OHSS

Bare with me a little, as I’m writing this from mostly notes, 7 months after I experienced Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

OHSS is a condition that affects women undergoing fertility treatment. Because during fertility treatment (IVF/ICSI) your ovaries are stimulated to produce as many follicles as possible, your ovaries become enlarged from the extra work they are doing and stimulation they are receiving. Once you have triggered ovulation and had those eggs collected from the follicles, those follicle sacs are left empty. If a successful pregnancy then occurs, the HCG pregnancy hormone floods your body, filling all of those empty follicle sacs back up with fluid.

I never asked but I would assume this does happen to every women when they’re pregnant… but as most women only release 1/2/3/4 (and likely only 2/3/4 if multiples run in your family!) then it goes unnoticed, as one follicle filling with HCG is nothing compared to 20+…!!

The OHSS I experienced was only ever considered mild-moderate. And I was fairly uncomfortable, scared, and poorly. I was hospitalised for two days/nights and placed on a protein transfusion drip due to low proteins in my blood. All fluid intake and outtake was monitored quite strictly which meant lots of peeing in cardboard potty’s!

I had not been a particularly high risk – as such – for OHSS, as at egg collection, 15 eggs were collected. With my clinic (and, I would think/hope all responsible clinics), if any more than 20 eggs were collected a “freeze all” approach would be taken and a fresh transfer of embryo/blastocysts would not go ahead within the 5 days after egg collection, giving your ovaries and follicles a chance to shrink back and return to normal (ovaries) or disappear (follicles).

At my final scan pre-egg collection however, I had been advised that 25+ follicles were seen and thus it was unlikely I’d be able to go ahead with a fresh transfer. I was disappointed to say the least, but now I understand why! And with hindsight, we wonder perhaps if all 25 eggs had been released from those 25 follicles, but for whatever reason 10 or so got lost or weren’t mature enough or what not… but then those 25+ follicle sacs started filling with the wonderful pregnancy hormone. Because… yes! We were finally pregnant!

After egg collection, I was given medication called Cabergoline which I took each evening for 8 days as prescribed. The day I stopped taking the cabergoline was the day I noticed OHSS symptoms kicking in. I was bloated and uncomfortable with sharp pains all over my tummy. After a call to our clinic, one of my favourite nurses advised this was a good sign, as if OHSS symptoms worsen, the chances are, you’re pregnant! It’s a funny position to be in; uncomfortable and ill, hospitalised, but really, it’s all good because you’re pregnant!

By the early hours of the night after, good old V&D had arrived. At 6am that morning I was convinced nothing could have survived the amount of vomit and diahorrea is expelled from my body that night, and that is when I first peed on a stick. Having peed on the stick, I felt like I was about to faint, so I left the test on the side of our sink and belted it back to bed. When I left the test, it was negative. Minutes later I felt more sickness coming so ran back into the ensuite, only to stop dead at the POSITIVE pregnancy test staring me in the face! I couldn’t believe it!

yes, I did SEVEN tests in the end! ❤️

Completely empty, the V&D finally stopped, but the OHSS didn’t disappear. Throughout that day I was progressively just feeling worse and worse – I actually can’t remember a lot as I was pretty out of it! I just remember being quite uncomfortable/quite a lot of pain, my temperature couldn’t be controlled and I felt swelteringly hot, despite it being December – 4 days before Christmas! James eventually called our clinic in a worry and they called us up, which is when it was noticed my proteins were low. On the journey up, I couldn’t have anything touching my stomach – I had a loose fitting dress on and had to hold the seatbelt away from my belly area – for the entire 40 mile journey! I was pretty weak and faint, and when I was finally admitted to the ward – which was literally across a small car park from our IVF clinic, I had to be wheel-chaired over as I couldn’t walk!

For me, I was bloated. Hugely. And that seemed to cause crazy discomfort and heat! That was the most noticeable thing about me. I was 4 weeks pregnant, but I looked 5 months! My ovaries were quite dramatically enlarged, and follicles were filled with fluids. A woman’s ovaries usually measure between 3-4cm. Mine were each 11cm+, covered in follicle sacs which were filled with fluid, some of which were measuring up to 6cm! My belly circumference when I was admitted to hospital was around 38″!! Pre-pregnancy, I was about 27″!

After a couple of days in hospital I was determined to get out for Christmas, but also so we could host our annual neighbourly Christmas drinks! In hindsight this was probably not my best idea as I wasn’t much fun – still bloated and uncomfortable but very glad to have the drip out of my hand and be home for Christmas! The hospital and our clinic were quite pleased with me as I was eating EVERYTHING – no longer a concern for underrating, I couldn’t get enough food, and whilst a high protein diet is recommended for OHSS, they were happy for me to eat what I needed (carbs!). Again as an avid avoider of carbs (particularly white!) pre-pregnancy, this also probably wasn’t my best idea as it would have been such a shock to my system and bloated me more – but that’s all the baby wanted for 20 weeks and so needs must! It’s also recommended that sports drinks help with OHSS, and I have to say – I found the below pictured electrolytes added to water helped me massively – I thought those electrolytes were destined to go out of date as I was no longer running long distances, but they were used up quickly to reduce the OHSS!

IVF

I was recently tagged in a blog post (from someone I don’t know – not sure if it was an accident!) about IVF and how she felt like it was a dark, dirty word. Like she had failed herself and her family and society in being unable to do what we are placed here on earth to do: reproduce.

I have to say, although it is a living hell finding out that it just isn’t going to happen without some help, and I wish upon anything we had been able to conceive naturally and just been able to start our family 3 years ago as per my ideal. I have never, ever, been ashamed of IVF. Quite the opposite – I am proud of it. Fascinated. I could talk about it all day and I LOVE when people have a million questions for me about it! I think it is incredible what the powers that be of science and medicine can achieve. That without their little bit of help we wouldn’t be able to have the family we so desired. That the words “Baron Karen” that always echo around my head, are a thing of the past thanks to science. I forget if it is 1 in 4 or 1 in 8 couples trying to conceive struggle to do so, and do need some help. So those that do need help are far from alone.

A card which my husband received for his birthday that we found funny… and which won’t be true for our children! Another woman knocked me up! 🤣

And I guess – alongside the fact that I appear to be quite the “oversharer”! That this is why I share about it, talk about it, and write about it openly. Because we aren’t alone. When I first started blogging about IVF I had two old friends inform me they too had struggled and had IVF. They are two pregnancies I remember distinctly being announced and thinking that it wasn’t fair – “when is it our turn?” So sometimes not everything is as plain as the eye can see – others struggle too, and knowing we weren’t alone suddenly made me feel better – and bad; for making the assumption!

There isn’t a day goes by when other pregnancy announcements hit me hard – when it appears that everyone else conceives so easily, which is why it was/is important for me to share that for some – it just isn’t so easy, and that really, if we don’t laugh about it, it just makes it all harder.

Spotted on instagram 😂

Therapy.. and why I’m done

Throughout our IUI/IVF TTC/Fertility journey, we (in particular, me) were encouraged several times – well meaningly – by some of our lovely nurses to see the therapist. And every time I refused. I just do not see the point.

Yes, I was often a crying mess. Frankly, I’m not sure I know many couples where at least one of them is not a crying mess to have gone through/be going through the hell that is infertility. But;

No therapist in the world was going to make me pregnant.

No therapist in the world is going to change my mindset. In my opinion, therapists help but no one can change you.

At the points in which I underwent counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and CAT (Cognitive Analytical Therapy), I was just learning to talk about these things. These feelings and emotions and behaviours that had essentially been locked up for most of my life – ALL of my adult life! I had bottled them all up for so long that they caused huge breakdowns in me, and so talking to a therapist felt like the only option. At that point I couldn’t have discussed some of those things with anyone, and the leading questions you are offered from a mental-health trained therapist to get you talking are next to nothing expert level! At that point in my life, that’s what I needed. But now I’ve learnt to talk, and write openly. To not be ashamed or scared of what my mind is telling me. It’s still not always easy but I can discuss things far easier now with those around me, than ever before. But often because, everything I’ve been through is quite open, so everyone knows. Everyone else is now almost-expert at leading questions/being open and accepting of discussing subjects that may not have been discussed before! I’m definitely a pretty open book now – nothing is off limits for discussion here!

Don’t get me wrong, my therapists were great. And some time in the future I may need therapy again. But I’m quite picky about what I need from a therapist and wouldn’t just stick with anyone if it wasn’t right for me. But right now, I’m back to Karen. I’m pretty good at talking to anyone and everyone about anything and everything, so therapy is just not needed here. The question of “will our baby have a severely mentally ill mum?” Has crossed my mind. But for now, I’m good. I’m not worried about post-natal depression, but I know if it happens that support is out there.

A favourite extract from Matt Haig’s “How to Stop Time”. ❤️

Food/Eating Disorders/Pregnancy Cravings – we each know our own bodies better.

I was riled, a few months ago, watching a couple of programmes regarding eating disorders – something I always watch if I know it’s on, because I am simply fascinated, still. The first, was the “Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia.” And another with Louis Theroux. I remember, whilst watching, that both James and I were gobsmacked – and I have, from experience, a lot more understanding and knowledge of Anorexia.

What I will say from the offset, is that anyone that can be considered a role model should think very carefully about what they are saying/posting, although I believe if you are going to suffer with an eating disorder (or any other mental health issue), you will probably do so regardless of what you see/hear etc. I think you are pre-disposed within your genetic makeup in the same way some people get Cancer, and others don’t. However, I don’t believe the likes of Kim Kardashian (pains me to even write her name in one of my blogs 😫!) and the idiotic things she – or other similar individuals – say/do/post are going to cause eating disorders in young men/women, but I do think at times they are selling utter shite. If you are hungry, food or drink (not booze people🥂🍾!) will suppress your appetite, not a lollipop 🍭, ladies and gentlemen. In fact, I am currently eating a Chupa-Chups lollipop and am quite sure that once I’ve finished it, my appetite will no longer be suppressed and I’ll simply move onto another snack..

I seem to have this inbuilt part of me that has this need/want to help and support others, hence why I continue to write this blog.

Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy gave an incredibly open, and honest account of life with anorexia (Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia). Everything they both said is the exact kind of situation that happens with mental health illness and destroying families. The exact same happened in mine: anorexia isolates you, it makes you cunning and kuniving and it destroys relationships. Parents – or those that have no chance to understand – are angry, frustrated, exasperated. I hope history doesn’t repeat itself, and when I first started writing this – I was also still hoping anorexia hadn’t entirely destroyed my ability to have an embryo/blastocyst implant and carry a healthy pregnancy/birth/child. Thankfully, I have made it 25 weeks in and everything is healthy so far.

But it still hasn’t been easy. Whilst I am beyond in love with the ever-growing bump attached to the front of me, I am not thrilled with how I currently look overall. I stopped running in order to conceive – and anxiety meant I didn’t try again until we were 13 weeks, by which point, all fitness was lost and I was not in a position to push myself for fear of hurting our much-longed-for, unborn baby. Whilst I don’t doubt from other people’s comments that I perhaps still see myself as larger than I actually am (although believe me, I am heavy now!) my thighs, therefore {to me} are enormous. I have craved, and thus eaten non-stop carbs for the past 25 weeks; foods which I would normally reserve for never due to their ability to make me gain weight just thinking about them. I still live with mental health issues that I fight against daily, that no one can ever fully understand, and thus no one can ever fully have an input – especially if it is unasked for – thank you very much!

Recently, I’ve found people telling me what I should and shouldn’t be eating. People that will never be pregnant are included in this (aka men, or those older who have never wanted children) and I spent a drive home from an anxious hospital appointment a few weeks ago in tears, fuming and thinking about it, and the things I’ve done to my body over the years:

When I was 16, upon waking and realising no-one else was home, I leapt out of bed and ran through to my parents ensuite to weigh myself and see if the scales were acceptable to me yet.

I knocked myself out on a door frame/TV cabinet on the way through because I was so dizzy and fainting. In the 5 days prior to that morning, I had eaten just one apple. Nothing suppressed my appetite, I tried everything to be constantly thinner, and as a result of hunger, passed out.

In 2015, over ten years later, aged 26/27 I spent a month barely eating, and sneaking off to throw up everything I did consume. I taunted and teased myself by joining in with others and accepting free hot chocolate the work canteen was offering at the time – throwing it all up as soon as it was finished. Months later at 27/28 I struggled to push myself – desperately – through a 5 mile run because all I’d allowed myself for three days prior was “juice diet”. “Healthy” green liquid or water only. Less than a mile in I could feel my kidneys in pain, my muscles physically unable to run through a full 5 miles from lack of fuel. And yet mentally, I was livid with myself still. Angry at my body at having to run-walk-run as someone who knew they could usually run for miles on end and love it. You cannot function on nothing. Food, is fuel.

I remember lying to my friends that I’d already had dinner/was eating dinner at home later. Lying to my parents that I’d eaten out with my friends. I remember trying to throw up the smallest bit of cheese I’d sucumbed (BECAUSE SUPPRESSING YOUR APPETITE DOESN’T EXIST!!) to eating off my friends pizza, in the Pizza Hut toilets aged 15. I remember flushing food down the toilet or chucking it in the bin whilst exercising for a minimum of an hour every single day. I remember asking my parents for school dinner money rather than food so that at least I wouldn’t waste the food; because, whilst adamant I didn’t deserve food, I still felt a resounding guilt that I was simply throwing food away when there were – are – thousands of starving people in the world. I remember that I wasn’t kidding anyone. I remember it all too well, for someone who’s memory is largely shot to pieces. How can you forget such hideous self punishment?

Having been diagnosed “Anxiety with depression” aged 26, in 2015, I also honestly believe anorexia/eating disorders are a side effect, a symptom, a coping mechanism for wider issues. When I had my first mental health breakdown in March 2015 I had spent the previous 6+ weeks over exercising, marginally under eating and regularly throwing up everything I did eat. It was something I could control. It was a coping mechanism to deal with my heightened anxiety, my low self confidence and self esteem, it was an outlet, but it kills.

So what I don’t understand now, is how anyone thinks they have the right to tell someone – anyone – let alone someone who has been through what I have – what they should and shouldn’t be eating, when they’ve not asked, but particularly through pregnancy. I believe after all these years I am more than aware of what I should/should not eat in order to achieve weight gain/loss. I also instinctively believe I (we: baby and I!) will crave what we need. This pregnancy, that has NOT been salad. And I do love me a good salad. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough for a future pregnancy(/pregnancies?!) perhaps salad will be craved.

Yes – I am eating a lot of (ok ONLY!) carbs. Just because that isn’t considered an “odd” craving to many doesn’t mean it isn’t a craving, and is just an “excuse” to eat them. I have never eaten carbs like this before – I used to avoid them like the plague. I have never wanted or apparently needed carbs like this before. I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself a jacket potato (rather than sweet potato), or white pasta (rather than spelt). Crisps used to make me feel uncomfortably bloated and thus I would still avoid them even at parties when they were laid out as nibbles. The last time I actually ATE a regular breakfast, rather than drinking a protein shake, or smoothie only, (and after running 3/5/7 miles), I was about 10 years old.

So yes, it’s a lot of carbs. Yes, I’ve gained a lot of weight, no, I am not thrilled about it: in fact if I could take scissors to my thighs to cut off the extra chub, I would. But I don’t think I am massively complaining about it – yes I’m calling myself “fat”, a “beached whale”; that’s how I feel right now, but I say it in jest! I am not going to do anything about it whilst I am carrying our miracle baby. I am not entirely stupid – enough so to think for a second all of this weight will just “fall off” the second the baby pops out. I will have to work at it, hard – but does anyone honestly think this is something I’m not prepared to do? Someone who, when working full time would get up at 5/5.30/6am to run, and spent most days ensuring she exercised twice? Someone who is known to have got up during worst bouts of insomnia and run for 5+ miles at 1am?? I am not prepared to risk something we have wanted, and tried for, for so long. I tried to run to keep off some weight, but it’s not for me – not this time, this pregnancy anyway; it’s too late, too hard and therefore too much of a worry to me to keep trying until the baby has arrived. I have never craved, or eaten, carbs like I am doing now, and so, I believe there must be a reason for this, and for once in my life, I am not going to deny what my body – our baby – is asking for.

I have said time and time again that unless you have physically experienced a mental health issue, you will never fully understand – no matter how much training you have had. I had two incredible (NHS) therapists providing me CBT and CAT over the last few years but for both of them I always felt (particularly the first) that you just don’t really get it until you’ve had it – and I wouldn’t wish anyone to have mental health illness. We all have mental health – some of us are just lucky enough not to have mental health illness.

HOW is it, that 23 years ago – yes, you read that right, TWENTY THREE – the incredible Princess Diana opened up and spoke about her mental health – her eating disorder, and yet here we still are in 2018 with still so much stigma, a distinct lack of understanding, and with idiotic products on the market promising suppressed appetites and “miracle” weight loss to those vulnerable and desperate enough to believe them?

Bigger arms, bigger thighs, bigger bum and bigger boobs. But a beautiful, beautiful, healthy baby bump. Oh, and my “appetite suppressant” lollipop.. which as it happens I’ve just finished… time for crisps!

ALSO:

  • Rufus
  • My husband
  • My health
  • My friends and family

xxx

EDIT – to add the below screen grabs that I’ve had saved on my phone since forever, because they make such valid points! Thanks to AliceLiveing for the words!

Thank you, BCRM x

We will never be able to thank the amazing team at BCRM enough for what they have achieved for us. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be pregnant with what felt like the impossible – our first little miracle IVF baby – and we wouldn’t have four potential siblings frozen for future.

But sure – any fertility clinic can likely get you pregnant and achieve the seemingly impossible, right?

I actually only chose Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine over slightly-closer-to-us Exeter Fertility, because my best friend and godchildren live in Bristol; so I figured after any major stress or upset I could nip in on them and have a hug and make it all better…

Except that was never the case, because the team at BCRM really, genuinely care for you. Yes, there is a therapist available for [mental health] support – let’s face it, battling infertility isn’t easy – but, stubborn old me was done with talking to therapists. However, I never needed to see her anyway, because they take the time to find out about you, care for you, and if you need a hug, they’ll give you one. And in my simple opinion – a hug fixes everything! The nurses and HCA’s there are some of my favourite people on Earth now.. I hope they never change and the team stays the same forevermore…! They’ve got tonnes of patients to see but they won’t let you out that door if they feel like something is up with you – they’ll coax it out and you’ll feel better for it…

I am so glad we were squeezed in before the NHS funding was removed from BCRM, as I really didn’t want to move clinics and have a potentially less supportive team!

Extra special thanks to Jane our “named nurse”, Carrie who impregnated us (😂) Anne, Lydia, Jackie and Sue.

All the flowers, cake and words in the world will never be enough, but thank you BCRM, and I hope that you do all know – really know – how amazing you all are xx

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/