What to expect before you’re expecting

Day Zero

I have to hand it to the NHS, they’re pretty good when it comes to trying to help you have a baby. (This opinion may change over time!) I guess I never took it for granted that this big undertaking would be funded, and for that I’m really grateful. Because it’s really hard to get your head around the idea that you have to make a conscious decision to go through a load of medical intervention to try and get pregnant, and to add raising £5k or something as well, I think that would put the kibosh on doing anything like that.

We had a great GP who just happens to be super supportive and was the first to suggest that my repeated “female problems” might be a reason to seek fertility help (endometriosis, heavy periods – to the point of being almost debilitating, polyps, cysts, blocked fallopian tube… you name it, I had it). We actually got turned down the first time, because – due to a blip in changing addresses, T (my partner) hadn’t registered at our GP sufficiently in time to qualify for fertility help. This was down to T being a typical man and not changing his home address for ages because he kept moving, and being registered at a GP outside of London even though he’d lived in London for several years. Luckily for us, our GP is a very pragmatic (and influential) guy, and he swiftly got us registered on the waiting list for another hospital, which was actually closer and more convenient – so win. I suppose the overall admin is something they have to stick to, but be warned that you generally need to be registered at your GP in your qualifying area for a set amount of time before you will qualify for treatment. We lived in 3 separate addresses over the course of our relationship so we needed to stay in one local authority/catchment area for a while in order to qualify.

So we got on with things. We forgot about it for a bit (the IVF waiting list) because there’s a fairly long wait until you get to various appointments. I had a few scans and tests. T had to go for blood tests and a sperm test. And then we settled in for the wait. We had a letter giving us an appointment in April… back in the winter of the previous year. So we just got on with things. Half of me hoped that I might just get pregnant during this time, but it did seem fairly unlikely after more than a decade. (Needless to say, it didn’t happen.)

Fast forward to The Appointment…

D day

We went along to a half day briefing session at the hospital. There were 12 couples of various shapes and sizes, and the atmosphere was one of enthusiasm mixed with that sort of British stiff upper lip reserve (a kind of “gosh imagine us all being here to talk about how we can’t have a baby the normal way” awkwardness). We were led to a classroom where a number of nice ladies came in to talk to us about various aspects of the process. If you ever did GCSE biology or a modicum of research then it wasn’t too stretching, and being the good little student I found it quite interesting. Although T said I did whisper a bit too much during the class.

I won’t revisit it too much here because you probably know it already, plus I might explain it incorrectly! But basically the woman has to have a daily injection, and the meds stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs than usual (hopefully). She then ends up going into hospital (briefly) to get eggs harvested. They whack the eggs into a test tube (hence the in vitro – in glass – part of IVF) and her significant other provides a sperm sample that gets swirled around with the eggs, and Bob’s your uncle, you – hopefully – have a load of fertilised eggs. You then pick the best one or two and implant them into the womb, and hopefully 9 months later you end up with a baby or two. During this process there are a whole lot of meds including the daily injections, some rather unpleasant insertions and whatnot, but they make it really easy at the hospital and only tell you about the next stage you need to know about.

(On the list to discuss later: number of cycles, freezing, and twins. I’ll post them under Random Thoughts!)

And then… It all started. We got handed our individual packs containing our protocols – details of your treatment plan based on all the tests you’ve previously had. I had a fairly standard one which I was taking as a good sign. And we went off to get taught how to use the meds. We got shown in a fairly quick and simple way how to use the injections. And then we went to have our blood tests and picked up our prescriptions from the pharmacy. You can usually get them delivered to your door (which is just as well, as there is A LOT of stuff) but because my last cycle was much longer than expected, I needed to start straight away.

And so it began…

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