We were a little over six months in to trying to conceive (TTC) when we were referred straight to IVF.
I say TTC loosely as we’d decided to come off birth control and just see what happened – not necessarily putting ourselves under any pressure but thought well if it happened it would be great.
Shortly after coming off birth control I started having sever pain, predominately on one side of my abdomen. Having lost my Mum to cancer, I knew better than to ignore it.
A large cyst was picked up on my left ovary by an internal ultrasound and I was quickly scheduled for surgery two days later. Whilst under they also found Polyps, Fibroids and Endometriosis.
At our follow up appointment, the specialist laid it out simply, in his opinion IVF was our only option. I was floored.
The speed in which this happened was so overwhelming. We’d gone from sort of trying to a place of fear and desperation – afraid and concerned we might never have a child. I was completely overwhelmed that there would far more involved than we thought to have a baby. I was so disappointed in my body.
We went to two different Fertility Clinics. The first was referred by the specialist that preformed by surgery, the second was referred by a friend.
The first was one of those ‘open day’ group scenarios where we watched a PowerPoint presentation delivered by a nurse and embryologist. For me personally, I was put off by the group situation from the start. It felt like they’d herded a group of ‘infertiles’ together into a room, all at one time to get it over and done with – there was no personalisation, no empathy for that individual couple’s issues and it certainly made asking questions about such a highly emotive, raw and intimate situation difficult.
Our second clinic (the one we ended up choosing) was must better. One-on-one with the Nurse. One-on-one with Embryologist and finally another one-on-one with the Fertility Specialist.
I understood IVF would be very involved process, but we went to these appointments utterly naive about the road we were about to take (despite the hours I’d spent googling).
I didn’t even know what questions I should have been asking – You don’t know what you don’t know right? So how do you even begin to prepare yourselves?
We went, we took the brochure and information packs, we listened, and we nodded. There was a lot of nodding. Personally, I spent most of the appointment trying not to cry because I was overwhelmed by it all. I didn’t take half of the information in.
I’ve seen so many women post on support groups who have been in the same situation. Completely at a loss as to what they should be talking to the Fertility Specialist about. These ladies were one step ahead of me as I didn’t even know those kinds of groups existed until much later on.
We’ve recently changed clinics and with a few years of infertility under my belt now the conversation was so different because I was more informed. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together a list of questions I’d wished I’d asked at my very first appointment. Obviously, these can be personalised to suit your specific situation. If you have a pre-diagnosed medical condition (including any mental health concerns), I would also encourage you to speak to your Fertility Specialist about the ways you’re currently managing it, ways to help you manage throughout the IVF process and any possible side effects.
- What tests will be done before we start?
- What things can we do prior to starting to improve both egg and sperm quality?
- What is your live birth rate for women my age with similar issues?
- How many cycles on average does it generally take for a woman of my age and with our issues to conceive?
- What do you believe our chances will be?
- What medications will I be on?
- What are the expected side effects of these medications?
- Will you be flexible with protocols if our response isn’t the best?
- What type of transfer will we do i.e. Fresh or frozen transfer?
- If we get some to freeze, at what day will they be frozen? And what is the expected drop off rate?
- If we don’t have success straight away, what will be the next steps and what will we try differently?
- What is the cost per cycle including medication and costs to store unused embryos?
- Can you please outline the expected timeframes for each step of the process and give me a guide as to how soon can we start?
- How much time should I be considering taking off work (i.e. for egg collection)?
So, there’s the list I wish I’d asked.
What I do want to say is that there’s a lot of learning that happens throughout the process specifically around how your own individual body reacts to different medications etc. So be prepared to be patient, flexible and be ready to learn about your body alongside your Fertility Specialist.
And of course, always remember to be gentle and kind to yourself, it’s a huge step, and no one expects you to know or understand it all.