Guest blog from an IVF survivor

It was our first night of “stims” (that’s IVF slang for the stimulation phase of treatment in which you self-inject medication for around eight to 14 days to induce your ovaries to produce a bumper crop of their finest eggs) – and I will never forget the rising panic I felt as 7pm came and went.
My period had started the day before and I knew that if I didn’t get 300mg of Menopur into my bloodstream pretty darn quickly, my first round of IVF was going to be over before I knew it.

You see, I barely knew one end of a syringe from another, let alone how to fill it with the specified quantity of a very expensive fertility drug which sat glaring at me from its tiny glass ampule. As for actually injecting it into my own body…well…

I was wildly trying to remember what the nurses had told me, oh six weeks previously (yes – SIX WEEKS), when I’d sat blinking and nodding at them during the all-important “injection teach” session. But my mind was blank. Totally empty.

After furiously Googling “How to inject yourself with Menopur” (that’s right, in my desperation I’d turned to Dr G to help me administer the most important injection of my entire life) I rallied the support of the wonderful women in the Facebook IVF support group of which I was a member.

Social media might get a bad rep, but my goodness, this community of online strangers was there for me within seconds, offering help and advice on how to get through this fraught initial self-stabbing!

It may not surprise you then, that I have a few axes to grind with the way my particular injection teach session played out (and if you had a more positive experience then that’s absolutely fantastic).

Why?

  1. The timings were all wrong. It took place after a meeting with my consultant in which he’d gone through my complex protocol in detail. My head was swimming. I was overwhelmed. I was not in a position to absorb any new information.
  2. I was also extremely emotional (quietly sobbing in fact). Still in disbelief that this was happening to us, that we were here, in a real IVF clinic about to wave goodbye to our life savings. Being handed a syringe to inject into a rubber bean bag did not help at this point.
  3. Injecting a syringe into a rubber bean bag is nothing like jabbing an extremely sharp needle into your own (considerable) rolls of fat. Because it may come as no surprise that stabbing yourself with a pointed object goes against all of your own natural instincts. Especially on the first night of your stims when your anxiety will be at an all-time high and you know that getting this wrong could literally mean the difference between baby or no baby.

So, when I heard about The Fertility Pharmacy’s “nurse in your home” service – in which one of their specialised fertility nurses will come to your home during stims to prepare, administer and oversee your injections – I actually had a little cry.

It takes me back to that frankly terrifying night where I genuinely thought all of my hopes and dreams would end with that wonky syringe (I bent the tip inserting it into the glass vial) and upended Menopur (in my panic I sent it flying trying to get a new syringe out of the pack!)

To have had a calm, professional and friendly steadying hand right there next to me on that first night would have meant EVERYTHING. The start of stims is a hugely significant, not to mention utterly crucial step in active treatment. If you don’t get the right amount of gonadotropins or antagonists into your system, you risk jeopardising your chances of getting the best quality and quantity of eggs.

Let’s not forget how high the stakes are here. IVF is a very expensive, intrusive and emotional experience. You want to give yourself the best possible chance. I simply can not imagine a better way to enhance your odds than by allowing a professional nursing clinician into your home, for what is a relatively short time to ensure you get the correct amount of medication, at the correct time and administered in the correct fashion.

Sure, it’s another cost, but a comparatively low one and if you’re self-funding, you will have no doubt already spent a huge proportion of your own money during this process. For me this is not an unnecessary add-on – it’s a fundamental support service required over a definitive number of days (hey, it might even just be one or two) which could offer genuine peace of mind in which to set the tone for what we all hope will be “our” round. We’ve all heard of birthing doulas, so why not one for someone undergoing IVF? It’s certainly food for thought.

Baby dust to you all.

PS – Can I just add that by the end of my stims I was self-injecting with my hands tied behind my back and my eyes closed. I injected in restaurant loos and train station car parks. It became second nature in a very quick period of time and it made me feel powerful beyond belief. But a little professional hand-holding at the start would have certainly saved a few tears and grey hairs…