… A friend who has a fair few general anaesthetics under her belt now tells me that is a side effect and that it can take ages to sort itself out. Believe me, it did. Constipation is also on the list of side effects for basically everything I was taking as well so I basically got what felt like 75 thousand doses of the joy in one go. I gave in by day 4 of it and took laxatives – knowing that after transfer that wouldn’t be an option, and I am bloody glad I did – that gave me some mild relief before transfer and it all kicked off again. I am finishing writing this blog approximately 9 weeks after our egg collection and I am STILL not quite right now. It is THE WORST, so, my top tip there would be take the laxatives, take ALL the laxatives, every bloody day until transfer. (OK, maybe not all…but make yourself more comfortable!) Clear yourself out! I am not sure if it was all from the op, the sedation, the lack of sleep the night before, or the OHSS!

Now I’m aware I haven’t mentioned OHSS before… Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome. I’ll try to explain what I think is right as the “expert patient”! OHSS is a risk for those that have high AMH/egg count/reserves/PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome). It’s never fully been confirmed or denied, so as we understand it, I am borderline PCOS. High AMH means I have plenty of eggs – which is good – but as we know, they just don’t seem to want to do much [ovulating] on their own. So, with the medication that goes with IVF to stimulate your ovaries to create the follicles (sacs which carry the eggs), someone with a high egg count is likely to over-stimulate. It’s quite hard for anyone to predict or control what is going to happen. My initial dose for stimming (menopur) was quite low – so low in fact that for a week, nothing happened. My dose was increased for 5 days and then everything kicked off – and by the time I had my last scan before egg collection, my nurse had to sit me down and explain that I was at high risk of developing OHSS. I had 25+ eggs and if they collect anything over 20 BCRM (although I think all clinic’s are the same; if they maintain some level of responsibility anyway!) won’t do a fresh embryo transfer within the week because of the OHSS risk and dangers. Frustrating to hear, but I do think it shows their responsibility and care as a clinic rather than just powering on through. As we know, 15 eggs were collected from me which was good news in terms of OHSS, and hopefully being able to go ahead with a fresh transfer within the week, but still meant I was at risk from it, so I was given meds (in tablet form, called Cabergoline) to take every night before bed for the next 8 days to reduce the risk. Cabergoline comes with its own set of side effects (some of which I found hilarious, ““Uncontrollable excessive shopping or spending”, {like I need an excuse!!} and “excessive day sleeping” which I certainly seemed to do, particularly on the Sunday!) and I definitely felt like I was suffering from certain side effects (bloating (which reduced massively by Monday, op was Friday), exhaustion, slight pain particularly in right side/ovary* (not sure if that one had produced more, which would make sense), constant hunger, constipation, flashes of light across my eyelids when eyes closed/trying to sleep (almost like the outdoor lights were turning on and waking me up, except of course, they weren’t!) and at times seemingly low blood pressure and felt like I was blacking out whilst trying to sleep (so I sat myself more upright in bed for fear of swallowing own tongue!!?! YES mental anxiety brain!)), but it is hard to place which symptom matched which issue, be it from the surgery, OHSS itself, lack of sleep (I’d had only 3 hours sleep the night before surgery, and about the same the night of it; I was EXHAUSTED by Saturday night!!), or the Cabergoline!

Ironically, the Cabergoline can make you drowsy… but yup, you guessed it; not me on the first night at least – just when I needed it!!

Happily making myself at home at a friends 🙂

We realised, in discussion with our friends that evening as we headed home, that, as long as one of our little eggies sticks when they (hopefully) transferred it into me the next week, that I was technically pregnant right there and then! So weird/funny to think that our little eggs were fertilising and thus I could technically be pregnant right now even though our embabies/blastobabies were 32 miles away in a Petrie dish!!

Received from husband the Monday after egg collection – I like to think it is!

After egg collection you are generally (providing there isn’t a male infertility factor) recommended to use condoms when having sex in between collection and transfer – I believe this is just in case any eggs are left behind and then get fertilised and then them transferring you another 1 (or in some cases 2!) and ending up again with multiple births..

LET ME TELL YOU – don’t bother with the condoms. Seriously; AS IF. I am SO glad we didn’t. There was not a single second in the 5 days between egg collection and our transfer that I even considered letting James near me for sex. Nuhuh, no way, thank you very much. It wasn’t that my vagina felt particularly sore from having a “dildo cam” shoved right up there with a huge needle attached, ready to batter through my uterus to collect the eggs. No, in fact, my vagina was the least of my worries. I felt no pain there whatsoever. I was so dam bloated and uncomfortable and exhausted that there was absolutely zero chance any kind of sexy-time was going to take place…. Sorry husband! In fact, in true Karen-sharing-too-much-information-style, I actually felt like this for about 6/7 weeks (I can’t remember exactly, it felt like forever) after egg collection and transfer… Perhaps that was just me – I had hyper-stimulated and to an extent “over-responded” to the meds which meant my ovaries were ENORMOUS, I was sore/uncomfortable and just dam tired. I think I was asleep by 9.30pm every night for a good few weeks (miracle for me) so basically, it wasn’t happening.

*turns out right sided ovary caused a lot more trouble – will get to that in a future blog!

IVF NHS Funding

Hi all,
I know I post a lot (of pictures!) – But this post is important.
As I’m sure we all know, our NHS is under constant funding review. We all have our own opinions on politics and what and who should be funded – no one is right or wrong – but this one is obviously pretty close to my heart.
There is particularly a lot going on at the moment to do with finding and treatment for fertility patients; aka IVF.
We currently attend BCRM (Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine), in, obviously, Bristol!! Bristol or Exeter were the nearest places we could go to continue our treatment for fertility, as unfortunately further options aren’t available in Taunton, simply due to space and staff quantities. Both are roughly 80 mile round trips away… our next nearest would be Plymouth; a 160 mile/3 hour round trip away.. when undergoing treatment I pretty much have to attend every other day for 2+ weeks… it’s not even the cost of fuel or the mileage on my new car – it’s that it’s a boring drive and totally unreal to have to travel that far, in the U.K., in 2017, for NHS funded treatment..
The NHS NICE guidelines recommend that EVERYONE in the U.K. Get 3 tries at IVF. Obviously everyone’s ideal is to fall pregnant on the first go – or even better, without fertility treatment!

In Somerset we get one “go” at IVF. In Berkshire, you get 2. Essex: zero. Currently. Everyone should be entitled to NHS funded treatment – at the end of the day, no one asks to be infertile. 
There are currently reviews under way for BCRM to close/be privatised. Which means we may well be moved somewhere else entirely – just as I’m loving our new team (separation anxiety from the team at Taunton was tough after a year!).

There is also reviews for IVF to only be offered to women aged 30-35. 

Why? 

Why shouldn’t a younger, infertile woman be offered IVF earlier? My ideal would be that we already had 1, or 2 children – I always wanted to be a younger Mum. It’s forever a regret of mine that we didn’t start trying – and thus finding out about my infertile mess of a body (!)- earlier, but I can’t change that. However, I can help to ensure that women who do start this long, frustrating, heartbreaking process earlier, could possibly get their “younger Mum” dream.

Furthermore – why must women be younger than 35? My own Mum was 38 before she had my (younger) brother, and whilst I rip the p*ss out of him (& will regret saying this!) there is nothing wrong with either of them. For those that find love “later”, or simply decide “later” that they want children, then why is 36 to “late” for funding?!

Couples should be offered IVF if needed even if one of them already has children – it’s the same as James and I not adopting because we want “our” child; not someone else’s. 
So, my plea is for you to fill in the form on the link below to support NHS IVF Funding for all.
Thank you xx
https://www.northsomersetccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/nhs-service-proposals/fertility-treatment-eligibility/

Infertility Sucks: The IVF Funding Debate

I started writing this having had Loose Women (I know, I know, I’m not even sure why it was on) on the television yesterday in the background, but quickly started to listen properly. I’ve seen further outrageous articles (some of which I cannot bring myself to read because my stress levels do NOT need raising any further, especially with no running!), comments, suggestions etc. since, which has meant: this is getting posted.

Restrictions on IVF terrifies me. I’m 30, husband 32. We’ve been trying for 3 years – around 2 years ago we discovered I don’t ovulate, so without help, we can’t conceive. It is no ones fault (but of course I blame myself), it is just the (un)luck of life. Earlier this year after 18 months of trying with the aid of Ovulation Induction at our local hospital, we began treatment with Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine. 

IVF is our last chance. Despite me being “only” 30, we get 1 try at IVF on the NHS, funded by Somerset (where we live) CCG (Clinical Comissioning Group);  2 less than the NICE guidelines (as well as “3” attempts at IUI, which whilst we have taken, after one fail and two cancelled treatments, I no longer feel any positivity about]. I’m from Berkshire originally and am aware Berkshire currently funds 2 “goes” at IVF. I also know, from discussions with fertility nurses and teams, that Essex gets zero funding.
It isn’t fair, and it most certainly isn’t a choice. I wish more than anything James and I could conceive our much-longed for child naturally. At no point did I wish to have to undergo various procedures and general prodding and probing and blood tests and injections and, worst of all, the heartache every single month when I am still not yet pregnant. Everyone should get their chance should they want to be a Mum – so many people seemingly manage to conceive so easily (whether they want children or not) and it is heartbreaking for those that can’t: I can’t take any more pregnancy announcements. I am feeling myself begin to isolate whilst I withdraw from friends or family who may (or may not) be about to announce their happy news. Of course I am happy for them – but it is long overdue our turn… when will that be? Will it ever be? My last period saw me hit an absolutely horrendous depression; I lost half a stone in 2 days. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I could barely move and I most certainly was not engaging in any communication, with anyone. I constantly worry that I have somehow already gone through menopause and no one has noticed and therefore it will never happen. I have said to James on more than one occasion that we should sell the big car and 5-6 bed house we bought – ready for children – when we moved to Somerset, move to a one bed getting rid of our mortgage alongside any other expenses because I’m so convinced it’s never going to happen.

We can and will pay once we’ve used up our NHS “chances” – but even in saying that, money and our savings ends somewhere…. and whilst I know the same goes for the NHS and the government – everyone should be funded for the 3 rounds of IVF as per the NICE (recommended) guidelines. We pay our taxes into the government; why should we not get some funding back out?? Or do we get to pick and chose now what our taxes go towards instead, because we seemingly get nothing else back for them!

It is so extra incredibly frustrating when you hear that what is essentially 29p paracetamol is being prescribed by doctors, but not the guideline amount of IVF, because [albeit a minority] can’t even be bothered to fund that themselves. Our postcode lottery on healthcare is disturbing. And, worryingly, of this also falls in line with my politics blog. Its all politics. Few of us are actually qualified or even in some cases*, clearly intelligent enough to comment.
I am constantly told “I’m still so young” but 3 years ago when we started trying, I was 27… when will I still be “so young”? The only thing I have ever and always known I wanted to be is a mother – and I wish I could turn back time to have not been so “worried” or “swayed by societal expectations” to not have children before marriage – my husband and I have been together 10 years now and I always have that hideous thought that I could and should have started trying earlier than when we got married; then we might have known sooner, begun treatment sooner, and may already have our much longed for child/children in our arms… for me, I’d rather be a younger Mum than older and it hurts to think that only I delayed that for daft reasons.

If funding for IVF is now only given to women aged 30-35, then me questioning my “still so young” timeframe just became even shorter. But also – if we had been ready and keen to start a family when I was 25, why should we not have been provided with that funding then as well? We still knew we wanted them, and we still would have faced the same infertility issues we face now.

I have faced a lot in the last few years, I’ve battled mental health difficulties my entire life, I’ve battled being “dumped” by friends/colleagues because of the isolation mental health creates around you, I gave up my career, I face worries about my parents and elder family members, and I ran a marathon. I know I am not alone in any of this, but nothing, none of these things are as hard as battling infertility.

And for those that think IVF should be private only – if you smoke and get lung cancer or have a heart attack as a direct result: should that be paid for by the NHS? Why?! At least infertility isn’t a choice*. For those that think adoption is the answer: should you not be more concerned about the fact that contraception is FREE on the NHS, and yet still there are so many children born each year that are placed into the care system?? Why should my husband and I not have our chance at OUR children, rather than the children of someone else who are lucky enough to conceive, yet can’t be bothered to look after their own? 

*one comment suggesting that “some” cases of infertility are asked for or someone’s fault because they are born from STI’s…. 1) I have never had an STI, (neither has James for the record) but I am pretty certain no one asks for an STI, thus fertility issues..

The best medicine 💊💖

It is amazing how your mind can so easily “forget” and lie to you about how being surrounded by friends and family and love is really, truly, the best medicine. How connecting and engaging with others creates bonds and friendships, even seemingly in strangers. Last weekend, was my “secret surprise birthday weekend away” in the start of the (month long!!) “celebrations” of my turning 30. I had left the entire thing up to James to organise – because frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve dreaded birthdays for a fair few years now. Getting older isn’t cool with me. I’m like Peter Pan, except I’m not forever young, I just want/need to be. Getting older gets worse with the less I feel I achieve/the more I don’t have children, because of stupid numbers I stupidly set myself stupid years ago. So, obviously, this weekend – despite having been in the diary for months – unfortunately came upon us at quite literally one of the worst times (😔) possible. I had been so hopeful that we would finally be pregnant that it all of a sudden made the world 100 million times worse when I wasn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to face anything. I really didn’t want to go.
I cried the entire journey to our surprise location. At one point my husband asked me if I “wanted to do this”. I didn’t. I really didn’t. It took absolutely everything within me to answer with a nod and not the honest no; I want to go home, curl up into a ball in our bed and keep crying, alone. I didn’t know for sure but I had suspicions friends were involved and I didn’t feel like I could face anyone still. After all, I’d spent 2 days at the start of that week ignoring absolutely everyone, the rest of the week still avoiding more local friends and wondering when I’d ever feel like I could face people [friends] properly again. I had asked him a few days before, tears still pouring down my soaked face if any babies were involved in the weekend.. this included anyone pregnant or any children but I couldn’t bring myself to say those words, I couldn’t choke them out – my speech was the bare minimum I could get away with to string a sentence together. I was worried, when we pulled off the M5 onto the M4 towards Wales that my godchildren (who I knew to be on holiday in Pembrokeshire) would be there – whom I love dearly but I didn’t feel like I could face, especially when I couldn’t stop the tears.

When we pulled up the only car I instantly recognised was my brothers, but I knew there were others and the tears came again. I couldn’t walk into the cottage first, I made Rufus and James lead the way – me trailing behind clutching James’ hand like a lost child. When we walked into the kitchen and my friends jumped out yelling “surprise!” I burst into more tears and cowered into James… I am sure this was exactly the reaction my friends, some of who had spent the best part of 6 hours travelling ~ for me ~ had hoped for…!! Not! Sorry guys. I just felt super heightened in terms of anxiety. 

I don’t know if it was because I’d actually bothered taking my mild dosed citalopram for two days in a row rather than the erratic form I had been taking it in the months previously. I remember when I first took it all those months ago, feeling a difference far quicker than I thought possible – but this could also have been aided by the decent weather, marathon, therapy, IUI progress (🙄 irony), holidays, friends etc. I wouldn’t have believed it again having such a rapid affect until I properly read Deborah Orr‘s article last week of her heightened levels of disassociation almost immediately after beginning citalopram.
I have noticed myself on occasion – particularly looking back now – clinging to James like some sort of leach, unable to interact, engage or begin new friendships without him for support. I suspect it’s why a lot of his (old) “friends” don’t like me – anxiety winning yet again in making me socially unable to engage. Somehow, sometimes though I do manage on my own? I can certainly think of a few friends I have made in Somerset on my own.. but I appear to have developed a strong sense of separation anxiety to James.. and Rufus.. and we have the cheek to laugh at Rufus having separation anxiety – quite literally gets that one from his Mumma… as though I’ve passed it on within the air that we breathe and share.
A tangent – after all the tears, eventually followed by a lot of wonderful, supportive hugs from my [initially shocked!] friends I found myself quickly settling down. Tears stopping, an extent of happiness resuming within me. Despite my mind wanting to hide away from the world, what I really needed was exactly what I got – to be surrounded by loved ones, to be distracted and to have fun. 
It’s funny how easily you can “forget” this is what you need. How easy it is to withdraw and isolate yourself – only resulting in making you feel worse. In writing this, it reminds me of another friends 30th earlier in the year.. I hope she doesn’t mind me (and I think this is the second time I’ve done this to her!) referencing her – but she wasn’t in a good place at all. She had overdosed a few days prior to the weekend all her friends were due to descend for celebrations, and I remember thinking then – exactly what she needed was everyone around her to perk her up and show in plain sight how much she was – is – loved and needed. And yet I couldn’t see that for myself just last week. I couldn’t allow myself to have the support and love and care, the fun and distraction of friends and family to get me through how low I truly felt. And that is precisely what mental illness does to you. It shuts you down and locks you within yourself to make you feel dark and alone. And it is so, so impossible to pull yourself out of it.. so for those of you that have friends struggling – surprise them. Don’t stop loving and caring and being supportive and funny – even if it is endless funny texts that go seemingly ignored. Be prepared for melt downs and tears, for pain and for hopelessness; but your love does, eventually, make that difference.
Thank you, friends and family xx (ps. Pink glitter lipstick solves everything 💄💋)

Fertility (Part 1)

I decided to write a fertility “giggles” blog, because at some point in this “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” absolute nightmare journey of conception that we are on, if I don’t find some laughs – I’ll be crying. 24/7. Literally. I thought this was going to be quite an amusing blog, but as I seemed to have spent a vast bulk of it explaining AS MUCH AS I KNOW, because 1) I don’t think I have and 2) a lot of people just don’t understand the world of conception or fertility – even if they have conceived – I decided (with a little help, thanks Nicki!) that it needs to be split into two blogs. So Part 1 here is explaining the ins and outs. Part 2, for the laughs, can be found here; The giggles

FYI.. Probably best for my in laws and parents, and probably general family and anyone that doesn’t want to know or finds my oversharing too much info, to just to not read part 2.. 👍🏾 (or, if you feel like that, any of them?!)

So here is the knowledge I’ve gained so far. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve now hung around enough doctors, consultants, nurses; ALL the fertility specialists, and I’ve had enough cameras, probes, speculum’s, catheters, ETC. inserted into my vagina to have figured a little bit of this challenging world out. 💉

Beginning to understand fertility starts when you fire up the baby-making tools, so for us, almost 3 years ago. 

And we are still only beginning to understand. 

 For lots of lucky people out there, you seem to “just conceive” on first attempt. This in itself is a miracle – let alone how beyond belief it feels for those of us that struggle like hell to conceive. I don’t think anything I have been through and anything I will go through in the future will be as all-round physically, mentally, emotionally challenging and draining as the world of trying to conceive. London Marathon was literally a casual stroll in comparison.

 So, for you lucky couples that conceive naturally – it hasn’t actually happened “any time within the last 4/5 weeks” {since your last period, ladies} but, in fact, within a 48 hour time frame after you’ve ovulated; usually around day 14 of your cycle. Sperm can survive 7 days in your womb/fallopian tubes, but if not fertilised, your egg will die 48 hours after ovulation. So, for a “live example” you could have had sex on Sunday, ovulate on Wednesday and conceive Thursday without having sex again. It is literally, a miracle. I think I’m right in saying, that by the time you’ve noticed you’ve missed a period, you’re officially around 2-3 weeks pregnant on average (period timings dependant), but because it’s been 4-5 weeks since your last bleed, you’re considered 4-5 weeks pregnant once you get that BFP (Big Fat Positive). Pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last period. The chances of any given couple with no fertility issues conceiving in any given month are just 14%.

 Ovulation in itself is one of those things your body just does on its own without you realising. Each cycle your body develops a follicle (sac) or follicles, on your ovaries, which each contain an egg. Ovulation is when the follicle matures enough and releases the egg… hopefully you know the next bit.. little eggy travels down your Fallopian tubes towards your womb, where, if you want to conceive then you’ll hopefully have some little sperm hanging around waiting to fertilise that egg, or eggs… more than one egg means more than one [non identical] baby/babies… non identical twins/triplets/quads etc, outside of fertility treatment, are passed through families genetically on the maternal side. If there’s a history of non-identical twins in your family, you could have them: it’s genetic that you are producing more than one follicle, and thus egg, at a time. That is my understanding anyway! The chance of non-identical twins in those undergoing fertility treatment increases because you are stimulating your ovaries (more on this later!) to produce follicle(s); however this can change for every woman on every cycle: what happens one month won’t necessarily happen in another month – as we have previously seen for me, where I hyper-stimulated in our first try at IUI and had to cancel the treatment.

Identical twins can happen to anyone: the egg splits to create twins, or triplets, or quads, etc. which are identical. I am fascinated and always have been by identical twins.. I would really love identical twins! 😍 Although I am well aware it wouldn’t be easy… but like an old colleague of mine who had identical twins in her first pregnancy said, she “didn’t know any different” – two babies at once were the norm for her.

 So – quite a lot of information you may already know, or not, before we’ve even started the fun and games of fertility treatment!!

 As we know, I’m the “problem”. Shock horror, right. Never mind Jay-Z’s “99 problems” – I’m just one big problem 🤣! 

So, after the little summary above, you should understand that the next words mean, no matter what we do each month, without the aid of fertility treatment, there is absolutely no chance we can conceive, because…

I don’t ovulate. 

 This is known as “anovulation”. I have been tested and tested time in time out. Sometimes blood tests, sometimes we can just tell from having had scans on the right days and finding no “mature” follicle. I’ve been tested Day 21/22/23. I’ve been tested Day 28 to see if I just ovulate late, and I’ve been tested Day 7 and Day 14 to see if I just ovulate early. Nada. I just don’t. So no matter how frequently James and I “baby-make” – there is literally no way we can actually make a baby. Poor little spermies are swimming all that way to meet.. nothing: certain death.. ☠️

I’d say it is fairly commonly known that your GP will tell you not to worry and to keep having regular, relaxed intercourse for at least a year of “trying” for a baby, before you will be referred on the NHS for treatment. I don’t dispute this. On average it takes a couple a year to conceive naturally. It just appears, when you’re trying for a baby that everyone else conceives overnight, without even trying. And ladies – you need to be prepared if you are on the pill, it can take up to a year for your body to resume normality. Fortunately for me, I came off it at the age of 25 (18 months before we started trying) due to being TOTALLY AND UTTERLY BATSHIT 🦇💩 CRAZY HORMONAL – and let me tell you, it took 9 months then for my periods to return to normal. My utterly useless (soz if this offends anyone, but my current ones are fab!) GP at the time actually thought I was 9 months pregnant at one point (and 8 and a half stone; as if!)

In hindsight; I don’t ovulate, so I never even needed to be on the pill in the first place…great one.

 For me – and I think any female who doesn’t ovulate – the first steps of fertility treatment (after ALL the scans, bloods, checks and tubes, camera’s and general prodding up your vagina) is Ovulation Induction (OI) in the form of taking (Clomifene) Clomid. Clomid is a tablet which you take once a day, for 5 days, from day 3 of your cycle (FYI, day 1 is the first day of your period), although I have read about some ladies taking this on slightly different days and becoming more successful than me; everyone is different, and if I could go back, I would try that as well. You are measured (although I can’t fully remember how!) for the first 3 months of taking Clomid to see if you are responding to the medication and ovulating. Within that first 3 months, I appeared to ovulate once; so not the greatest success rates! Regardless, I continued taking the Clomid whilst waiting for the next step. To me; taking something was at least potentially increasing my chances, rather than zero chances at all without it. On my fifth cycle, I realised that all the side effects I was feeling matched exactly that of the side effects from the Clomid. I can’t remember them all now (there was quite a few!) but the main one was consistent headaches, which is one of the big worry ones. They weren’t horrendous headaches, they were just there. It is recommended if you notice one of those “worry” side effects, you stop treatment… but like I said, one more month of headaches vs definitely not conceiving, meant I continued with the meds..

 So, 6 months down and we still aren’t pregnant – now we move onto Ovulation Induction in the form of injecting {me, with} Gonal-f daily, once again from day 3, until your follicle(s) are big enough (mature). [I am not good with needles. I have been known to faint. This was scary for me.] In Taunton, you are scanned transvaginally to check follicle growth three times a week. FYI – these scans are painless. Frankly I can’t see any difference between a camera-vaginal-probe going up there or a penis/tampon going up there -and we are pretty sure I have a low pain threshold! I am unsure of what the chances of conception using Clomid/Gonal-f for OI are, but I imagine it is not much increased – if at all – from that of an average couple conceiving naturally, as OI is simply encouraging the woman to ovulate like she should be anyway..

A mature, big enough follicle is between 18-20mm, and with this treatment, you aren’t really allowed more than 2 follicles.. As mentioned earlier, 2 follicles means 2 eggs which can mean 2 babies.. but if any of those eggs also split, you could end up with a lot of babies in one cycle. I love the idea of identical twins, but multiple pregnancies are riskier for both Mum and babies. The more babies, the higher the risk.

I always responded fairly quickly to Gonal-f, so generally I only ever had 2 or 3 scans to my ovaries before another injection (Ovitrelle) to trigger ovulation. You have to be quite on top of when your follicle might be ready to trigger ovulation, as really you want to be having regular sex in the week leading up to it to ensure there are lots of sperm ready and raring to go! I’ve learnt to draw on my merchandising skills to forecast (merch friends will find this hilarious; we are such geeks 🤓) when we might be triggering ovulation, because once you have ovulated, you got 48 hours to fertilise that egg. It can take 24 hours for sperm to travel to meet said egg. Sperm can survive for up to 7 days in the womb. So basically, like I say; you want to be having ALL of the sex [umm, with your partner, yeah 🤣] 7 days before you ovulate and the 1-2 after… any time outside of that is actually just for fun/pleasure… but believe me after a year of precisely timing EXACTLY when you NEED to have sex [and for us, a year prior to that just trying to conceive naturally with the standard stated “regular intercourse” when I don’t even release an egg.. 🙄] fun/pleasure basically no longer exists. I’ve read before and I totally agree that actually starting a treatment like IUI/IVF takes the pressure off couples HAVING to have intercourse – sex now is like bonus sperm in the womb, but the pressure is off, slightly, because the lovely people at BCRM “turkey baste” 🦃 me…

So, as we know, I sadly didn’t conceive with the aid of OI. Not for want of trying, and I was certainly sad to leave the fab team behind at Taunton; as we had to move to another clinic (Bristol or Exeter are our nearest) to move into IUI/IVF. So obviously, this moves me nicely into IUI. Intra-Utrine-Insemination is treated similarly to Ovulation Induction with Gonal-f, you again inject Gonal-f daily from day 3 until follicles get to ideal size; you are scanned roughly every other day, but depending on your rate of reaction/growth, when once again you then trigger ovulation (still Ovitrelle), your partner produces a sperm sample in a pot, which is “washed” and removed of the “useless” sperm, and roughly 2 hours later is inserted directly into your womb, via your vagina using a catheter. You get the added bonus of a second injection each morning when 1/2/3 follicles (no more than 3) reach 14mm, this second injection, Cetrotide, stops you ovulating off your own accord: unlikely for me but some women do ovulate on their own, (anovulation: not ovulating, isn’t the only reason fertility treatment is needed, but is our only reason!) and obviously, when you are being inseminated, you want the egg to be there at the right time or it’s all pointless! Again, I found this not too painful – just uncomfortable. When my husband asked me what it felt like, my words were “it feels like my vagina is wide open”. Essentially, it was. The procedure is almost exactly like what you see in the movies when the woman is lying on the bed with her legs in stirrups; the only difference is the bed/chair thing is now more modern – and actually pretty comfy! I reckon if I wasn’t distracting myself with a 3 way conversation between James, the nurse and I, I could have probably fallen asleep!! After insemination, you are left for 10-20 mins to let gravity do its thing, before you are sent on your way, with instructions to insert pessaries twice a day for 15 days, and then the day after they end, to do a pregnancy test… There are no real suggestions or recommendations for what else you can do or not do to encourage a pregnancy. Many women try to take it easy and relax. Those that have been fairly hard-core on the exercise take a break (myself included). I’ve tried to keep myself busy; surrounded by friends and keeping my mind occupied with little time to overthink. I am also EXHAUSTED, so sleeping a lot!

I’m just going to pop in here to explain/use me as the real life example of how any woman can react differently on every cycle using Gonal-f.

Whilst at Taunton, I had to inject 75(whatever the measurement is) daily. For 6 months, the maximum follicles I ever had was a risky 2.5 (the .5 wasn’t quite big enough but likely could have been by the time ovulation occurred after the trigger). Some months I had only 1 follicle, some 2, some 1.5, etc. Every month was different. Some months everything would happen on my left ovary, other months the right, and sometimes one on each. There is no rhyme or reason, but believe me, everyone was surprised when, on my first IUI cycle with BCRM (Bristol Centre of Reproductive Medicine) I “hyper-stimulated” on the exact same dose as I’d been for the last 6 months, and ended up with 5 follicles and having to cancel treatment. You are not allowed to continue with 5 follicles due to the increased risks of multiple pregnancies. It’s fair enough and we understood, no matter how disappointing. Hyper-stimulation is exactly as it sounds from what I’ve said so far; your ovaries have been overstimulated and produced too many follicles. In some cases, it can get much more out of hand than my 5, and can then be dangerous and painful for the female; I felt nothing.

I am not going to go into too much information around IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) because 1) hopefully we won’t get to that point, and 2) I think generally people “hear” more and “know” more about IVF. Quite simply, I believe the female continues to inject Gonal-f to produce follicles, but, with IVF you want to produce as many as possible (so yes, essentially hyper-stimulating). These follicles/eggs are then “collected” (unsure how, other than under anaesthetic, which having never been under anaesthetic, I am somewhat scared of!) there are then tests done to see which eggs are healthy – unhealthy ones essentially get chucked – the healthy ones are fertilised, then we see how many actually “fertilise”/become an embryo, and then an embryo (or 2) is popped back into your womb; all the embryo then has to do is implant itself in your womb, and stay there and grow for 9 months, et voila! I believe the success rates of IVF increased to 42%. IUI sits between 18-21%.

Both Clomid and Gonal-f (for use with OI) are only licensed for 6 cycles each, so essentially, you get 6 months, 6 chances, max, to be taking that medication and get it to work. Now – I am glad to have moved on, but I do find this odd that it is only licensed for 6 months, when its suggested it can take up to a year for a couple to conceive naturally… surely if the Clomid/Gonal-f is doing it’s job and making you ovulate, you should be trying for a year?! I am not sure why they are only licensed for 6 months; but I’m not going to argue, because frankly, 2 years of trying to conceive including 1 year using Ovulation Induction and still not being pregnant, feels to me like more than enough time that I can’t get back gone forever.

All this happy sharing has lead me onto a new “dilemma”. I wouldn’t say I was particularly worried about it, though I am unsure what to do, and what I want to do. Within the next 2 weeks we will know if we are pregnant; however, if we are successful, we will be in very early days – the kind of early days when those not undergoing fertility treatment wouldn’t even know they are pregnant. I could still loose the “baby”; and some women [conceiving naturally] probably do without even realising they are pregnant, just assuming it is their period. But if we are – that tiny bit of hope that we might be – I am sure I will want to share it, to tell the world that finally it has happened. I am also fully expecting some of my closest friends to be messaging me asking either way.. and it’s a little nerve wracking I guess, because it’s such early days anything could happen – I could be “pregnant” for a day and the next miscarry… and then the “world” will know. But then, why shouldn’t they? Miscarrying is no-ones fault; whilst it is much easier for me to say now, having (maybe, probably) not had it ever happen; I believe that miscarriages tend to be nature’s way of letting you know this has happened for a reason, suggesting something is not right with the baby – why should any woman/couple have to then battle through that silently? I’ll need support like I’ll have never needed support before. James too. Why shouldn’t we be entitled to that when we really need it rather than fighting it alone? We’ve shared so much and had incredible support from friends and family, that why wouldn’t we share this and, if need be, have that support again? Obviously, the ideal situation would be to be pregnant, and healthy and happy forever more.. but “what ifs?” Always lurk.

So, as ever, we all have everything crossed that between having James’ reject sperm rinsed out of the way of the decent sperm, alongside the pessaries is what we’ve needed all along, and in less than 2 weeks we will know if we are happily pregnant…🤞🏾

P.S. SORRY THIS TURNED OUT TO BE THE SUPER MEGA LONG ONE! 🤦🏽‍♀️

SO true – nabbed from google images ☺️

PCOS

Lots of blogging at the moment all… this is just a short one with a link to more info, but this resonates with me – not just because of the *possible* PCOS, but also, because I routinely notice what I eat, drink and how much I move, massively affecting my mood.

So, as seen, I spotted this in my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago. Link to the article is http://pcosdiva.com/2016/04/8-steps-to-managing-your-mood-with-food/

 If you read my blog, you’ll already know I have fertility issues – I don’t ovulate and present with signs of “atypical PCOS”; Fertility Doctors and Nurses don’t think I’m excessively hairy, ultra spotty or overweight which are the 3 biggest indicators of PCOS.. obviously, whilst I am not actually overweight, I disagree. I think I’m far too spotty for an almost 30 year old, my hair is thick and dark (cool on my scalp, could do with some longer eyelashes and my eyebrows are fine, not cool everywhere else.. 👍🏾) and feels like it grows excessively (though I don’t get it on my arms, I have some odd random hairs on my tummy between my belly button and pubic line, which appear to lighten/disappear as I tan {?!} and I don’t need to wait the suggested month before getting waxed; I look like a gorilla 🦍 within 2 weeks) and, as we all know, I think I’m too fat/too heavy/never happy with my weight and constantly measuring and fighting it. I do however, have A LOT of tiny follicles on my ovaries at any given moment; they just don’t seem to want to do anything, hence the question mark around whether I have PCOS or not. I don’t seem able to get a definitive answer either way. Frankly, I’m not consciously that caught up in it.. as long as I just hurry up and conceive with the fertility treatment and help we are receiving…! 👶🏻👶🏻

I do, however, present with mood disorders. All of those mentioned above actually. I was finally diagnosed in 2015 with Anxiety with Depression, which, from that diagnosis and on understanding now (thanks therapy!) has made me realise that anxiety and depression were the umbrella for the anorexia I have suffered on and off for nearly 20 years. Anxiety and depression are the cause; anorexia is the effect, if you like. Anorexia is the release, the “control”, the symptom. I am a healthy weight. I do not look anorexic. However, whilst I would and will frequently deny it until I am blue in the face, I know it still resides within me. I do compulsively exercise. I do frequently watch what I eat. I do weigh myself far too often; sometimes this results in a late night run to shift some pounds [yes, a combination of insomnia and needing to be skinnier has seen me run at midnight, 1am, 5am…] And I do “allow” the thoughts of being too fat and needing to stop eating and start moving to consume me more often that not.

Anyway, my point, of this “was-supposed-to-be-brief-now-quite-long” blog, is that, whilst I am not intolerant to food in general; I have no wheat allergy, or lactose intolerance, I don’t have Crohn’s disease and I can comfortably eat mostly whatever I want [mostly because there is definitely some things what will cause hideously uncomfortable IBS symptoms, but other than crisps which I routinely avoid, I am unsure of what, why or how/when!] BUT, and it is a big but (mine 🍑🍑😝😂!) I am fully aware that if I follow a path of what is considered “clean eating” although in reality is just what we should ALL be eating – what our ancestors ate – I feel a million times better than when I don’t. Now I do and will in the future take vitamins and supplements in tablet forms, but part of me thinks – our ancestors didn’t do this; so why do we? If we eat a healthy, balanced diet then surely that should be enough? I’ve been known in the past to be a fainter, or get “shakey” – and as the above linked article mentions, drops in blood sugar levels are likely responsible for most of this.

 I often bake or “no-bake bake” sweet treats from “natural” ingredients; because I do have a sweet tooth, but eating everything the supermarkets has to offer leaves me feeling fat, miserable and energyless. So there is definitely something to be said about refined sugars, too many [white in particular, for me] carbs and drinking enough water. So for me, minimum 2Litres of water a day, more fruit and veg, less carbs, especially white. I am not vegetarian, so I eat meat; but I also eat quorn mince at times because you can’t taste a difference by the time you’ve turned it into a spag bol/chilli con carne! I have also found that spelt pasta works best for me. It just means I can eat it without feeling energy zapped and bloated. Who knows why, and I don’t go to a restaurant demanding changes or spelt pasta etc (ok I lie, but slightly different; normally I can’t make a decision on one meal so combine bits of 2.. as done for breakfast at Kings Weston House cafe in Bristol last weekend .. I’m a delight 😂! Cheers though guys!) and I just generally seem to have [mostly..!] gone off chips and prefer sweet potato chips 💁🏽 but I don’t think I’m a complete nightmare customer.. just a piggy 🐷! Today for example, I am about to finish up some (beef mince) spag bol but with Sweet Potato/Butternut Squash noodles rather than pasta.. easy way to get more veg in, plus they are quite carby really 😝! I also, when making the spag bol had juiced as well – as ages ago I read about using the pulp [note to self; try not to juice the limes/apples/ginger/turmeric into spag bol… 🙄] in spag bol-typed-meals rather than just throwing it away like I used to.. so we got some extra fibre in there too! [the juice is because I often cannot seem to quench my thirst at the moment and that has always been good in the past! A lot of people think I’m crazy and that it looks gross, but I like it and it works for me. I start every day with a smoothie for breakfast.] 

Now, I know you guys aren’t stupid, so take everything with a pinch of salt. There are hundreds of articles and information everywhere about what works and doesn’t work. One week coconut oil is the holy saviour of all life and perfect hair and skin and figures, the next its back dumped in the corner being told it will kill you. Do what works for you. We are all individual and unique, no two of us the same no matter how identical you appear – what works for me may not work for you. If 3 meals of McDonalds a day works for you; great for you (& McDonalds 🍟 I expect!!) But because I over-worry and over-care about everyone, I just want everyone to be and feel their best, and I know this works for me. 

Don’t get me wrong, panic attacks aren’t the only reason I avoid supermarkets. Sometimes I have the willpower to top all willpowers, but others (and this seems to be common recently: I blame all the meds and extra hormones) I just cannot avoid ALL the ice cream, all the Krispy Kreme’s or [Sainsbury’s*] jam doughnuts and I binge (and no, just no – it is very, very rare that I make myself sick after any food [anorexia]. I can’t remember the last time, but I’m fairly sure it hasn’t happened this year. Maybe not even last year.. 😀🙌🏾) just like the rest of us – comfort foods. It is a wonder sometimes that I don’t have Type 2 Diabetes. But eating like this, my body and mind becomes zapped. And I hate feeling that way. I hate feeling like I have no energy for anything: depression does that all by itself so I don’t need to aid it in anyway. Instead, for me, “clean eating” just works. And it works even more so now that spiralzing veg is accessible; either DIY or purchase in the supermarkets. So scrummy! Almond flour in my house is vast replacing plain white flour; “worst case” I tend to use wholemeal: you often cannot tell the difference. Sugar treats are replaced with more natural sugars from fruits or honey. Which leads me to the point of this blog – because my lovely, err… sister-in-law-to-be-but-they-aren’t-engaged (😅) brought me these amazing home-made snacks recently and oh my gosh, they taste like healthier versions of snickers 😍 so here, lovely people is the receipe. Not my recipe, not my “fake”-sister-in-laws; she found online and shared with me, and I just feel like the world needs to have these in their lives! So simple and easy to make. Happy Karen. 👰🏽 (why is there no Princess emoji!!?!)

~ side note, I also used Cacao Powder rather than Cocoa Powder because I had no Cocoa left, and I’m happy to report they don’t taste super bitter so are also that little bit more “clean” 😀 http://12tomatoes.com/healthy-sugarfree-cookies-nobake-chocolate-oat-cookies/

TASTES LIKE SNICKERS 🤤(gutted the recipe didn’t make more!!)

And because it makes me happy, here’s a couple of my other favourite “sweet treat” easy to make healthier, cleaner, energy providing-rather-than-zapping, recipes – all found online or sent to me by friends 💕

https://blog.kitchenaid.com/fig-and-almond-energy-bites-recipe/ (These are perfect for a quick, pre-parkrun “breakfast” as I don’t normally find the time, or particularly need or like to eat much before a smaller morning run)

Fig/Date/Almond/Peanut Butter energy balls

https://deliciouslyella.com/2015/08/15/raw-chocolate-orange-brownies/ (According to a friend who had no oranges, but lemons/limes in stock at hers, they work just as well and sound delightful!) here’s my most recent batch:

Deliciously Ella chocolate orange brownies

A couple more things I feel the need to highlight:

1) stored in an airtight container in the fridge, these all last absobloodylutely AGES 😍

2) switch in and out ingridients as you need/please. I.e. I rarely buy almond butter because I prefer peanut, I keep cacao rather than cocoa because of the raw, more natural content – it all works and tastes yummy 🤤

*Sainsburys are the best. Don’t even bother bringing me Tesco own brand jam doughnuts 🍩🤣 but probably, for the sake of my health, just don’t bring me any jam doughnuts 😂
Edit – P.S. I meant to add this, but ladies – if you are recently diagnosed PCOS and feel all doom and gloom, don’t. I have SO many lovely stories of young ladies (friends of friends, old colleagues, etc) diagnosed with PCOS who’ve then stopped all contraception and conceived without trying. Or been told after their first that they have PCOS (not sure if it can “suddenly” develop?!) I’m not saying this will happen for you, but, just to say; it’s happened. 

#PCOS #Fertility #FertilityAwareness #Infertility #InfertilitySucks #InfertilityAwareness #OvulationInduction #IUI #IVF