Moving on to IVF was a real turning point mentally in a our journey to becoming parents. Looking back I was feeling pretty broken after seven failed cycles of treatment and was wondering how the hell we were going to deal with any further disappointment. Our consultant warned us that although IVF increased our chances of becoming pregnant the devastation would also be greater if it didn’t work. The all or nothing fear was actually ok and for the first time in our journey I felt like I had relinquished some control. Knowing when is was the right time pull the trigger (pun intended) and bring out the big IVF guns can be a difficult decision.
If you have followed my blog for a while you will know our treatment started out the same for many women with PCOS and working tubes. The first course of treatment with Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate) which is an oral ovulatory stimulating drug used to help women who have problems with ovulation. Although I only ever missed one period in my adult life I found out that a monthly bleed does not always guarantee you have ovulated and released an egg. Shedding your lining can be due to hormonal changes and ovulation can not be confirmed without a blood test (usually cycle day 21). Even those wonderful ovulation kits gave me false hope. I would often get the LH surge but my body could never quite finish the job properly and kick that bloody egg out.
A Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test confirmed both my tubes were clear so our consultant advised us that the best and least invasive treatment was to take Clomid 50mg from day 2-7 of my cycle, so that’s what we did. We started on a low dose as my ovarian reserve was high so we wanted to see how my body responded. We needn’t have worried as a day 21 blood test confirmed that I had not ovulated at all. Here we go I thought, trust my body to not respond even when pumped full of ovulatory stimulants. The first of many negative thoughts.
After a visit back to our consultant it was decided to move onto another drug instead of wasting time increasing the dose of Clomid. I was prescribed a drug called Letrozole. I don’t think this drug is available on the NHS (well it wasn’t back in 2015 but might be now) research shows that patients who do not respond to or very well taking clomid often respond much better with Letrozole or Femara as some know it. Letrozole is again an oral drug that has mainly been used to treat certain cases of breast cancer. This time the drug did it’s job perfectly and a blood test (plus some pretty significant ovulation aches) confirmed I did in fact release an egg. Hallelujah. But no pregnancy. I wasn’t too defeated and knew that I had another two shots with this drug so felt optimistic it would happened over the next two cycles.
So fast forward another two unsuccessful cycles on Letrozole (all 3 times producing a perfect mature follicle) we found ourselves sat in front of our consultant talking about the next steps. This was where we were introduced to the wonderful world of IUI’s. Intrauterine Insemination involves placing “washed” sperm inside the uterus right before ovulation. It is still one of the lower-cost less evasive treatments and we were happy to give it a go. Another 3 cycles to get me knocked up. I was also pleased that my husband was now involved and it felt more like a team effort.
First IUI – unsuccessful. Second IUI – unsuccessful. Third IUI – unsuccessful. Balls. There we were sat in front of our consultant again, 7 cycles in and still no pregnancy. This was quite a turning point for me and I would say the worst part. I felt like a failure month after month and beyond frustrated that the success rates just didn’t seem to apply to me and my ovaries. I was starting to lose myself and didn’t like who I was becoming. Bitter, sad, angry and bloody fed up. We needed just one of those million’s of perfectly formed swimmers Mr M always provided and hopefully we would hit the jackpot? Nope, not even after another cycle where I injected myself to help mature multiple follicles. That didn’t work either and I found my self at an all time low.
Everywhere I looked pregnancy announcements were rife and I could feel myself sinking further and further into my infertility whole. It felt to me that nothing was working and I questioned if I could actually ever get pregnant? How the hell are you supposed to feel and deal with this kind of resentment? Counselling was offered as part of my treatment but I never took up the offer. Probably happy to dwell in my own pity. Of course I had every faith in our consultant, he had covered all the bases physically but you do start to self diagnose and convince yourself that your body just can’t do it. Our consultant is great and ultimately was trying to help us achieve a pregnancy with minimal treatment, he really felt confident that my body could do it, so why couldn’t I?
They usually suggest six IUI’s before moving on to IVF but mentally I was beaten and that factors extremely high when you are trying to conceive. The more despondent you become the more detrimental to the treatment I believe. I don’t regret moving on with IVF, I do regret not giving my body more credit and having faith during the previous treatment. Why don’t we back ourselves more? I guess there are only so many times you can get knocked down before loosing hope. Ultimately for most couples, knowing the right time to move on will come down to time and cost and we were lucky to be in a position to say we had enough and wanted to increase our chances. I understand with NHS treatment this isn’t always possible and you need to fulfil the correct criteria before qualifying for IVF.
I always wonder why we were successful with IVF and not the previous 7 cycles of treatment. Was it just luck? Was it our time? Who knows. I do think mentally I wasn’t in a great place during all the failed cycles and the IVF gave me a different perspective and put me in a more positive place mentally. I took control of my diet, my thoughts and my well-being before we started IVF. Did the rounds and rounds of failed treatment before moving on to IVF make us stronger? The negativity you drown in is the hardest part, the fear of the unknown and all the uncertainty. But if you can for just for a second try to feel good about your body and it’s capabilities to allow yourself to believe, you may just shift some of that negativity.
Here is my top 5 points to help control the negative thoughts.
- Talk to someone and be honest with your feelings.
- Build a community but focus on your own journey. The more time you spend envious of others you waste your own energy.
- Back yourself and your body, you/it are a lot stronger than you think
- Find your freedom from the negative thoughts – Mindfulness/Meditation/Yoga/Blog whatever that may be. Even for just 5 minutes a day.
- On the days you give up hope, let others have it for you.
I have seen the cruelest part of infertility from trying to conceive but also the most magical. The hardest part was the mental barriers so understanding that our minds need to be looked after just as much as our bodies will go along way in helping to keep us healthy through all the battles we face.