I know it’s probably ridiculous I didn’t know these things before I started my NHS-funded IVF treatment, but hey – I didn’t. I was busy working hard, selling and buying a house, and dealing with health issues that were badly impairing and ultimately even claimed the lives of some people very close to me. So I didn’t do too much research beforehand. I think I was also a bit scared and worried about the whole undertaking as well… bruised by trying so long and hard to conceive and not managing it, and the horrible deep-seated but probably unfounded fear that I would never manage it even with the help of medical intervention. So in many ways I didn’t want to face up to what it may entail or make me feel. I also didn’t want to become obsessed with the minutiae of the treatment and different options, or with trawling the internet for information or tales of other people’s experiences. So anyway, I didn’t know the following things before I started, and wanted to write this for anyone who may be in a slightly similar position and get some benefit from it!
1). Have a plan in place for IVF treatment post NHS (if you can afford it). In some areas of the UK it’s up to three fresh and three frozen transfers, but for me it was one fresh and one frozen. No matter how many NHS-funded treatments you get, have a plan ready for if your final live / frozen attempt fails. When my one and only fresh NHS attempt failed, the devastation was made so much worse by not really knowing what my options post-NHS might be. If I was doing it again I would have a private clinic option lined up and ready to go for as soon as you may feel ready post the final NHS treatment should it not work out – just as an option there for the taking should you want it.
2). Also, try and get copies of your treatment notes from your hospital as you go along. By that I mean all the blood, scan and egg / sperm etc. results, so that if you do go to a private clinic initial consultation with a fertility expert they can instantly give you a much more informed idea of what a bespoke private treatment plan might look like for you. The chap we went to (the rather legendary Paul Serhal at CRGH in London, after a recommendation from a very well researched friend) charged us £200, and having looked through all our results super quick he was able to map out a bespoke treatment plan there and then. He also gave me instant insights into why my periods were irregular and tricky, how my auto-immune system may be affecting my ability to get pregnant, and honest feedback on my real, science-founded potential for getting pregnant. It was £200 very well spent.
3). Be prepared for NHS treatment not to work first time if you suspect you have some issues that may require a more bespoke treatment plan. My doctor admitted that my NHS cycle was fairly standard, from which you can learn lots in terms of things to try differently and in a more bespoke manner next time around. This doesn’t necessarily help though if you’ve only got limited NHS-funded attempts. Some hospitals will definitely be different to my experience, but you may as well check with them what bespoke additions / tweaks they can cater for and you may benefit from (depending on your particular health situation and results), and if you may be a candidate for those straight off (although you may need to pay for the extras yourself).
4). Various useful stats / nuggets of info; apparently somewhere between 25 – 40% (depending on your age) of all fertilised embryos will typically embed in the womb, whether it’s natural or IVF, so that can help to frame a failed attempt (the typical advice is to try a transfer a minimum of three times). Also, don’t become obsessed with the quality of the embryo above all else; the quality of the womb lining needs to be just as good for the two to lock in and achieve a pregnancy.
5). Try acupuncture! Even if the thought of needles being poked into you turns you right off, give it a go. I don’t find it the most relaxing of sensations or activities, but I really think it helps. And many other women (and doctors) do too. Within a month of starting acupuncture, a lady I know experienced her periods becoming more regular (for the first time in her lifetime), and then mid IVF cycles conceived totally naturally after several years of trying. We’re sure a combo of the acupuncture, together with taking a break from work, enjoying her new house post the (extremely stressful) selling and buying process, and coming relatively more to terms with the recent deaths and illnesses of some very beloved people, helped her and her partner get there sans IVF.
In fact, that lady was me.