Published 7th January 2020
(*names and faces have been changed)
I work in a world of emotions. Fertility is a subject that manages to ignite every single emotion known to man womankind, in their extreme form. On a monthly tidal wave of devastation, frustration, anger, sadness, hope, elation and fear.
Each woman that I see has a fertility history that is full of these emotions. Whatever their story, their fertility history, the emotions are frighteningly similar.
No matter the situation, often hearing somebody else’s success story brings comfort and hope to my patients. And so it seems perfect timing at the start of 2020, The New Year and the New Decade to share Victoria’s story.
I first met Victoria towards the end of 2017 and like most of the women in my clinic, she had been through quite a lot already. Married at 24 years old and divorced at 28. Sadly her ex-husband had died just 18 months earlier. She had made the decision to embark on a journey to conceive as a single woman. Like many women that I treat who have made this tough decision, she was in a stable position in her life. Good job, own home, lots of family support. However, she was also carrying a huge burden of grief and sadness about her ex-husband. By the time she came to my clinic she had already had 3 failed IUI cycles (1 natural and 2 medicated with clomid).
IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) is where the “washed” (best sperm) in a sample are selected and artificially inserted into the woman when she is ovulating. It has an average success rate of 20% and is often suggested to single women before they try IVF, as it is much less invasive (and cheaper).
However, it had not been successful for Victoria and she had decided to have a round of iVF in the new year. Before this could start she had to get her thyroid levels under control. In the meantime she underwent another IUI cycle which also failed. This all took part around the time of the anniversary of her ex-husband’s death. So as you can imagine, emotions were running very high. To have a failed IUI cycle (again) and to be dealing with the grief was an awful lot for her to cope with.
It is completely normal for me to see very emotional patients. Often they are not discussing their situation with anyone else, friends or family and trying to hold it all together at work. It’s such a shame that often fertility problems must be hidden in the workplace so that your career opportunities are not affected. Luckily in Victoria’s case, her employers were understanding. But it’s still an awful lot to carry around inside.
2018 is the year of IVF for Victoria. Here are some of the notes from our sessions…
January 2018: First round of IVF with a fresh embryo transfer. Failed. Immediately buys the drugs for the next round
February 2018: Second round of IVF. Has an endometrial scratch ahead of the treatment.
VERY EMOTIONAL. Lots of headaches.
Scan sees 8 follicles at 10mm
7 eggs collected
26th Feb – 2 embryo’s transferred
Can’t get to our appointment due to SNOW!
March 2018: +VE PREGNANCY TEST
Blood tests show HCG has doubled from 400 to 805
27th March – Victoria has had a small amount of bleeding. All looks fine on the scan apart from the heartbeat seen is a little slow
29th March – continuous bleeding
29th March – miscarriage confirmed but no heavy blood loss yet
April 2018 Still no heavy loss of blood. Scan shows lots of clots, a possible sac but no heartbeat. Pregnancy test still shows positive.
5th April – 2 gestational sacs seen on the scan, but still no loss.
12th April – EMERGENCY LAPAROTOMY. Right fallopian tube removed, suspected ectopic pregnancy Louise in hospital CRITICAL CARE.
14th April – panic attack in intensive care unit.
Are you still reading this? Pretty scary stuff huh? Well, a few weeks after Victoria is out of hospital (and is an “accidental” birth partner for her sister), she’s back in my clinic room talking abut her next round of IVF. I do my best not to enforce my opinion onto my patients (if you have had treatments with me, you’ll know that’s not strictly true!). But I strongly felt that Victoria had been through enough. She nearly died and was understandably very traumatised from the experience. However, I am constantly surprised at the depth of resilience and determination of women. Victoria picked herself back up and although very scared, was ready to have another go.
August 2018: Third round of IVF.. Follicles are maturing slowly and the clinic has suggested cancelling as only 3 have been seen on the scan.
Louise continues anyway and 2 mature eggs are collected and fertilised.
Because of the previous complications, both embryos are frozen on Day 5 for a delayed transfer.
November 2018 Victoria has taken up running and lost over a stone in weight
December 2018 Endometrial scratch
January 2019 Frozen transfer
The two week wait is a notoriously difficult time. It can feel like a 2 month wait before you can take a pregnancy test. Everyone handles this stress differently, but Victoria is the first person I have met who decided to take a pregnancy test every single day from the day of transfer…
ps neither Victoria or I would advise this to anyone. It definitely did not bring a sense of calm.
January 2019 +VE PREGNANCY TEST
Continuous monitoring for any signs of an ectopic pregnancy
Continuous blood tests for HCG levels which creep from 40 – 93 – 121 – 292 – 709
February 2019 A scan shows a sac measuring 6 weeks 5 days, but no embryo
Surgery planned to manage the miscarriage but it happens naturally the next day.
HCG is a hormone which indicates pregnancy. When you take a pregnancy test (dipping the stick in your urine), it is the presence of HCG which gives a positive result. You can also test HCG levels in the blood. Usually the test is repeated every 48 hours and if the level has increased significantly (doubled), then it shows that the pregnancy is progressing. The presence of HCG in the blood when a scan shows an empty uterus, would suggest an ectopic pregnancy (the foetus is growing in the fallopian tube which can be extremely dangerous). A very low level of HCG would indicate no pregnancy or a miscarriage.
April 2019 When I meet Victoria today she is absolutely beaming with happiness. She has been on a date with an amazing man. The only issue is that she is due to have a frozen transfer. So she has told him all about her experiences over the last year and we are both shocked that he has not gone running for the hills. In fact, he is so wonderful that he even drives her to the hospital appointment for the transfer. Sadly, this transfer although has a positive pregnancy test, fails a few days later
And now the story really starts to get interesting…..
So in the space of just a few months, Victoria has met the man of her dreams, become pregnant naturally, got engaged and then married in October 2019!
Finally, on 28th December 2019 I had the pleasure of meeting both the man and the bump. Such a wonderful way to close 2019. I am so lucky to have been able to watch this eventful journey unfold. It has not been easy to watch Victoria in the dark parts of this story, but meeting her amazing “Christmas Pudding” and seeing how absolutely ecstatic she is, makes it all worthwhile.
I hope that if you are struggling with your own fertility, this story brings you hope and optimism. Out of the darkest moments, when you think everything is against you, the most wonderful things happen xxx