Earlier this year in March, we featured YouTube blogger, Nicole’s heart-breaking story. Like thousands of others, they had their fertility treatment stalled by the dreaded Covid-19. We’re delighted to be sharing hope in this IVF blog, as Nicole is now finally pregnant, after years of failed IVF cycles and unsuccessful fertility treatment.
Over to Nicole…
www.youtube.com/goodlucknic | @goodlucknic
This is my story. It’s not simple or straightforward, but thinking about it, whose is?
I am 27 years old, and I am finally pregnant, following an extremely long round of IVF. I met my now husband when we were at school, coming up to thirteen years ago. We got married on a gorgeous beach in Turkey, in front of our nearest and dearest three years ago. It was such a happy, simple time.
Shortly after the wedding and honeymoon, we were ready to start trying to conceive. It was something we had both really wanted. We were so excited at the prospect of becoming parents in the near future, as any innocently-minded person would be.
Innocently Trying to Conceive
Well, my bubble burst within the six months of us TTC (trying to conceive). I came off the pill and assumed my body would return to normal pretty swiftly, I was wrong.
My periods didn’t return for months!
When they finally did return, I would bleed for around six weeks with my whole cycle being about nine to ten weeks long, with no ovulation (I know this from ovulation detector kits). This is a problem if you are trying to conceive, as NO OVULATION = NO BABY. I decided to try my luck with my GP. Luckily, I saw a lovely doctor in the summer of 2018, who said I was showing signs of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), having reviewed my blood tests and a scan. The PCOS results were conclusive, I did have PCOS. At the time, my GP also ordered a semen analysis to be done to test Mark’s sperm (my husband). This first sperm test showed a low motility rate in his sperm. The GP referred us to a fertility specialist at our local hospital, for further fertility tests and to see what else could be done to help us with our fertility.
I underwent several more tests and Mark also had another semen analysis done three months later. Luckily, that was back in order (we believe a change in diet/lifestyle and also taking male pre-natal supplements helped with this). One of the further fertility tests I had done, was called an HSG test, where they check if your Fallopian tubes are clear or not. My world came crashing down the day I found out both of my fallopian tubes were blocked. They tried to flush them several times, which was not comfortable. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful. I was told by the doctor that day that the only way I would be able to have my own children would be via IVF. That for me, was one of the darkest moments in our fertility journey.
You never think it will happen to you.
Related Article – Jade’s PCOS Struggles
The IVF Process
In July 2019, our IVF referral got sent from our local hospital, to the main fertility clinic in Birmingham which offer fertility treatment on the NHS – Birmingham Women’s Hospital. Little did I know that place was about to become my second home! In preparation for IVF, I lost 2 and a half stone, to be in the BMI bracket to be eligible for the NHS funded IVF. On my journey to lose the weight, I fell in love with weight training and fitness. I have now lost just over four stone in total! I am so proud of myself, I feel like I put myself in the best possible position I could for my IVF treatment.
Exercise truly helped me be able to cope with everything I was going through.
It was a way for me to switch off and have another thing to work on, instead of my life being consumed by infertility and IVF, which it so easily can be. I am truly fortunate to live in an area to have NHS funded IVF, as fertility treatment is a huge postcode lottery. I was eligible for one round of IVF on the NHS. Some areas offer up to three rounds and others offer none at all. I personally think this is a disgrace: the fact that infertility is a medical condition, which cannot be helped, and yet there are people being denied fertility treatment to be able to do one of the things we are put on this planet to do!
For those that are unaware of what the IVF process is like, I’ll quickly explain, as simply as I can. I had to inject myself with hormones (well actually my husband Mark did). They had to be done both morning and evening. One was to switch off my system, to ensure I didn’t ovulate and to allow the drugs to essentially take over my system and do their job effectively. The other drug was a follicle stimulating hormone. When you have a “normal” cycle and you ovulate monthly, you will grow and release one egg, from one of your ovaries. In IVF, the aim is to stimulate your follicles (this is where the eggs grow) to grow multiple eggs at once. It can get pretty uncomfortable by the time you have several large follicles on each ovary, they weigh you down like golf balls.
Related Article – Understanding Your Ovarian Reserve & The Egg Retrieval Process by ORM Fertility
IVF Injections & Side Effects
Whilst injecting these hormones, you have to go into the fertility clinic every few days, to have scans so they can monitor your progress and know when the optimum time is for you to inject the last trigger shot. The trigger shot matures all of the eggs to where they would normally be at the time you ovulate. In IVF, you have the eggs collected during an operation, known as egg retrieval. You’re sometimes put under heavy sedation, you don’t feel or remember anything. Or the egg retrieval process can be done via general aesthetic, which is what I had.
It was the best nap I’d had in ages!
Whilst you’re under, your partner will be off having a whale of a time doing his business in a cup, ready to fertilise the eggs that have just been collected from you. When the egg has been fertilised with the sperm, most of the time, people will call it an embryo – looked after by an amazing team of embryologists. They will monitor the embryo to watch how it’s growing. Some people then have that embryo transferred back within five days of the egg collection – this is called a fresh embryo transfer.
I myself, had to freeze my embryos for a few months to allow my body to recover after the egg collection procedure. As I had eighteen eggs collected in December 2019, I was at risk of what they call OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome). This is one of the joys of PCOS. To be honest I was thankful to have that time to allow my body to recover. As on Day 5, my vagina was still pretty sore.
Related Article – How To Prepare for an Embryo Transfer
COVID-19 Cancelled My Treatment
I went back to my fertility clinic in February 2020, to start the process of having my Frozen Embryo Transfer (often know as a FET). I had the fertility consultation, where we signed all the paperwork. I had an injection to shut down my system, and I had to be on the drugs for eight days and I was literally one week away from my frozen embryo transfer, when COVID-19 hit and my treatment was cancelled. Just like that, I had to stop my drugs (which was horrendous – withdrawal from them was not fun) and I had to just wait. It was a “how long is a piece of string” scenario. Nobody had any idea how long this virus would be around for, or when we would be able to resume fertility treatment and complete our IVF cycle!
We were in purgatory. It was the worst time.
We campaigned to raise awareness that fertility treatment was being cancelled. But, all we heard on the news was about a soon to be baby boom, due to lock-down and everyone being at home with their partners. It was hard to hear as someone struggling to conceive. I appreciate everything the NHS does for us, and I was happy that our fertility nurses were able to be reallocated to help in the crisis. But we were lost.
In April, there was an HFEA announcement to say fertility clinics could apply to re-open in May. The infertility community were overjoyed! But as time went on, I had not heard anything from my clinic. There were rumours that they needed building work in order to meet the criteria set by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation & Embryology Association). At one point, we were told they would be restarting treatment with the older patients first and as I had been just one week away from our frozen embryo transfer, the thought of being put at the bottom of the pile was so upsetting.
Thinking About Changing Fertility Clinics
After much deliberation, in June 2020, Mark and I looked into moving our embryos from Birmingham Women’s Hospital to a private fertility clinic, as they were already up and running. Obviously, the private sector had a little more incentive to start than the NHS. I was ready to give up on my NHS round, to finally get my chance of becoming a mum.
I was prepared to do ANYTHING at this point. I felt desperate.
I felt like I needed to do whatever was in my power to get this show on the road. But right at that moment, I ended up speaking to someone who assured me that I was at the top of the list, due to my treatment being cancelled and that my hospital had applied to the HFEA to reopen. They were hoping to be restarting treatment within the following two weeks. This seemed to be my little beacon of light in such a dark and confusing time.
Related Article – How to Choose a Fertility Clinic – 9 Top Tips
We decided to ride out what we had started at the Birmingham Women’s hospital. On the 25th July 2020, I had my little embryo transferred back into my uterus. I had to attend this appointment on my own, which was a little upsetting, but by this time Mark and I just wanted to get it done. So, if I had to do it alone to get it done, so be it. We went out for Pizza following the transfer, I was PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) and I was in the dreaded two week wait (2WW). This is the time after transfer or ovulation if you’re trying to conceive naturally, where you’re in limbo again – just waiting to take a pregnancy test or see if your period shows up.
For me, I just wanted to keep busy. I stopped everything you shouldn’t do when you’re pregnant, like eating sushi/raw fish, under cooked red meat, alcohol, caffeine. I did what I could to stay positive and busy during this time. We had booked a little staycation in the middle of the two-week wait. We stayed in a gorgeous shepherd’s hut in Milford on Sea. It was just the break we needed to get away from all the “how are you feeling” questions and just to keep us busy. A change of scenery is always good for the soul I believe, especially if it’s by the seaside.
Related Article – Negative Pregnancy Tests – How to Not Give Up Hope by Alice Rose
Two days before our official ‘test day’, given to us by our hospital (when we were still in the Shepherd’s hut), we decided to test! It was 9DP5DT (9 days past 5 day transfer). The day prior, we scrambled around the few pharmacies that were still open on a Sunday afternoon, trying to find a pregnancy test with pink dye. We hadn’t brought our tests with us as we assumed we would wait until we got home to test. At about 6am on Monday 3rd August 2020, I did the test.
We flipped it over together and saw those magical 2 pink lines. We were overjoyed!
There were many tears, mostly mine. I couldn’t believe my luck! It had worked. After the round taking ten months to complete, I was one of the lucky ones (in the infertility community) who had flipped the coin and have it land the right way up for us! The chance of IVF success is between 20-50%. Those are not great odds. But we all take the gamble. Because we have to. If we want children and IVF is our only option, we have to do it. We filmed our reactions on our Youtube Channel!
Related Article – IVF Success Rates – Measuring Yours and Your Clinic’s
We drove home that day, thinking of the ways we could surprise our families and friends. IVF generally takes the surprise element away from you in announcing your pregnancy. We wanted to take back the power. Our family and friends assumed we wouldn’t be testing until the Saturday, that would have been a full two weeks from transfer. So when we told them through the course of that week that our fertility treatment had been successful and we were finally pregnant, they were so surprised, and obviously thrilled for us all! We also managed to catch their reactions too (keep an eye out for that at the end of the pregnancy test video).
Since the test, life has been a mixture of the torturous three weeks waiting for our viability scan. I had one booked in at the Women’s Hospital, but Mark wasn’t allowed to come in, so we booked a private one for a few days prior. This was the best thing we could have done in my opinion. I wanted to be with Mark when I found out if the pregnancy was viable and in the right place or not. I couldn’t imagine that moment without him. We went to a private clinic, where a lovely lady confirmed the pregnancy was there and everything was ok. She showed us the heartbeat, and also put the sound on too for us to hear it.
What a moment that was. It made it feel so real.
Until that moment I had been finding it so hard to believe it was real and this was actually happening to me! I have had so many unfortunate things happen to me, I couldn’t comprehend, something finally was going right for a change.
Pregnancy After IVF Success
I’m currently twelve weeks pregnant and I am sharing my journey throughout, openly and honestly. I want the world to have the opportunity to see the taboos like infertility and the first trimester. The things that are often not spoken about. I don’t really know why that is the case.
INFERTILITY DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. It can literally happen to ANYBODY.
The first trimester is often kept a secret, in case you have a miscarriage. In my opinion I would want to be surrounded and supported by my family and friends if I had a miscarriage, not locked away to deal with that in secret. I totally understand that some people are more private than me. But I am an open book, it works for me to be this way. Not to mention how bloody hard the first trimester is, to deal with that alone – pretending to not be exhausted, and nauseous is a whole other level of acting!
Related Article – Baby Loss Awareness – What Not to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage
There is so little education surrounding the subject, so naturally people back away from talking about it. Especially with family and friends as unless they have been through it themselves, you’ll have to explain every single thing to them, and they may come back with unhelpful comments. From the age of 15, my hormones were masked by the pill. I may have known about my PCOS so many years earlier if I was taught more about my cycles in more depth.
For so many years I assumed contraception was super safe for us, as you are taught about it from a young age and offered it as soon as you’re sexually active. My opinion, is that the ten years I was on contraceptives (I was on the pill, injection and implant at various times throughout), I truly believe played a part in my fertility issues. I have had no explanation as to why my tubes are blocked. I may never know. But what I do know is I won’t be going back onto contraceptives. Even if my tubes were not blocked, I would not go back on hormonal contraceptives.
Moving on From Fertility Trauma
We have been trying to conceive for three years, and now it’s finally happening it feels so unreal. We talk about the baby (who we have nicknamed Pippin) and we talk about the nursery and names we like. When I go into shops and see baby things, I don’t feel ready to buy anything yet. IVF makes you not hold on to the hope too tightly, in case you get let down again. You prepare to be disappointed, it’s only natural.
It’s a roller-coaster and I’m ready to get off this ride and start the next one into parenthood. Infertility will follow me my entire life. Just because I’m pregnant now, the chances are this won’t unblock my tubes and when we want more children in the future, we will have to have IVF again and at a private fertility clinic next time.
Related Article – Parenting After Infertility – Do We Ever Truly Move on from Fertility Trauma?
Infertility isn’t fun and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’ve connected with some incredibly strong people in the TTC community. I have found an outlet in my social media, but now also in helping others, by creating my own positivity cards and IVF milestone cards. These are both available from my Esty shop, which I would love for you to check out.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope my fertility blog has been helpful to you, showing that even though you may be going through dark times, try and find positivity and happiness where you can.
Love & Light, Nicole
Related Article – How Inspirational Quotes for (In)Fertility Can Motivate You