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The road to IVF

Charlotte Smith runs Excellence Health & Wellbeing Ltd

“Just stop thinking about it. You’re young and healthy so there’s no reason for you to not fall pregnant!”

If I had a pound for every time, I’d heard that between 2016 and 2018 I’d be able to self-fund several rounds of IVF. It’s not that people weren’t trying to be helpful, I’m sure they were, but for someone in the depths of infertility, these well-intended remarks felt like a slap around the face. Couple that with the blow by blow accounts on social media from my fertile friends and family on their pregnancies/births/sleepless nights with their little one and I felt the most isolated I’ve ever felt in my life.

The road to IVF was relatively straightforward for me, in as much as my condition was picked up incidentally on a scan only a year into us trying (and failing miserably) to conceive. I was then referred to Leicester Fertility Centre for more tests. These included some relatively painless blood tests to check for hormone levels, along with a somewhat unpleasant hysterosalpingogram, which is a test whereby a dye is injected into your womb to check whether your fallopian tubes are blocked. You may also have an internal and external ultrasound scan if you’ve not had one already. Given that you are in a heterosexual relationship, this is where the man will also have tests done on their sperm, to check both the quality and quantity of the sperm.

With us, the issues were clear, and we were fortunate enough to be put straight forward for ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). ICSI involves much of the same procedure as IVF, the main difference being that the sperm is injected into the egg, rather than allowing it to “swim” to the egg. It is worth bearing in mind at this point that this is purely the route we went down. Depending on your test results, you may have a trial of medication or be offered IUI (intrauterine insemination) as these may be deemed more appropriate for you.

So there we were, after months and months of waiting for appointments and tests and continuing to try to conceive naturally (because that’s how someone’s cousin’s sister’s cat’s auntie twice removed fell pregnant), we were given our answer. We had progressed to the next stage in the Snakes and Ladders-esque board game that is infertility.

After some more waiting, we collected our enormous collection of drugs from the hospital and returned home to wait some more for my period to arrive which would enable us to start the injection. From experience, this seems to be the part that people know about when you talk to them about IVF. Leicester Fertility Centre was great and along with giving us what seemed like thousands of forms to fill in and consent forms to sign, we were given a sheet which demonstrated day by day what we would need to do with regards to injecting and attending the clinic for scans and blood tests. Here’s how the process went for me, although this does vary for everyone and different clinics use different time frames too.

Amazingly I became pregnant and in January 2019 our miracle little girl was born. Infertility and the IVF process is something that I think about every day. It was both a physical and mental assault on my body and my life. We were exceptionally lucky that it worked the first time for us, but I don’t believe it can be entirely down to luck. We researched and followed advice to the letter in order to best equip ourselves, and my advice to anyone undergoing this would be to do the same. We have 4 embryos frozen and waiting for us when we are ready (and can afford) to try to give our G a sister or brother, the next step in this miraculous yet trying process of infertility.

Charlotte Smith runs Excellence Health & Wellbeing Ltd, a Physiotherapy clinic that focuses on all aspects of health & wellbeing under one roof. Based in Oakham, Charlotte employs a diverse range of staff including physiotherapists who specialise in pre and postnatal therapy and hold a Mummy and Me Pilates Class as well as several regular Pilates classes throughout the week. Charlotte now runs online classes as well - given the current situation with COVID.

Top 5 IVF tips

  • Find yourself an acupuncturist specialising in fertility. I saw Jo George at Life Rituals in Oakham and she was the quiet calm I so badly needed.

  • Do it your way. Talk about it or don’t talk about it. I found talking normalised it for me and gave me some control back but it isn’t for everyone and it is important at this time that you do what works for you. No one else is going through your individual journey.

  • Read. Knowledge is power. I found Zita West and Emma Cannon’s books to be particularly helpful as they are qualified practitioners, therefore, provide evidence-based knowledge.

  • 4. Keep moving. You may have to alter your usual training regime but I found exercise fundamental in keeping myself calm and my head clear.

  • Nourish yourself. I found focusing my energy on making delicious food and nourishing my body to be paramount. Your body goes through so much, looking after it is crucial.

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