Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fangs for the memories

So, there I am with Husband, let's call him Sue. We're in a little room at local NHS hospital, just been told we need to have IVF to have a baby, and I'm simultaneously numb and crying a bit while Sue does his husbandly duty and provides a shoulder. I don't really think we realise the full ramifications of what it means, not in that instant. I very quickly went into thinking, ok, I've not been told I can't have a baby at all, I just need some help. The lady doctor tells us that blocked tubes are a very mechanical error, that IVF is very successful in such cases and that really, pull myself together and get on that (year-long) waiting list for my one free go, and we'll have a baby in no time.

LESSON NO. 1: IVF is a postcode lottery. Where I was originally treated, you get one measly free go (as long as you're under 40). Elsewhere in London, I know some areas that give three cycles of treatment free on NHS. What I didn't know then is that you're not obliged to stay at your local hospital, I think you can pick a hospital you like and get referred there for the actual treatment, once it's established that you need it.

We decide, as I am 38 at this point, not to bother waiting for our one free go at depressing local hospital with rubbish success rates, we decide to go private.

LESSON NO. 2: success rates must be interpreted. Don't be fooled by ridiculously high success rates. Look at the 'live birth' rates as this is number of babies born, not pregancies, as they can fail of course. And somewhere like our local hospital had low success rates because the general population they serve are extremely unhealthy, overweight etc.

Deciding on which private clinic to go to was the next challenge. Luckily it was made a little easier by two things: we live in London and we know people who have had fertility treatment who gave us their recommendations. We visited the first clinic, a very reputable doctor who works both privately and on the NHS. He was stern, but I felt like he would give us what we wanted. We went armed with all test results from the NHS hospital and he decided to send me for a 3d scan at a Harley Street scanning specialist so he could see better what's going on with my tubes. Hydrosalpinx is a common side effect of blocked tubes and he wanted to check for its presence before proceeding with IVF. When we attended the private scan man, he didn't seem to find anything conclusive, he certainly didn't say "yes, I see hydrosalpinx on the right tube". So back we went to the IVF doctor. But he hadn't received the results yet. £400 for a scan and they hadn't managed to fax or send the results a week later... slack. IVF doctor asked how the scan went, we said we thought it had gone ok, that scan man had not seen anything untoward. IVF doctor said ok then, let's proceed with IVF. Although we were excited, we said - shouldn't you wait to see the scan results for yourself...? After a little persuasion from us, he called his colleague scan man, and the result was faxed through.

Everything then changed. He decided that there was a possibility of hydrosalpinx and his next offer was an operation to remove my fallopian tubes. Coincidentally, the NHS folk had mentioned a laparoscopy too, but instantly dismissed it saying - don't bother with that, go straight to IVF.

LESSON NO. 3: don't assume the doctors are always right or give you the space to question what they say. You may have to be strong willed and determined. You may have to go away and look things up. It's entirely possible that in not questioning this laparoscopy there and then, I proceeded to waste two years, twenty grand and pump my body so full of hormones I went a bit mental.

We came out of that appointment confused to say the least, and I in floods of tears. The doctors may know the physiognomy of fertility treatment, but they don't necessarily care about the psychology of it.

One NHS and one private clinic down... where to next? Stay tuned for next instalment. God almighty, it's exhausting reliving all this stuff!

Night night.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A starting point

Ugh, just looking at that image makes me shudder.

This is a blog about IVF, infertility and all the surrounding issues that go with it. I plan to write it as often as I can, explaining my experience to date bit by bit, and where I'm at now. I actually got very sick of blogs and websites and forums about infertility while I was undergoing treatment, however I think it's important to share information with other people facing infertility and all the massive decisions associated with it.

Because that's one of the most important and difficult things about fertility treatment – the endless decisions you have to make that have potentially massive, life changing outcomes. You have to become an expert in your own situation, because if you don't, in my experience, no-one else will. And this is not about naming and shaming any clinics or doctors by the way, it's about wanting to arm other people with as much information as I can share so that if just one woman avoids having unnecessary treatment, it's worthwhile.

Here's a summary of the last three years:
Decide with boyfriend that we wanted to have a baby.
Start trying to have a baby.
Have fun trying, but start having tests in the background to reassure myself all is ok because I'm late 30s and if something's wrong I want to know sooner rather than later.
Initial tests all ok.
Still having fun trying.
Have Hystericalpingugram (I know it's not called that, but I prefer to make it sound cute) and am in excrutiating pain for around 2-3 hours afterwards. Seriously, unbelievable pain.
Get over that, carry on. Wait a few months or weeks, I can't remember, for results.
Go to hospital for results. Bad news. Bilateral tubal blockage.

And here's where the fun starts.

I'm going to stop now because I can't write everything in one go, so sorry, you'll have to wait a day or two for next instalment. Please don't hesitate to ask questions, I really want to help anyone I can facing treatment.